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The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam

2010-01-27 07:52:07
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In the quest for winning the not-really-so-coveted "Shorty Award", our favorite fictional ad man, @FrankAdMan, found himself losing to a T-Shirt. No big deal, after all, Frank, himself, is fictional, so why shouldn't he be beaten by a T-Shirt?

But then he came across a 16 year old who's entire Twitter stream seemed to consist of "@twittername Do you want to be the best person ever? Vote for@iwearyourshirt to win a shorty" and Frank found himself thinking about fish and Denmark...

My first impression was that someone wrote a script that worked the way Twitter whores spam people (see my blog "Twitter Followers Don't Matter, ask the porn sites"). But I was a little curious why all the postings came from "Echofone" which is a legitimate Twitter client. I figured he could have spoofed the name to make it look more legit, but why not do "from web" at the point?

Then I got a message from the spammy account. @jonacoca describes himself as "I'm a fun, Energetic, and intelligent sixteen year old who loves Social Media, sports, and the business world!" and he assures me he is not a bot.

I did some quick research and he posted very similar messages about 125 times. Not as much as a bot would probably do, but way more than a 40 year old man would do. The behavior of 16 year old boys often seems unlikely to their older and slower counterparts, but my guess is that he's copying and pasting and soliciting strangers -- which isn't much different than sending a 16 year old down to the mall to hand out fliers (which I did when I was 16-ish).

Except this is the Social Media frontier and while it's still the unruly frontier with sex, profanity, and a sense of "whatever I can get away with is okay," there are some things we consider improper. One of which is soliciting strangers without their permission, consent or warning.

I don't know what the Shorty's are going to do with this situation -- a little forensics could probably toss out all the votes that were solicited this way, but part of the problem is that this IS the frontier. The fact that there aren't any hard cast rules of engagement makes it harder to separate aggressive campaigning from improper, ne, disqualifying tactics.

But I gotta love the silliness of it all in the midst of the moral quandary...

Clarification on January 28
My intent with this blog posting was to cover the issue of what constitutes spam, but the discussion below has evolved into a discussion about what makes a good Shorty submission. Now, the Shorty Awards has a fairly complex set of rules, and they did their initial audit of the votes to see how they comply with these rules.

Lee Semel (@semel) a co-founder of the Shorty Awards, posted this today:
@rafael_jornal can explain further over info[at] email, but 'because...' votes, repeats and retweets weighted less

Which might help to explain how FrankAdMan with 346 votes is currently in first place while iwearyourshirt is in 6th with 361 votes. I'm pretty sure that iwearyourshirt wasn't docked heavily by jonacoca's enthusiasm, as the number of votes that iwearyourshirt got from the campaign was (at his estimate) very limited.

Food for thought, though...

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The Emotions of Text
Google Analytics, the cloud and missing numbers #fail

Alex Gatscher: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-27 17:38:44

First Rule in Advertising: You have to get their attention.

@FrankAdMan does it daily and real people that know, know.

His because... anwsers are genuinely heart felt by those that follow him.

Cheers to the kid too!

Don't throw away the dog cuz he has some tho..long live shortys.

Someone ought to mentor him...mmmm I wonder who...

A shorty mentor scholarship could be made available by F. with 2 hands tied behind his back.

I except great things from both.

Like I told Frank..(whoever he is,he is a devilish darling, and I actually look at him as Zig, learning from him everyday) If He were stock, I would invest in him.

Alexa Gatscher

Helen Klein Ross: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-27 19:41:17

Agree this is kind of a twempest in a teapot,'s my .02. I think it's highly unlikely this account belongs to a 16 yr old. Teens generally aren't on twitter, b/c none of their friends are. And what self-respecting 16 yr old would be caught dead describing himself as "I'm a fun, Energetic, and intelligent sixteen year old who loves Social Media, sports, and the business world!" Cmon. If I was creative director on this copy, I'd send it back for a rewrite. Sounds totally inconsistent w/ character. Not to say that a kid couldn't be produced to claim ownership. Oh, the twitterverse, where fictional characters abound. For betty or worse ;)

Shirt's tactics may be objectionable but not technically illegal. At least, not according to my read of the rules. However, if Shorty simply assigns awards to contenders with the most active bots (human or otherwise), of what value is a Shorty to an actual person?


