Christian Affiliate Marketing: What is a Spam Account?
Written by Edna Davidsen ∴ Friday, August 11, 2017
“Want to know the answer to ‘what is a Spam Account?’ and ‘how to keep our social accounts SPAM-FREE’ as we participate in the Christian community? Hang on, and we’ll see if it's realistic.”
Why Spam is a Problem in the Christian Community?
The two primary problems with spam are, it’s without value, and it comes whether we like it or not. It’s the first email we delete from our inbox. Other spam-problems are, spam is a time-waster because we need some techniques to get rid of it, once it has become a problem for our Christian business. A common business-related spam-problem is a network bandwidth decrease. Blog post number 14 How To Quickly Set Up the Free CloudFlare CDN Solution gives two examples from the Akamai- and The Mozilla Studies on why speed and bandwidth are important in Christian Affiliate Marketing. The main reason why spam is so difficult to deal with is that the Internet is public. If our goal is a total stop it, we'll be busy as bees without better businesses. A more realistic Christian Affiliate Marketing approach would be to seek to avoid the typical spam and scam tricks on social media. By reading posts like this one, we learn how to do it. We can use several techniques to reduce spam on our email and social accounts such as: 1. Give your Email to people you know and use an Email Address Encoder when we put our email on the website. 2. Use three emails: One for close family and friends, one for work, and one for people with whom we have no relation. 3. Use filters. 4. Replace our email once we receive too much spam. When we receive email-spam we see phrases like ‘to be removed from this list, click here.’ Be aware, if we click the link, we increase our spam-risk for two reasons because the spammer: 1. Knows our email is active and can easier sell our email. 2. Uses our 'click' to install a keylogger on our computer. When we’re in Christian Affiliate Marketing, we get more and more emails with a website-visitors increase. It’s burdensome to deal with spam because as Chris Sacca says in an interview with Tim Ferriss where they talk about the difference between being offensive and defensive:
I think that as you survey the challenges in your lives, it’s just: Which of those did you assign yourself, and which of those are you doing to please someone else? Your inbox is a to-do list to which anyone in the world can add an action item. I needed to get out of my inbox and back to my own to-do list.
(Ferriss, Timothy. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (p. 166). Ebury Publishing. Kindle Edition.)
It comes down to how we can keep our inbox as clean as possible because emails are other people’s agenda, and the majority prevents us from being effective Christian Affiliate Marketers. On www.OurChristianbook.com, I recommend another way, more aligned with Chris Saga. When I started sharing online how I went into online business, it was because I had a desire to inspire other Christians to build a better life. The topic for this blog post is how to handle spam on social media, but I would like us to step back and ask: What characterises us as Christians when we enter Christian Affiliate Marketing? First, we have limited resources (money, time) to put into building our business. Secondly, we work alone - even if we know teamwork is beneficial because that's what all the marketing gurus tell us to do, to leverage our network, etc. The reality is few new Christian Affiliate Marketers have the resources to do this. Third, we're limited; therefore we need to budget our time to succeed. It may sound paradoxical when I say this (because this is a blog post about how to handle spam on social media) but we use our time better off social media. What I would suggest we do instead is create blog content, write high-quality comments on other Christian blogs. The suggestion from OurChristianBook.com is to set up the social accounts we plan to use, complete the profiles, so we avoid getting classified as spammers (more on this later). Here's a recipe on how we can use social media once we've connected them with our website.1. Share Our Blog Posts: When we publish a blog post on our website, we share it on our social media accounts. 2. Share When We Comment: When we comment on other people's blog posts, we share this posts on our social media accounts. 3. Use Email Notifications: Configure our social media accounts to send us email-notifications and set up email rules, so the notifications go into different folders. This way we can see if we have to respond to something when we check our email without logging into our social media accounts. On OurChristianBook.com I use about 1 hour per week on social media. I know we need to use some time the first weeks while setting up the profiles, but we should be careful to limit this as much as possible. I found out by experience; the time was much better spent commenting on other Christian blogs than being on social media. As we proceed, the reason why will be more clear. Back to the spam problem. . . First, ask, what does spam mean? If we can define spam, we've have taken the first step to eliminate it from our business. Since spam comes in many forms, we can begin looking at the general definition, and then move on to how it appears on different social accounts.
