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Be Careful When Being Commercial

Email Etiquette and Spam Rules

A site visitor was curious and pondered:

I posted a commercial link to several groups. Seeing the majority of group posts lead to a commercial site, I presumed my action to be okay. The next day I received an email threatening to report me to my ISP and called me a f______ idiot. A second emailer suggested I do a search on netiquette. That’s how I ended up here! I do not understand how my post is spam. Please help me.

Well, I guess you’ve found out the hard way to not assume, right? The name-calling and profanity certainly was not necessary in pointing out the err of your ways. So I find it a bit ironic that someone pointing out proper behavior then resorts to swear words to do so.

Don’t be an Online Lemming

Because you see others doing certain things online doesn’t make it okay. Without knowing which group or what discussion thread you are speaking about of course I cannot comment about the specifics of your situation. However, pointing to a commercial site that is on topic with the conversation at hand is acceptable – if done properly. (For more check out my BusinessEmailEtiquette.com website!)

It is also important before you join or post anything commercial to a group or forum that you review their rules. Each group has their own rules, guidelines or charter which will discuss how commercial links are handled. For example, in my experience, Facebook groups tend to have a zero tolerance policy for the posting of any type of commercial link.

Many folks will have commercial links for their company or business website in their signature file after their name – that is acceptable if not over done. However, to just post a link to a your site – well that is asking for trouble. Your post will be deleted and you risk being banned.

For example, you don’t want to post about your website which has snow boarding supplies when the group is discussing winter health issues. However, if you have winter health issue information, you can provide that and have a link to your snowboarding site in your signature file. Or, if someone asked if anyone knew of a site with snow boarding supplies or posted questions about snow boarding equipment, you could then pipe in and humbly point to your site.

Note humbly…

It’s not that you cannot or should not promote yourself online — you just have to do so within the posted guidelines.

Promotional Transparency

Posting of anything commercial in nature that was not asked for is considered spam. If your website does not specifically apply to the exact topic being discussed you will be perceived as a spammer.

Then there are affiliate links. These are links where you sign-up, and you get a commission if the link is clicked on and a sale is made. You can post them on your site or on your social media. Here again, every affiliate program has rules on how you are allowed to post their links.

Here in the United States you have to declare this endorsement or advertisement. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has an entire guide on how to handle endorsements online.

The FTC isn’t mandating the specific wording of disclosures. However, the same general principle – that people get the information they need to evaluate sponsored statements – applies across the board, regardless of the advertising medium. The words “Sponsored” and “Promotion” use only 9 characters. “Paid ad” only uses 7 characters. Starting a tweet with “Ad:” or “#ad” – which takes only 3 characters – would likely be effective.

The key is that if you are using affiliate links of any kind you have to let those you are displaying them to know that, up front and obviously.

TIP: If you ever post a link to a commercial site you are in no way affiliated with that does apply to the conversation at hand, it will always behoove you to state “I’m not affiliated with this site but it may be what you are looking for”.

Learn Then Move On

So, if you mess up, don’t worry – just don’t do it again. We all make mistakes. 😉

Any questions about posting affiliate or commercial links? Let me know in the comments below…

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