Scott Hale: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-27 22:09:19

You've got a good point here...but @jonacoca is exactly who he says he is. I don't think it's spam either. If he is starting his tweets w/ a username, most of his followers will never see the tweet. And anybody can deal with ONE tweet with a request. After all, his followers are his community and they are welcome to unfollow if they don't like him soliciting favors.

Let's move the focus elsewhere - See the opportunity here? Kids have a different lifestyle than adults. They have more time and less concern about what people like us think. Jason (@iwearyourshirt) didn't ask @jonacoca to ask his followers to vote, but Jason did build a community of people that WANT to do this for him. Teens will do this of their own accord when they are included and validated as friends. They act upon trust.

Take this situation as an example of targeted marketing and community building for younger generations. Use it to your advantage rather than complain about it.

Nice post, thanks.

- Scott

Michael Grosheim: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-27 23:44:00

I would like to start off by saying that Alexa's comment gave me a headache. Inconstant and all over the place. Didn't make much sense. Moving on to Helen, no disrespect, but "Shirt" has not pitched anyone forcing them to vote. If we are going to react to a blog post, it should be factual. That said, what are we considering spam? Yes, while sending out random @ messages to people across the globe borders on a question of morality and character, it is far from unethical. However, sending those @ messages to followers is far from spammy; after all, his followers have the ability to unfollow and block.

Now, as far as tweeting the same message 125 times, does using an auto-tweet application make every marketing professional (or marketing wanna-be) a bot; let's not forget the hundreds of thousands of people who use Twitter to pitch products and ideas. And, let's not forget auto DM's that reply the same message to every new follower.

Maybe, @FrankAdMan is losing to a "shirt" becuase the "shirt" is a far more creative marketing idea. Just maybe.

Larry-bob: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-28 00:39:34

Fugitive Philipino cult leader @BroEliSoriano has been made the leader in the #education category by a flood of spam. I suggest the following nomination:

I nominate @BroEliSoriano for a Shorty Award in #spam because his followers have made him shorty leader in Education.

NTChaddius: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-28 00:55:22

Regardless of whether or not the account is Spam, I'd side with Jason (@IWearYourShirt) in this argument. I do like the point of the community that Jason has created, and if he generated enough support for someone to create that account for him well then more power to him. The same could have been done for @FrankAdMan. The Internet is its own world, and this is it's version of "Survival of the Fittest". That's what's so scary and awesome about it.

In looking at both accounts, I can't even see why @FrankAdman should be considered in the category. The account is a mess of replies and off the wall comments. But, even sorting through to what I'm assuming are the tangible/informative messages (and basing my opnion solely on them)... they lead to inane babble. For @IWearYourShirt, there are quick advertisements for the specific product of the day leading me to YouTube, Flickr, and everywhere else in the SM Universe.

I'm not sure how someone who is pretending to be a fictional ad-man from the 60's should even be considered in the category. Seems more of a method for self gratification and ego-boosting when more followers are obtained rather than being there as an advertiser. Jason, on the other hand, dedicates his time to the product, not himself. Sure he has some fun in between, and I'm not saying conversation with followers is a bad thing (that's the whole point of social media right?). But, even in those moments of fun, the product is still being represented. Regardless of the method by which he reached #1, I think the right advertiser came out on top.

Carri Bugbee: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-28 01:00:46

I donít see anything wrong with what @jonacoca is doing, which is what I told @FrankAdman yesterday. Anybody is entitled to shill for anyone else. Frankly, I find it less egregious than those who shill incessantly for themselves. Anyone who understands PR knows itís always better to have someone else do the talking for you.

Itís no different than a brand reaching out to tell me about their products when I tweet a relevant keyword. Kodak recently reached out to me when I tweeted about shopping for a new printer. Iíve been targeted by Comcast, GoDaddy, MyMediaInfo, AlaskaAir and many other service providers or vendors this way. Those of us who tweet for brands know this is de rigueur Ė and tweeters who are targeted this way rarely complain if the message is on target with their interests. Have you seen complaints from the people that @jonacoca has targeted?

