Thursday, March 27, 2008

Viral Marketing Smack-Down

A few months ago our library got an email that started out thusly:

I would just like to let you know that I have found several of the resources listed on [your library website] quite useful, and I would like to thank you for the effort and time invested so far; thanks!

He goes on to modestly suggest that, although he's found the links listed on our library website very useful, he would like "to contribute something to further improve the resource for other visitors." Wow, that's so very kind of him! What does he have in mind?

He's found a mortgage loan calculator "which features over one hundred (by the looks of it) finance-related calculators. It's a resource I use myself quite often." Hmm. So it seems this guy has stumbled upon a site that he thinks ("by the looks of it") will improve our page, and although he already uses it "quite often", he just wants everyone to take advantage of this great find. He thinks it would be a "pretty good addition" to our web links page. What do I think?

I think he's a spammer trying to get his own website linked from our library page, so I delete his message and go about my day.

But true to his spammer temperament, a few weeks later he follows up with this quick message: "I'm sure that you are busy, and I do appreciate your time, but I just wondered if you ever received my feedback and suggestion?"

Whether or not his mortgage calculator would be a worthwhile link, how stupid does he think I am that I would mistake his sales pitch for a legitimate suggestion from one of our users to improve our page? It's the insincerity of his presentation that bugs me. It's insulting.

So I respond with the following:

We welcome suggestions from our [College Name] community regarding all of our library resources. It's not clear from your message whether you are a student, faculty, staff, or community resident of [College Name]. How would you suggest that the website you're recommending supports the curricular needs of our students or faculty?

I had to bite my tongue and not write, "Do you even know where our college is located?"

He never answered that message, but he did send the same "suggestion" and follow-up to my boss.

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