Unwitting spam...is still spam

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junk mail...and the problem is ignorance.

Much excitement online as Chris Anderson publicly shamed and outed the PR folk who send him inappropriate email.

Couple of lessons here.

First, it's a reminder that spam is defined by the recipient. And that badly targeted email, whether opt-in or not, can hurt your business, brand and reputation.

The question your subscribers are asking before hitting delete or "report spam" buttons is not, "is this spam?" but "do I want this email?"

Which is why buzzwords like targeting and relevancy are important. I love Seth Godin's quote on this:

"The smart PR folks (the successful ones) struggle
to make their lists smaller and smaller. The lazy
ones just try to make them bigger."

Second, one of the outed folk wrote an extensive comment claiming how he'd bought this list of (allegedly) targeted email addresses and this therefore legitimizes his email marketing efforts.

This perspective raises eyebrows among those who understand that purchased lists are a permission and email minefield (like Al Iverson and Laura.)

But...the purchaser knew no better. The problem is ignorance. Unless you're familiar with the nuances of email marketing, why wouldn't you believe you could buy a list of targeted email addresses and happily mail away to your heart's content?

Let's distinguish between deliberate spam (the criminal or unethical folk) and unwitting spam (the ignorant folk.)

Clearly we can end the latter through education, with articles like "Bulk email lists: to buy or not to buy".

Or can we?

The underlying problem is that blogs like this largely preach to the choir.

That problem is not new or unrecognized by the industry. Just today, Chad White addresses the issue. A few weeks ago, Loren McDonald did the same. And it's been a pet concern of mine for a long time.

Unwitting spam is still spam. It gets the senders in trouble. And it hurts all email marketing by clogging up inboxes and turning people off commercial email.

Some of the email marketing services targeting small business -- like Constant Contact and VerticalResponse -- do make an effort to reach out to those unlikely to read the likes of Email Marketing Reports. But wider effort would be welcome.

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Permalink | November 01, 2007 | 0 comment(s)
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