If I was you, I’d be out spamming other web sites for all I was worth.

OK, so not really. SPAM is icky. Not the Hormel meat product, but the practice of sending out a bunch of unwanted messages to people who you aren’t engaged with in the hopes that they’ll (fill in the blanks).

Once a word that referred specifically to sending out a bunch of email to people you don’t know in the hope that they’d buy something, SPAM has come to mean a lot more. Anyone who runs a web site can tell you about “comment SPAM”, for example, where people write comments on items at your web site to get attention for their products or services, without there being any connection between your content and the things they sell.

It’s a real problem, this comment SPAM. Last month, we received over 6,500 comments here at Answer Guy Central. 400 of them were legitimate, and the rest were SPAM. And we’re not even that large a site!

And if that sounds like a lot you should see my e-mail SPAM statistics!

As we move into a world where communication is driven by social networking and less by direct contact, this subject gets harder to encapsulate, and harder to police. It’s been about three years since the FCC enacted all-but-unenforceable rules about “paid blogging”, and nearly that long since I told you about Kim Kardashian’s paid tweets that weren’t disclosed as such.

It’s a subject I’ve talked about here more than a few times. In pursuit of Google’s Secret Sauce people try all kinds of tactics, and at the end of any meaningful analysis you realize that the FCC isn’t who’s going to control this issue; the people who will ultimately decide what works and is allowed are the people who use the Internet.

NOFOLLOW isn’t the answer. On the other hand, CoOpetition might be—so long as the coopetition attempts you make are real. Reuters handles SPAM the right way.

But to date, that’s an exception. Sure, exceptions prove rules, but the real issue is that the rules are so complicated, it’s incredibly difficult to even discuss what the rules “are”.

A couple of weeks ago I came across this piece at Social Media Examiner. Read it. it’s the simplest, most obvious road map to doing Social Networking the right way that I’ve come across—and believe me, I look. It breaks things down into three very simple, very easy to understand ideas:

  1. Find Your Community
  2. Choose Which Networks Work Best For You
  3. Focus Your Efforts

I could go on for quite a while, but Social Media Examiner’s piece does a great job. Encapsulated, it comes down to talking to people who are interested in what you have to say (not “everyone”), using the right tools to reach them (not all tools or “tools of the moment”), and honing in on the folks you find when you apply those two ideas. Go read it.

There’s nothing altruistic about social networking, and there doesn’t need to be. But if you’re going to talk, at least talk to the people who might be interested in what you have to say. That’s real business change, and it will make your social networking efforts pay off for you—and the people you reach.

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