Spam is basically just shady advertising.
Here at Someecards, we can't post anything without getting Facebook comments from an 18-year-old named "Valentine" trying to get us to look at her webcam or a "trusted" loan agency trying to get us to give them all of our personal information. Whenever I see those comments, I always wonder: How do they work? Is a real person actually behind those accounts? And how do people make money off of them?
Spamming refers to using online platforms to send unsolicited messages (usually advertisements) to people who don't want to seem them, and it has been around as long as online advertising. Your friend from high school posting about his band is spam just as much as an advertisement for sketchy Ukranian penis pills is spam, and they're both as annoying as they are useless.
Spam can be either directly from one person, or from an larger company. In regards to the former, this can be as innocuous as a real person advertising their new mixtape on a page where it is unwanted. This can also take the form of a "419 scam" (also known as the "Nigerian prince" scam), in which a person directly asks you to send them money via a (untraceable and irreversible) wire transfer, which is far less innocuous and has actually caused victims to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. These types of scams usually happen over e-mail, however, and not Facebook. You also have to be a pretty stupid adult if you actually think wiring money to a person you don't know overseas is a good idea, although a bunch of my friends did this in college to get fake IDs from a shady Chinese site (but that's a story for another time).
Most of the Facebook spam you'll see comes from robots who will do their best to force you to view something and/or click on it. Here's how it works: A third party will contract a spam company because they want to advertise something. Let's take a sock company, for example. The spam company will tell the sock company "we can guarantee that X amount of people to see/click on a post about your socks." The sock company will go into an agreement with the spam company, either through a flat contract or a "money-per-view/click" agreement. The spam company will then post the advertisement on pages that already have a lot of followers (such as Someecards, nbd), or they will create pages solely for the purpose of posting advertisements. They'll make a page that recycles memes, for example (which are guaranteed to get views), accrue a few tens of thousands of followers, and then start blasting them with ads.
Have you ever been streaming TV on a sketchy Russian website and seen a commercial for a real, legit fast food corporation and wondered why they are advertising there? Well legit companies will buy advertisements across an array of networks via different media companies, and if one of those media companies can't deliver the view/click numbers they promised, they will sometimes cheat and use spam advertising to make up for it. The legit companies don't want to be associated with spam, of course, but once they make the advertising deal, its hard to control how and where their promotions are seen.
On the surface, spam sounds like it's actually a pretty good business deal, since it can get your product a lot of user engagement. In actuality, the numbers are complete b/s. You know how spam companies create fake accounts to post the spam? They also create fake accounts to view and/or click on it. Sure, you could say that spam benefits a brand because having a lot of Facebook or Twitter followers looks good on the surface, but at the end of the day, nothing can replace real, actual people engaging with your product.
Does all of that make sense? If you're feeling very TL;DR, just know this: 1) Don't click on anything involving webcams, Viagra, or foreign dignitaries needing money 2) Don't trust view/share counters 3) Why didn't you read the whole thing? What, are you too busy or something? You can't five minutes of your life to learn about spam? SORRY. Didn't know I was talking to Busy McBusyson over here, too busy to read an article. God. No wonder the written word is dying.