The Spam Definition
We know spam has something to do with sending similar messages to many recipients. What’s also characteristic for spam is as we mentioned earlier that the recipients haven’t chosen to receive these messages. They’re unrequested. The content aims to increase the recipient's desire to sign up for some ‘how to get rich quick online’ scheme or buy a low-quality product. The word SPAM was first used in the 1930ies according to Oxforddictionaries.com as a contraction of spiced ham → sp(iced h)am. The Internet sense comes from the Monty Python sketch we see below.
What is a Spam Account?
A spam account is a reserve email account used for sign-up on websites, which people use instead of providing the prime email. Individuals sign up with the spam email account because they want to avoid that websites sell their main email account or hound them with advertising emails without value.
1. What is a Spam Account on Facebook?
As we proceed, we'll look at how spam looks like on different social platforms. First, we look at Facebook. Some Facebook-users experience fake accounts sending them friends requests. The fake accounts are often new. The requests come from an automated program because sometimes people sitting in the same room have reported getting friend requests from the same fake account at the same time. The general rule: Be careful whom we accept as Facebook friends. The problem is, if we get a friend request from an automated program, we're unsure what the program can do once we’ve accepted the request.
A. How to Deal with a Facebook Spam Account?
If we doubt, we can send a message, asking how the person knows us? Depending on their answer we can delete/accept their request.
Another step we can take to reduce spam on our Facebook profile is to go to the Facebook settings and chose ‘Friends of friends’ under 'who can contact me.' This helps as long as our friends have genuine connections. When Christians want to reach me on Facebook in regards to Christian Affiliate Marketing, they can do it via my FB-page. An FB-page is much better for business than using our personal profile + by having a page for our business; we also use Facebook as it's intended.Facebook’s mission statement says:
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.
The Facebook profile is for friends and family. When we know people better and get new friends through our socialising with like-minded Christians online through our work we can add them as friends on our personal Facebook profile.
B. Numbers of spam accounts on Facebook
Spam is a large problem on all social media platforms. After this blog post research, I'm convinced, it was the right decision I took when I limited my social media use to 1 hour per week and used the time reading other people's blog posts and being social there instead. In December 2015 Facebook said the following about the spam problem. “We also seek to identify "false" accounts, which we divide into two categories: (1) user-misclassified accounts, where users have created personal profiles for a business, organization, or non-human entity such as a pet (such entities are permitted on Facebook using a Page rather than a personal profile under our terms of service); and(2) undesirable accounts, which represent user profiles, which we determine are intended to be used for purposes that violate our terms of service, such as spamming. In 2015, for example, we estimate user-misclassified and undesirable accounts may have represented less than 2% of our worldwide monthly account users.” Furthermore, they said: “We believe the percentage of accounts that are duplicate or false is meaningfully lower in developed markets such as the United States or the United Kingdom and higher in developing markets such as India and Turkey.” In 2015 Facebook had 1,440,000,000 monthly active users. When we know the monthly active users and the estimated fake account percentage, we can calculate the estimated fake account number: (1,440,000,000/100) x 2 = 28.800.000 fake accounts. 28 million is a conservative number. But, we should bear in mind, the fake account number comes from Facebook. We have a clear conflict of interests here. A Huffington Post estimates the number of fake accounts to be around 170.000.000. Once we understand what these fake accounts are capable of with the help of automatic programming, we realise that our time is better spent off social media. The problem with spam bots is so big that it's difficult to find any reason to spend more than 1 hour per week on social media platforms to increase sales and build connections, which is our job as Christian Affiliate Marketers.
