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A professional social media business manager, obviously

This blog, like every other blog, gets a lot of spam comments. Most of them are nonsensical, posted by bots in the hope that there’s no spam filter and the comments will remain as links back to the spammer’s site. Many are in other languages and even other alphabets. I regularly get comments in Chinese that are a full screen long.

Facebook likes

Like me! Love me! Make me legitimate, relevant, and authentic!

Sometimes I get one that makes me chuckle, and then makes me think. One such message began with, “Hello, I am a professional social media business manager, obviously.”

At first chuckle, I mentally edited it to read, “Hello, I am a spammer, so I’m a non-professional social media business manager, obviously.” Then I thought about the implications of this message, and what bloggers — especially authors — might think when reading it. After the opening paragraph, the spam comment goes on to say:

“By building more than 10,000 real people profile endorsements using Facebook LIKES to your business page. This tell Google that your website is relative and authentic to what you do. IT WILL BE POSTED RIGHT ON YOUR PAGE FOR ALL VISITORS TO SEE HOW MANY -(people) Facebook LIKES !you have, via Facebook, by real FB counter button. Click on to see how you can do this in you free time or no time.”

(Just to get this out of the way, please assume a great big red [sic] plastered across everything I copy from spam comments.)

We all need metrics in our lives. We need a way to measure how we’re doing. Authors often use book sales, but that information isn’t updated that often for print books. Most traditional print publishers issue royalty statements semiannually, so it’s hard to tell how effective that email you sent last week was. Alternatively, we might use placement on Amazon category bestseller lists, but that only measures Amazon sales, which are a tiny fraction of overall sales for some of us. The last time I ran the numbers, Amazon was responsible for less than 1% of the sales of my Who Pooped books. But there are a few metrics that are up-to-the-minute, and Facebook provides one of them: likes.

It’s tempting (and easy) to measure our self-worth by the number of Facebook likes on a page. Was my last comment witty enough? Let me see how many people shared it. Are people excited about the book signing I announced yesterday? Let me see how many people “liked” the announcement.

Likes do more than that, though. When somebody clicks that like button on your page, they’re going to see the next thing you post, too. That helps to build what publishers call a “platform,” and a good platform can help you land the next book contract. I’m not saying Facebook is irrelevant to writers. As I’ve said before, Facebook can be a great tool for us in ways you might not expect.

This spammer is striking right at the heart of our self-worth as writers. She (apparently, her name is Karen) is offering to sell us likes. Thousands of people hanging on our every word. Our blogs flying to the top of Google search results. Our sites become “relative and authentic!” We get bragging rights! Legitimacy! A real platform! And it doesn’t stop there!

“We can help you also with build 10,000 Twitter Followers in 7 days, or 100,000 YouTube visits, to your YouTube video or channel, build 20,000 Google +1, from your peers about your business. Best offer G+1 building in 7 days. You can get help building 100,000 Facebook LIKES in 7 days. Likes Mean visitors endorse your Fan Page or website.”

Let’s back up a minute here. Why did we start using social media professionally in the first place? To help us sell our books, of course. Even if Karen the Spammer followed through on her promise, you wouldn’t get 10,000 people following your tweets because they want to buy your books. You’d get 10,000 bots, shills, and hacked accounts. You’d get people duped by a spammer into clicking a “like” or “follow” or “+1” button.

“How do you think Justin Bieber(singer) get his first 1,000,000 followers before his first album? His producers bought the followers for him?”

Metrics like Twitter followers are, indeed, important to celebrities. I doubt, however, that Justin Bieber became the 2nd most followed person on Twitter (at the moment) because Karen the Spammer delivered a million paid followers.

“Ah, this is all just sour grapes,” you may be thinking. “This Robson dude doesn’t have a million followers on Twitter. Heck, he doesn’t even have a thousand.” True, I don’t. Given the right “social media business manager” and an appropriate budget, you could have ten times the likes and followers I have in a matter of days. Maybe even a hundred times.

But does it sell your books?

I confess. I’ve gotten caught up in the drive for followers on some of my business pages. The first time one of my posts on this blog got over 100 views, I was ready to throw a party! But 1,000 views or 10,000 likes or 100,000 followers won’t pay the bills. It’s dangerously easy to spend your days fighting for social media metrics instead of writing books, putting on book signings, doing interviews, and sending out queries and proposals. It’s important to use social media for marketing, but we have to remember we’re writers, and writing pays the bills.

Mexican spam. And I’m not talking about food!

We had a lovely trip to Mexico last year (see my obligatory “sunset and palm tree in La Paz picture” at right). Since I’m not much of a “lay around in the sun” kind of guy, when Kathy parked in the sun I signed up for the hotel’s Internet access and parked in the shade with my iPad.

Short term, that was a good idea. Facebook is a lot cheaper way to keep in touch with the kids than international cellphone calls, and it let me read my favorite blogs while enjoying the scenery (and even an e-book or two). Long term, that didn’t work out quite so well.

Before I even got home, the influx of spam began. Yeah, I goofed. I used my real email address when I signed up for the hotel’s Internet access, instead of creating a throwaway email address. A year later, I’m still getting spam emails in Spanish. Often, I can’t even tell what they’re trying to sell me. They don’t include an “I don’t speak Spanish; don’t ever email me again” button. If they did, I wouldn’t trust it.

How do you avoid making my mistake?

Create a special email address just for the spammers. If you have your own domain, it’s easy. If not, use Google or Yahoo or any of the 14 zillion other free email services out there. Make it easy to remember (e.g., and use it any time you sign up for anything that requires an email address. Immediately before using it, delete the entire inbox, then go through their signup and confirmation process. Afterward, go back to ignoring the email address.

I shall now attempt to forget the mental picture that the title of this post created: spam tacos. Although, with some lime and cilantro, they might not be that bad…

Just for kicks, here are the last three Mexican spams I received:


I’m guessing this is for a seminar that will make me taller. I’m tall enough already, so I’ll skip it.

Daca esti in cautarea unei metode de invatare a limbii engleze in mod rapid, usor si eficient, acest site este solutia potrivita pentru cerintele tale.
Poti invata limba engleza folosind cursurile noastre complete si usor de inteles pentru toate varstele.

Invata sa vorbesti, sa scrii si sa citesti in limba engleza in doar 20 de zile, 50 minute pe zi.

If I’m reading this right, they want to teach me to speak English. Hmmm. Buy a list of people who filled out a form IN ENGLISH on a tourist hotel’s website and send them spam offering to teach them to speak English. These are some clever spammers!

¡Esta es la oportunidad que estabas esperando!

Really? It is? Then how come I don’t see a “shut up and leave me the hell alone” button? That’s the opportunity I’m really waiting for.

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