Few marketers think that they spam. Spamming is often thought of as using email addresses from a bought list. But spamming is more expansive than that. Spam really just means an unsolicited or unwanted message.
Cory Doctorow recently audited all of the spam in his inbox and discovered that most of it came, not from unknown entities, but from organizations he’d “engaged” with in the past.
“Here’s the surprise: though a small amount of fraud got through my filters, almost all my spam was “legitimate” email. It wasn’t sent by criminals trying to defraud me, but from businesses and causes I’d actually heard of.
“Movietickets.com, Adopt a Classroom, Rstreet Patent and Copyright – from the mundane to the expert, this was the footprint of my life manifest through email, most of it not given explicit permission and none of it wanted…
“Many of these lists were run by companies or organizations I had a relationship with – I’d given a lecture, sent money or bought something – but never agreed to be on their lists. I don’t need updates from a Chicago yoga studio I attended once while on tour in 2005.”
It took Cory 30 days to unsubscribe from the 3,000 “legitimate” email lists his address had been added to.
Marketers frequently take too much license with what it means to have “opted in.” The default assumption seems to be that anyone who provides an email address is “opting in” to constant contact. And yet the result of that assumption alienates the very people those marketers are trying to reach.
Just because a marketer has someone’s email address doesn’t mean they have their permission to email them. Permission has to be earned.
As Seth Godin famously wrote, “Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
I think everything else is a form of spam.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.