C. How to evaluate a Facebook account?
Some guidelines we can use when we consider if a profile belongs to a spammer are: 1. Is the intro meaningful? (An indicator that the person is serious about the FB-profile.) 2. Are the details in the about section filled out? (Spammers often leave most fields empty.) 3. Do we have friends in common with the person? (Personal Facebook profiles are for friends and family.) 4. Does the profile picture look natural? (Spammers in the Christian community often use lions, angels, soldiers, or Jesus. They also tend to use a picture with two persons.) 5. Does the profile have a cover photo? (Do we like it?) 6. Does the profile name consist of a first name and last name? 7. Does the first and last name sound ‘normal’? 8. How old is the profile (Spammers tend to have new profiles.) 9. Do we like what we see when we look at the person’s FB-wall? In April 2017 Facebook Security posted Improvements in protecting the integrity of activity on Facebook. In short, they said Facebook does only work as intended if: 1. The interactions are authentic. 2. People use the names they're known by. Facebook’s spam accounts follow another pattern. They’re un-authentic and try to misuse Facebook’s service. Today, it’s harder to: 1. Sell fake likes on Facebook. 2. Use automated programs to create fake accounts. The latest improvements have led to a 30,000 french fake accounts takedown. With 28 million active monthly spam accounts there’s still a long way to go. It seems most rational to stay with the limiting strategy we mentioned earlier, sharing our blog posts on social media, so people who spend their time their can see what we're about if they come to our page.
2. What is a Spam Account on Google+?
The next network we'll cover is Google Plus. When we evaluate whether a post on Google Plus is spam, it’s less about the content and more about context. Often we’ll tend to think spam is connected to promoting content. Sometimes this is true. But on Google Plus a sound post could be flagged as spam if we’re unfamiliar with how we share our post. Therefore, we need some techniques to identify spam on Google plus. We need to ask: 1. Who is the content shared with? 2. What’s the general Google Plus behaviour of the person who has shared it? In some cases, this is enough to let us know if a post should be considered as spam. An example: We see a post about a $20 PlayStation Store Gift Card shared in our favourite Google Plus Christian community. We click through to the profile-owner and see she or he has shared the $20 PlayStation Store Gift Card post to 10 off-topic Christian communities. It's enough to say this is a spam account on Google +. Often it’s harder to tell what’s spam than we’ve seen in the $20 PlayStation Store Gift Card example. The main reason is that a Google Plus post may be sound and interesting when shared in one Google Plus community, while sharing the same post in another group would be considered as spam. What we need to learn as Google Plussers is: 1. How to identify spam. 2. How to share our content the right way (public, with circles or in a collection.) We should read the Google+ User Content and Conduct Policy before we use Google Plus.
A. Google Plus Community Spam
Having read the general rules we also need to bear in mind that whenever we post to a community these have their own rules. If we violate the community rules, our post might be classified as spam even though we planned otherwise. The best communities on Google Plus are those where the administrators lead the community according to the rules. The community rules should be the first we read when we consider becoming community members. If we see many community-posts violating the community rules, it’s probably a less well-managed community we're about to join.
B. Google Plus Notifications
When we share a post on Google+, we should adjust our settings so people who follow us keep seeing us as professional Google Plussers instead of spammers. Once we’re logged into Google Plus, we can use these settings:
As Christian Affiliate Marketers, it’s important our content is available on Google Plus. Google is our friend because when we do a good job and publish helpful content for Christians online, Google helps us spread the content. At the same time, we need to think about what the best settings are to prevent us from spammers. In April 2017 Gideon Rosenblatt wrote Losing My Patience with Google+. He had observed the engagement quality decline over the preceding months. He saw people with whom he used to socialise with on Plus leave the platform. He noticed his Google Plus enthusiasm decline as a result. Gideon Rosenblatt mentions some interesting thoughts on the Google Plus development. They give us a better spam-problem understanding: 1. Poor management is killing Google+ 2. The people now in charge of Google Plus lack an understanding of why Google was an excellent service earlier. Gideon Rosenblatt impression based on post frequency before and now is that some Google+ managers today dislike the platform. 3. A lack of end user empathy for the new Google+ UI from the traditional Google Plus users. 4. Regular Google+ users question their decision on putting so much effort and time into building a following around content on a platform that has changed so much from what it used to be. Gideon Rosenblatt concludes by saying, he’s hoping Google Plus will become the great community it once was again.
I have a huge soft spot for this place, given all the great learning I've done here with my fellow travellers.
