March 11 2010 Editor Assistance Newsletter
Promoters might seem like spammers, but they are a different type of intrusion in your forum.
Spammers primarily cut and paste software links solely for the link farm benefits. They are usually poorly paid workers who plow through hundreds of forums, mindlessly posting MP3 links.
Promoters actively want to use a forum for customized promotion. They are usually associated with the destination website and see the forum as a free, legitimate marketing bonanza.
Spammers and promoters differ in their technique. Spammers usually swoop in, dump a bunch of posts from their cut-and-paste list, and then move on to their next target. Promoters are generally in it for the long haul. They want to use the forum area as a free PR system, to talk about their products, answer questions about them, and repeatedly encourage visitors to go to their site to buy them.
This makes promoters harder to spot and mass-delete. Maybe the first post is a friendly post about how distance learning can benefit stay at home moms. The second post talks about how nursing degrees are in high demand. Then posts 3, 4, 5, and 6 suddenly all have external links to a Nursing Degree Central site where they offer "the very best guidance on which nursing degree to sign up for". If you question the promoter about all of these links, they say that they are simply trying to help forum visitors find valuable information.
Where do you draw the line? If someone honestly loves their Tri-Part Hula Hoop and posts a link to it, how is that different from the Tri-Part Hula Hoop company coming to your forum and posting daily updates about their Hula Hoop deals?
Coupled with this thought, imagine someone has as their signature "Buy my Tri-Part Hula Hoop Today! The best Hula Hoop you'll ever see!" What if they post dozens of inane messages in your forum every day solely to get that signature line seen and clicked on? Technically their "me too!" posts aren't spammy promotions - but the resulting repeating signature is.
The key, as with most of life, is balance. To begin with, we don't allow new posters (posters with under 50 posts) to have a signature or to post URLs. If a new person comes online and immediately starts posting external links, somehow circumventing our blocks, that is a warning sign. If they manually paste in fake signatures to circumvent our signature block, that seems clearly promotion-minded as well. Their purpose is not to engage in conversation or to interact with people, but to drive people off to their own website.
If someone starts with a few friendly posts, but then starts to heavily lean on their sales of Noni Juice or Timeshares in Haiti, it is quite fair as a moderator to edit their posts to remove the ads and to send them a PM gently reminding them of our advertising rules. Our Forum Rules, found here -
have a clear section on Advertising and Spamming in the forums. It explains how posts cannot be made with the purpose of "go here for more information". The post needs to be self sufficient and a complete thought.
If a promoter wishes to advertise on BellaOnline, we have several plans available for that purpose. The forums are not part of those plans.
Ironic Note: While I was working on the first draft of this article, I received an email from a grumpy forum member whose post had been deleted. He was actively trying to promote his exercise equipment in the forum, and was upset that his post was removed! His post was a clear promotion of a set of exercise equipment, with statements about famous people who used it, how "M.D.'s and people with certifications and qualifications galore" recommended it. He wanted to know why his "helpful, informative" post could not be promoted to all our forum visitors.
A spammer would never write me to complain that we'd deleted his spam :) Promoters feel they have a right to run their promotions, and that our forum areas exist for them to do free marketing. Some get their ideas from books with titles like "Using Forums to Make Millions for your Business for Free" :) Our task, as forum moderators, is to keep our forums full of honest, unbiased information for our readers. Press release posts by companies intending to sell their products does not fit into that goal.
Also, the latest FTC regulations require content posters on the web to disclose their relationship with the product they are promoting. That is, if "Suzy999" posts about how fantastic a Tri-Color Hula Hoop is, she MUST legally state if she works with the Tri-Color Hula Hoop company or has an affiliate account. This helps to make it even more clear when someone is doing promotion, vs an unbiased exercise fan who honestly loves this Hula Hoop as part of her pile of exercise equipment she has tried.
Even in that case, though, it's fine to ask enthusiastic posters to rein in their posts. Someone who enjoys noni juice as a morning drink is welcome to mention that in a forum thread about "what's your favorite morning drink". But someone who mentions it in every single post, and always manages to mention the brand name and URL she chooses, has crossed into overkill promotion even if she doesn't work for the Noni company. That behavior then makes promotion seem "typical and accepted" in our forums and actively encourages other high-intensity promoters to come set up shop in our community.
If you ever run into trouble with a promoter who is so enthusiastic that they repeatedly overrun your requests, feel quite free to hit the ALERT button on their post to send the issue along to Jeanne and Lisa. We enjoy dealing with these sorts of people!
If you have any questions or suggestions for this article, let us know! We're happy to expand the examples!
Lisa Shea, owner
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