Thursday, November 15, 2012

Recruiting to a service - doesn't it feel spammy?

In any line of business, you are always looking for new customers.

I have two jobs as a proposal writer - to win new customers over to my employer, and to keep the customers that we already have. In my case, I spend much of my time responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs), in which customers actively want to be courted.

But there are a number of cases in which potential customers don't want to be bothered.

Take the online games industry on Facebook (and other services). Regardless of the specific game or the specific game provider, most if not all games provide in-game rewards if you bring new people to the game. Unfortunately, it's not always explicitly clear that you're bringing new people to the game. For example, a game may offer you the chance to send game gifts to your friends; you have to look at that list really closely to see that many of the gifts are for people who are not playing the game at all. I like to think that I'm wise to this tactice, but there have been several times when I've discovered that I've inadvertently posted a game advertisement on a friend's wall.

And it's not just the game industry.

I am a frequent participant on Google+, and this particular service is another one that encourages you to make friends with others using the service. For example, Google+ recently placed this item up on my wall.

Basically, Google is trying to get me to recruit Robert Hunt, a non-Google+ user, to join Google+. There are two clues that indicate that this is a recruiting message, and not an effort to link with someone already using the service.

The first clue is the phrase "In your contacts." Most people realize that Google+ is not a stand-alone service like Facebook, but a service that is integrated with many other Google properties, including Gmail. I don't recall ever sending anything to Robert with my Gmail account - perhaps I did, or perhaps Google managed to get the contact information from one of my other accounts. Regardless, this is some information that Google has stored in its servers, and is using in an effort to get me to get Robert to join Google+.

The second clue is in the word "Robert." Robert is a high school classmate of mine. After we graduated, I headed to Portland, Oregon. Robert also headed west, but not quite as far west - he never went any further than the bustling metropolis of Hayti, Missouri. Somewhere along the way, he dropped the "Robert." Readers of the Knoxville News Sentinel, as well as almost everyone else (including his wife), know him as "Bob." In fact, when I call his home and ask for "Robert," his family immediately knows that the caller is someone who knew Robert a LONG time ago.

Why do I say this? Because in an online context, Bob Hunt would always refer to himself as Bob. So obviously he doesn't already have a Google+ profile.

Perhaps it's me, but these tactics to get people to sign up for a service seem awfully spammy to me. If you are managing a campaign and planning to do something like this, ask yourself - how would you feel if someone did it to you?
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