C. How to evaluate a Google Plus Account?
We can use these questions to evaluate Google Plus accounts: 1. Is the line under the profile name meaningful? (An indicator that the person is serious about the Google+ profile.) 2. Click on the line under the profile name, are the details in the sections filled out? (Spammers often leave most fields empty.) 3. Do we know some people in the profile’s circles? (Google+ is and interest-based platform, perhaps we’ve circled some of the same plussers.) 4. Does the profile picture look natural? (Spammers who target Christians on Google Plus often use lions, angels, soldiers, or Jesus. Other possibilities are pictures with two persons or a faceless picture.) 5. Does the Google Plus profile have a cover photo? (Do we like it?) 6. Does the profile name consist of a first name and last name? (Spammers tend to leave one of them out.) 7. Does the first and last name sound ‘normal’? 8. How old is the profile? (Google+ Spammers tend to have new profiles.) 9. Do we like what we see when we look at the person’s Plus feed?
3. What is a Spam Account on LinkedIn?
The third social media platform, LinkedIn, has the same problem with spam as the first two although it's a more work-orientated platform. Robin Henderson at Womensnetwork.com formulates LinkedIn’s mission statement like this:
LinkedIn’s mission is to connect the world’s professionals to enable them to be more productive and successful.
Many go to LinkedIn to research a company before a meeting. It also means it’s easier to step off the road if we’re unfamiliar with the platform.
A. Three Factors to Keep in Mind about LinkedIn:
First, On June 7 LinkedIn updated the Terms of Service. The Terms of Service is now shorter and more transparent. Here’s a recap: 1. LinkedIn gives us a possibility to allow third-party services to show our profile to their users. (Upside: we get exposure.) 2. LinkedIn suggests profile changes that’ll display our professional accomplishments. (Examples: Awards, industry recognition.) 3. LinkedIn suggests responses (So we can leverage our time.) 4. Better tools for finding close-by LinkedIn members. Secondly, In 2016 Microsoft bought LinkedIn. It means LinkedIn will be able to leverage the Microsoft technology and resources. The result should be more valuable features and services. Third, Some LinkedIn users have complained about the email-frequency LinkedIn has used. Their impression was LinkedIn spammed them with connect-, group-, suggestion. On July 27, 2015, LinkedIn responded: “Many of you have told us that you receive too many emails from LinkedIn. We're also not immune to the late night talk show host jokes. We get it. And we’ve recently begun to make changes so that the emails you receive are more infrequent and more relevant.” They continued: “For every 10 emails we used to send, we’ve removed 4 of them. Already, member complaints have been cut in half.” In October 2015 LinkedIn agreed to pay a $13 million court settlement in a class action lawsuit originated two years earlier. The offended claimed their reputations might have been damaged by the many emails LinkedIn sent on behalf of users as a part of the ‘add connections features.’ William Arruda’s Forbes-article How To Tell If A LinkedIn Request Is A Scam And What To Do About It, helps us to avoid some of the spam-traps on LinkedIn. Here’s a subtract. LinkedIn is a much trusted social platform The downside with this trust is LinkedIn-users tend to be less careful when they use the network. Unlike our Email, LinkedIn comes without a spam filter. The consequence if we’ve connected with a spammer on LinkedIn is they have easy access to email us fake invitations, asking us to connect with LinkedIn members. Although the invitations are fake, they’ll look quite similar to real LinkedIn emails. They’ll borrow trust by including the LinkedIn-logo as well. In such emails we’ll be asked: 1. Click on a link that’ll take us to our LinkedIn inbox. 2. Respond to an invitation by accepting or ignoring it. Both choices are problematic because they will download harmful software to our computer. What we should do if we receive these fake emails is report them to our email provider and to LinkedIn. Sometimes we can experience to get emails that look like they’re sent by LinkedIn employees, or from fake job recruiters. In these emails, we’ll be asked to confirm our password and email. This is done by including a link that says something like 'To confirm your email address ‘click here.’' If we click on the link, we’ll be taken to some site that looks much like www.linkedIn.com but the purpose is to get us to type in our password, and email so bad people can use our LinkedIn identity, pretending to be us. Another scenario is spammers with fake LinkedIn-account sending us invitations. It's difficult to detect these spammers because some have connections that are also our connections. The inherent conflict we need to deal with seems to be: 1. The more connections we accept, the more visible we’ll be on LinkedIn. 2. The more connections we accept, the more vulnerable we are towards being spammed.
