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Spam and Its Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof)

Posted At: September 4, 2013 2:50 p.m.
by Brian C. Hoff

Meet the totally transformed #Hamsters & all-new #2014Soul. [2014 Soul ! (Exclaim) shown. Expected Fall 2013.]

— Kia Motors America (@Kia) August 26, 2013


The #GalaxyNote3 has a 5.7″ Full HD Super AMOLED screen & improved S Pen, making multitasking even better on the go.

— Samsung Mobile UK (@SamsungMobileUK) September 4, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 2.37.14 PM

These are just a few examples of the spam – er, sponsored tweets and posts from my personal timeline and news feed from Twitter and Facebook this afternoon. Spam has become a part of everyday life; it is the wart on the back of your hand — a nuisance you’ve grown to ignore.

We see spam every day. Not the canned meat (well maybe, but I haven’t looked in your pantry) but the annoying advertisement banners on blogs, YouTube, Facebook, etc. It used to only clutter our inboxes with requests for funds to help Nigerian princes or offering to help you “lose 20 lbs. fast!” Then came the improvement of spam filters from email clients such as Gmail. Email spam became something only the naïve had to deal with; however, advertisers were quick to evolve.

With the boom of social media sites like Myspace and Facebook, third-party advertisers were able to target a wide range of consumers based on their public preferences and “likes.” We, the consumers, quickly fought back with an artillery of ad-blockers, which are still gaining in popularity today.

Before third-party advertisers bailed on social media as an outlet to spew their bile, social media sites offered up a fancy, UNBLOCKABLE form of ads referred to as “sponsored.” We are all capable of sponsoring our tweets and status updates, but you have to go through the site’s marketing/advertising team.

If it isn’t slapping you in the face by now, much like an onslaught of spam does daily, I am not a big proponent of spam. That said, this post is about how effective this junk is, and I ought to get around to that.

Spam is effective.

There, I said it. Spam definitely adheres to the law of diminishing returns. For a refresher on Economics 101, the law of diminishing returns simply states that a good or product (e.g., spam) has the most value — or for our purposes, effectiveness — the first time it is used. With all other factors remaining constant, the value of a good lessens each time it is consumed — a diminishing rate of satisfaction.

Spam is a form of advertising today, and like advertising, it is full of clutter. Ads are so abundant we don’t even notice them if the tactic is now familiar to us. The same is true of spam.

As soon as my eyes learned to ignore those hideous ad banners, newsfeeds found a new way to get my attention. This evolution of advertising to spam is infuriating. Every chance I get, I click the “Dismiss” option.

Unfortunately, these ads are aimed at captive target audiences based on their own preferences and past posts on a social media site. Sometimes they can be a little too interesting to ignore — especially if a big company has released a clever YouTube video. I’m a sucker for those.

Fellow consumers, I hope that we will soon push back with a new wave of defense mechanisms to advertisers. (I’m looking at you, programmers.) Until then, do yourself a favor and download an ad-blocker. Save your annoyances for something more important like rainy weather. Oh, and I saw your pantry . . . Eat something besides SPAM. It’s full of preservatives.

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