Have you ever scrolled through your inbox, excited about a potential customer inquiry, only to find a generic message from an unfamiliar company asking for a follow?  We’ve all been there. It’s annoying, feels impersonal, and, frankly, reflects poorly on the sender. However, for many small businesses struggling to gain visibility and engagement, unsolicited messages may appear as a tempting shortcut to boost their follower counts.

Here’s the truth: it’s a recipe for disaster. Let’s explore the reasons why spammy tactics can harm your brand image, lead to legal issues, and discover alternative strategies to cultivate an authentic social media following.

The Impact of Bots: Understanding Their Detrimental Effects

Imagine this: you own a bakery and have spent hours crafting engaging content for your bakery’s Instagram. You post a mouth-watering picture of your latest creation—a decadent chocolate cake. Suddenly, your comments section explodes with generic messages like “OMG, love this cake! Follow for more deliciousness!” When you start seeing dozens of comments like these out of the blue, they are likely from “bots,” which are automated accounts used to inflate follower counts. However, this poses a significant issue: bots lack the ability to become genuine customers and actually detract from authentic interactions. They won’t buy your products, engage with your content, or join valuable conversations.

A recent study found that up to 71% of US and UK consumers will unfollow influencers if they find out they have bought fake followers. Having fake followers can damage your credibility and authenticity as an influencer or brand.

Quality over quantity is key for building your audience. Engage with genuine followers instead of prioritizing high numbers for a loyal and valuable audience in the long term. This will create a dedicated community that will help your brand overall. Keep in mind, authenticity is crucial in marketing.

Laws of the Land: CASL and CAN-SPAM

Canada has strict regulations regarding unsolicited electronic communications, known as CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation), which went into effect July 1, 2014. Essentially, you can’t just blast out emails or messages to anyone with a pulse. Recipients need to explicitly opt-in to receive communications from your business. Violating CASL can result in hefty fines, up to $10M per violation for companies and up to $1M per violation for individuals. It is essential for your business (and wallet!) to ensure that all electronic communications follow the guidelines established by CASL.

In addition to obtaining consent from recipients, businesses must also include a clear and easy way for individuals to unsubscribe from their communications. This ensures recipients have control over the messages they receive and helps businesses maintain compliance with CASL regulations. Regularly staying informed about the latest updates and changes to CASL is crucial to avoiding potential fines and penalties. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website provides valuable resources and guidelines to help businesses navigate the CASL maze and ensure their electronic communications are in compliance with Canadian law.

The U.S. has similar regulations under the Federal Communications Commission’s CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM Act requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue rules with regard to commercial e-mail and some text messages sent to wireless devices such as cell phones—not just email in general. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the CAN-SPAM Act.

You or your business may be subject to fines and penalties totalling up to $51,744 for each email sent if found to be in violation. Moreover, ignoring CAN-SPAM compliance undermines the reputation and image of your brand overall and leaves it unprotected.

Following these guidelines and staying informed about regulations can protect businesses from costly fines and maintain a positive image with customers. It is crucial for organizations to have a clear understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding electronic communications in order to avoid potential legal issues. Additionally, implementing strong internal policies and procedures for email marketing can help businesses ensure compliance with both CASL and CAN-SPAM regulations. Taking proactive steps to stay informed and compliant with these laws will ultimately help your business.

Instagram Guidelines: Adhering to the Platform’s Rules

Similar to CASL, Instagram has clear guidelines on acceptable messaging practices. Remember that frustrating “action blocked” message you may have received after mass-tagging irrelevant accounts? That’s Instagram flexing its muscles. Repeated offenses could lead to account suspension or even termination. So, ditch the automated follow requests and generic DMs.

Instead, focus on creating engaging and personalized content that will resonate with your followers. Building a strong and authentic presence on Instagram takes time and effort, but it will ultimately lead to better results than spamming tactics. Take the time to understand the platform’s rules and regulations, and make sure your messaging aligns with them. For instance, avoiding mass-tagging irrelevant accounts can help you adhere to Instagram’s guidelines and prevent potential penalties. By following these guidelines, you can steer clear of potential penalties and uphold a positive reputation on Instagram.

Newsletters and Eblasts: Building Trust, Not Spam Folders

Newsletters and e-blasts are valuable tools for interacting with customers and promoting your business. But here’s the key: focus on permission-based marketing, which involves obtaining consent from subscribers before sending them marketing communications. This approach ensures that your messages are well-received and compliant with privacy regulations. Encourage visitors to your website to subscribe to your mailing list by offering valuable content, like exclusive discounts or early access to new products. Make sure your sign-up form clearly outlines the types of messages subscribers will receive and how often they will receive them.

While there’s no hard-and-fast rule on when to segment your e-blasts, industry standards suggest sending them in batches based on subscriber behaviour or demographics. This way, your messages stay relevant and personalized, standing out from the clutter in their inbox.

Beyond Spam: Building a Thriving Social Media Presence

So, what steps can you take to build a genuine social media following and foster authentic connections with your audience? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Prioritize creating high-quality content. Share photos, videos, and stories that reflect your brand and resonate with your audience.
  • Be authentic. Let your brand voice shine through!
  • Engage with your followers. Respond to comments and messages, provide answers to inquiries, and organize interactive challenges to boost engagement.
  • Run targeted ads: Paid advertising can be a great way to reach a wider audience while ensuring your message gets in front of the right people.

Over to You!

Building a thriving social media presence takes time and effort. But by prioritizing authentic connections and valuable content over spam tactics, you’ll attract a loyal following of genuine customers. Keep in mind that genuine followers hold more value than a large number of inactive accounts. Avoid spammy messages and concentrate on creating social media experiences that truly resonate with your audience.

What strategies have you found most effective for increasing engagement on social media platforms?

Written by: Jennifer Hanford, MYOB Blogger