B. How to Evaluate a LinkedIn Account?
Helpful questions when we evaluate LinkedIn accounts are: 1. Is the LinkedIn-bio meaningful? (An indicator that the person is serious about the LinkedIn account.) 2. Do we share some connections with the profile? 3. Is the profile complete? (Spammers tend to leave the details out.) 4. Does the profile picture look natural? (Spammers who target Christians on LinkedIn often use lions, angels, soldiers, or Jesus. Other possibilities are pictures with two persons or a faceless picture.) 5. Does the LinkedIn profile have a cover photo and do you like it? 6. Does the profile name consist of a first name and last name? (Spammers tend to leave one of them out.) 7. Does the first and last name sound ‘normal’? 8. How old is the LinkedIn profile? (LinkedIn spammers tend to have new profiles.) 9. Do we like what this person shares on LinkedIn? If our conclusion after going through these steps is that the profile-owner is a scammer we can archive the invitation. When we do, we get the choice to report it as spam. As William Arruda points out in the article: “If you accept a connection request from one of these scammers, not to worry. It’s easy to resolve. At first, there’s little value to the scammer in just being connected to you. The only value is that it makes their profile look more legitimate if they have a large number of connections (they rarely do). The real value to the scammer comes from engaging in a conversation with you. That’s when the real trouble can begin.” If we receive a message/email we believe is spam, we can always send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask LinkedIn to check it.
4. What is a Spam Account on Twitter?
The fourth leading social media platform we cover is Twitter. Twitter is a powerful social network for instant information-sharing. It’s popular because of its low participation-barrier. It takes a little time to create a profile and be part of the discussions. The limitations of this platform are focused around what content and, which behaviour is allowed. We should read these three links before we implement Twitter in your business as Christian Affiliate Marketers: 1. The Twitter Rules. 2. Following Rules and Best Practices. 3. Automation Rules and Best Practices. Twitter is also perceived as the ‘Freedom Platform.’ It’s on Twitter people speak up.
A. Characteristics of a Twitter-spammer:
1. Following/unfollowing many accounts within a short period. 2. Following/unfollowing the same accounts again and again. 3. Posting non-personal link-updates. 4. Being blocked by many Twitter users. 5. Posting the same content many times or on many accounts. 6. Posting many off-topic-updates using # related to trending topics. 7. Sending many duplicated mentions/replies. 8. Adding users to irrelevant lists. 9. Creating fake content. 10. Aimlessly and aggressively liking/following/retweeting. 11. Posting misleading affiliate/malware links. 12. Selling or buying likes/followers/retweets. 13. Using third-party apps for automated following. A study from Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, Indiana University and Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, March 2017, concluded Twitter could have more than 48 millions spam accounts. When looking at active Twitter accounts, the research team estimated between 9% and 15% of them are bots. Some automated accounts are unproblematic, e.g. those who alert user about risk events, etc. But these accounts are estimated to be a minority while the majority are fake spam accounts. We can help the research team by reporting boots on That is a bot!!
B. A Spammer has Hacked our Account
Here’s what we can do if a spammer has hacked our account, provided we’re still able to log into our account. 1. Create a new password. Once we’ve created the new password, we should log on Twitter from our computer and go to Settings - Apps. If we choose ‘revoke access’ here, we’ll be prompted for a password next time we use Twitter on an electronic device. 2. Use a secure email. Using an unsecured email invalidates other security steps we set up. 3. Update third-party app passwords. Before we give external apps access to our Twitter-account, we should change the app passwords. Once we’ve completed the three steps above, we could delete unwanted Tweets, scan our computer for viruses/malware. We can use Twitter Audit to find out how many followers are fake and/or spammers. The app comes with a free and a paid plan. Once we're done, we can always go to settings - apps and revoke access if we no longer want to grant Twitter Audit access.
C. How to evaluate a Twitter Account
Among the questions we can use to evaluate a Twitter account are: 1. Is the Twitter-bio meaningful? (An indicator that the person is serious about the Twitter profile.) 2. Do we follow some of the same people? 3. Is the profile complete? (Spammers tend to leave the details out.) 4. Does the profile picture look natural? (Spammers who target Christians on Twitter often use lions, angels, soldiers, or Jesus. Other possibilities are pictures with two persons or the legendary Twitter egg.) 5. Does the Twitter profile have a cover photo and do you like it? 6. Does the profile name consist of a first name and last name? (Spammers tend to leave one of them out.)7. Does the first and last name sound ‘normal’? 8. How old is the Twitter profile? (Twitter spammers tend to have new profiles.) 9. Do we like what we see when we look at the person’s tweets? 10. Do we like what we see, if we click through to the website? (if the profile contains a link.)