I agree with Scott on this one. @iwearyourshirt has obviously developed a much more ENGAGED group of followers than anyone else vying for the advertising award. A snapshot of data via Twitalyzer indicates the clout and influence of @iwearyourshirt is FAR ABOVE its category competitors. Iíve posted snapshots of analytics data of the top five competitors here:

Given that, itís not a stretch to think that a fan might want to help @iwearshourshirt just for the hell of it. This is EXACTLY what every brand using social media hopes and plans for. Last year, at least two followers of @PeggyOlson voted for her multiple times during the first round of Shorty voting (this wasnít allowed during round two). I didnít know them personally and they had no idea who I was since I was anonymous. They just really liked @PeggyOlson.

Even if @jonacoca is being ďcompensatedĒ in some way to tweet on behalf of @iwearyourshirt, I donít think thatís against the rules, is it? Canít a brand pay their PR team to campaign or take out an ad if they want to? I'm sure they can pay their Web team to post something on their own Web site.

Finally, as Scott pointed out, itís unlikely that anyone following @jonacoca is feeling spammed by his messages. They probably just see the one tweet.

I got targeted in this way on a music-related account I tweet for. The ENTIRE substance of that other accountís tweetstream was reaching out to music tweeters to alert them to a new music app. Hundreds of tweets that said the same thing, just targeted to different people. I didnít look at it as spam since the information was legitimate and well targeted. Others may have considered it spam. I don't know.

The point is, it's only spam if it's unwanted. And I doubt you can speak on behalf of the people @jonacoca is reaching out to.

Social Profiles:

Michael T. Kramer: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-28 04:50:07

Probably the only people who really care about this issue are the ones who are losing to "I wear your shirt."

I'm more offended by people who self-promote ad nauseam by constantly posting those self-populating links to vote for them in the Shorty's. I will block one of those Tweeters in a New York Minute.

Frank Adman: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-28 15:54:17

If I'm not mistaken there are categories for Marketing, Innovation, and Spam. Let's not confuse them with Advertising. I've nominated @adbroad & @leeclowsbeard in #Advertising because I follow and enjoy them on Twitter

The Shorty Awards are intended to celebrate all that is Twitter. Give your #Advertising nomination for the Shorty Award to someone who, like great advertising, engages, entertains and charms within the constraints of Twitter. Cheers. F

NTChaddius: Re: The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
2010-01-28 23:22:39

Frank's statement illustrates exactly my problem with those whom, I feel, misunderstand the point of Twitter.

His belief is that the Shorty Awards are intended to recognize those that stay "within the constraints" of Twitter. Through our recent tweeting, I get the impression that he feels his major competitor, @iwearyourshirt, has an unfair advantage due to his incorporation of various social media outlets. Yet, his links to random music bytes and images are no cause for his own discredit? The point of me trying to find a tweet of his that makes a relevant advertising point being harder than trying to screw a mormon girl on prom night aside, if he's right and this is what the Shorty Awards are about then it's just a pointless exercise in furthering self gratification and completely goes against the point of what Twitter has become.

The message on Twitter's homepage reads:

"Share and discover whatís happening right now, anywhere in the world."

This, along with this debated decision to change it's default question from "What are you doing?" to "What's happening?" shows how Twitter has truly become an information tool. With that, the Shorty Awards should celebrate those who are able to find a creative way to share relevant information with their followers. Sure @iwearyourshirt links to youtube, flickr, etc. but lets also not forget his constant in between conversations and games with the community of followers he's created. But, those tweets that do share links are clearly doing something right, because followers are clicking through. Tweets read like headlines in the mess that is most users' twitter streams. If they generate enough interest to grab the reader's attention among the clutter and get them to click the link, then they have done so "within the constraints" of Twitter.

On a side note, I'm not saying the @FrankAdman account hasn't achieved the community aspect, clearly he has. I just fail to see what's getting advertised.

Short of someone who actually created the Shorty Awards giving their opinion, I think we leave it to their statement that the awards are left to "the community to decide". Although, the last minute auditing processes and the addition of a judges vote for this years finalists seem to be hinder that motive.

Let's also be aware that, in the grand scheme of things, all of this bantering and the eventual winners of the Shorty Awards really mean nothing. It will never gain as much worldwide attention as a baby kitten being tickled...

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