How Social Media Sites Are Fighting Spam

SMS Text

Social media spam can take various forms. About two (or a bit more) years ago I used to be a social media newbie myself and I remember doing what I would now call spam: I registered at social media networks to drop my own links.

This was once a reason why I joined Sphinn but I was lucky enough to learn what spam is very quickly and soon I knew that was not the way to benefit from the network – so in just a couple of weeks I was already active participating in and adding quality to the community.

The reason I am saying this is that social spam can really be innocent (though most of the time it isn’t). So if you plan to engage in social media networking (and marketing) and do it right, you need to educate yourself, to learn some basic rules and ethics and to find out how it actually works.

This post looks at various mechanisms social media sites use to get rid of or fight spam.

Limiting the Benefits

Limiting benefits

Image credit: Toothpaste for Dinner

The widespread (and for most networks, must-take) step to getting rid of spam is not giving the spammers a reason to join. That was the reason (I guess) why Sphinn once went with “nofollow” links (unless the story hits the front page).

That was the reason why I decided to make MyBlogGuest available for registered users only (not to encourage members to drop links to their blogs whenever they can).

plusGiving no reason to spam is the only way to avoid self-promotion.

minusHowever it poses another huge problem for the network owner: the ability to promote yourself is the driving power of any network. By limiting the benefits to join, you risk scaring away valid members as well.

The ability to balance between limiting the self-promotional benefits and still giving the users a solid reason to join and participate (giving proper incentives) makes a successful and (almost) free-of-spam community.

Banning the Spammers

Fight spam

Image via

Banning members from the network is another way to get rid of spam. Yes, there’s no an easy answer to how banning should be executed. Creating a properly-working, fully-automated algorithm to catch and filter spammers is too hard (firstly, because there’s no clear definition of what spam really is). Besides, “real” experienced spammers never hesitate to create new multiple accounts using new IP addresses and registration info.

Social media networks have been experimenting with various mechanisms of banning, here are a few of them:

1. Banning in Sessions

StumbleUpon is the best example here. It’s been noticed that it has some “banning” periods when it starts removing multiple accounts in bulk.

plusThe mechanism works well getting rid of long-term spammers who have been developing profiles for months. The only way for them is to start from scratch.

minusMany established, loyal members may fall pray to the process. Many of them are influencers driving real value. Chances are they will never be back.

2. Silent Banning

Reddit is known for the very creative form of banning: invisible one. What it means is that the user may be absolutely unaware of the fact that he is banned: he may go around submitting and voting stuff – what he doesn’t know is that his votes and submissions are invisible to everyone except him.

The only way for the user to make sire he is banned is to once logout and see an error page instead of his profile page.

plusThis seems to be the perfect way to keep spammers under control: keeping them under illusion they are spamming while they are just ghosts.

minus What about genuine members who were banned by mistake?

Building Manually Approved Closed Community

Closed communities

Image by Roy Nixon

In an effort to avoid any form of spam some new emerging communities prefer to stick to an application-based (“beta”) registration process. This works like this: you submit an application to join – the editor reviews your application and approves you (if you seem to be worth it). Example: Blog Engage

plusManual review is surely the best way to maintain the genuine membership.

minusThe approach is “anti-social” to some extent: “why would you think I am unworthy by default and have to qualify to fit your community?” It may scare away many people from ever trying to join.

Like I said, there’s no easy solution to getting rid of spam. Like you have seen from the above, fighting spam usually limits the growth and development of the community itself. Have you ever seen any effective way to fight spam without sacrificing the community benefits?

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project,
Ann Smarty
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  • Eric

    Great read – would have to say that I was the same though. It took me a few weeks to get my bearings stright lol. I am a fan of the silent ban (like reddit) because, oftentimes, the spammer keeps going because they have no clue. Very similar to Craigslist “ghosting” method where they say a your post has been posted but in reality it will not show up in the searches..very creative.

  • David Iwanow

    Argh i hate Reddit it is always giving me trouble but maybe I got banned along the way, every once in a while it will let me submit something new but based on the items which the most votes its usually garbage or link bait so what's wrong with a little self promotion 🙁

    Ann what was the impact on making MyBlogGuest registered users only? Was it an instant drop in spam or just gradual fall?

    • annsmarty

      The nature of the project: we post links there, exchange guest posts and help promote them. It is not easy to tell a good post from link dropping, so making it registered only could reduce spam.

    • asset protection

      i don't like the trend of having most people go to only a few social media sites. seems confining to me.

  • Tom Wilkinson

    Wow – from self-professed spammer to expert in two years.

    I appreciate your honesty and ability to develop.

    It is a tough balance to keep unwanted clutter out – while trying to
    invite as many folks to contribute as possible.

    Not as easy as putting up a “no soliciting” sign in the lobby.
    Real sales people will always find a way to get past the sign.

    All business relationships involve some give-and-take and you
    never know from where the next sale may come!

  • professional SEO services

    spamming can be easily stopped by providing capcha on sites as many sites are now a days following this trend but some what it is really irritating as it is out of understanding or not clear for human site too.

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    With all the creative ways of spamming we see nowadays, it's always good to see creative counter-tactics as well.
    Especially the silent ban is quite evil 😉