5. What is a Spam Account on Instagram?
The fifth and last social media platform we'll cover in this blog post is Instagram. The popular term for a Spam Account on Instagram is ‘Finsta.’ A Finsta is a fake Instagram account. A Finsta account is a secondary account people use for sharing content with close friends. Unlike an ordinary Instagram account, the Finsta account owner scans the followers before giving the access to the account. Finsta accounts are created for many reasons:First, young individuals, in particular girls, use Finsta accounts to monitor how a picture is received on Instagram. Pictures that perform well (e.g. receive many comments/likes) can then be posted from the real Instagram account. Teenagers with many followers consider what they post from their accounts. When they feel a need to be impulsive and upload a picture without editing it first, they’ll use Snapchat instead. On Instagram, they’ll first refine the photo so it receives more likes once they upload it. Secondly, with a Finsta account, the users can share less perfected content, e.g. silly insider jokes or embarrassing photos from a party. Often the content has the potential to put the owner’s reputation at risk because they could get in conflict with their current friends, who could choose to share some of the ‘private’ content with a broader audience later. Third, when Instagram in 2016 enabled the possibility of managing five accounts under one profile, some teenagers saw this as a possibility to create a secret second account so they could be social media without their parents watching their activity.
A. Spam Bots on Instagram
Many companies use spam bots (automated posting) on Instagram.It’s tempting for them because they see it as a painless way to a following-boost. With a bot-understanding, we have a better chance to protect our account from them. The ‘Like’ Bots When crawling Instagram, these bots are programmed to like/follow etc. based on specific hashtags, pictures or usernames. The spam bot could also be programmed to consider location. The purpose is to increase followers. Some of the accounts where the bot has left a ‘like’ will respond by following the spam Instagram account. Say, we use a bot, and it’s programmed to like 40 photos per hour equal 960 pictures per day or 6720 pictures per week. Assume this results in 3% of these accounts following our account. That’s a 200-person follower-increase per week. If the follow-back percentage is higher than 3% the number would be higher. At first, the logic seems appealing because the people who follow us as a bot-activity result share interests with us. The bot follows, likes, with relevant prospects. If we’re person's without high moral values, it’s easy to be blinded by these automated offers. OurChristianBook.com recommends to avoid using these bots but understanding how they work will give us a better idea how we should approach social media platforms. The most popular bots are: FollowLiker, Robolike and Tagliker. When we learn how these bots work, we’ll question how many likes on our Instagram come from bots? The biggest problem with these bots is they take away the most important social media aspect - the social part. As Christian Affiliate Marketers, we cannot justify using these bots.
C. How to evaluate an Instagram Account
The questions we can use to evaluate an Instagram account are: 1. Is the bio meaningful? (An indicator that the person is serious about the Instagram profile.) 2. Is the follow/follower-ratio reasonable? (If the profile follows 10 times as many as it has followers, you could ask why so few follow back?) 3. Is the Instagram profile complete? (Spammers tend to leave the details out.) 4. Does the profile picture look natural? (Spammers who target Christians on Instagram often use lions, angels, soldiers, or Jesus.) 5. Does the profile name consist of a first name and last name? (Spammers tend to leave one of them out.) 6. Does the first and last name sound ‘normal’? 7. How old is the Instagram account? (Instagram spammers tend to have new profiles.) 8. Do we like what we see when we look at the profile posts? 9. Do we like what we see, if we click through to the website in the bio? (if the profile contains a link.) On May 18, 2017, Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom published a Social Media Study. The researchers had asked 1,479 people between 14 to 24, 14 questions on how Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat affected them. The study concluded, Instagram had the most negative effect on their self-image due to all the manipulated pictures posted on the platform.
If you're a Christian and learned some techniques from this post, I’d be thankful if you’d shared it by Email/Twitter/Facebook so as many Christians as possible can learn from it. Thank you, Edna Davidsen!