If you are online and engaged in any level of social media besides interacting with your closest friends and relatives, you get spam. Lots and lots of spam. It’s just the way it is.
I use GMAIL for my email address because, back when GMail first came out, it was FAR SUPERIOR to anything else in filtering out the spam emails. My spam file is bursting with the hundreds (thousands) of spam emails I get on a weekly basis. Occasionally, I look over the accumulated mass (using the search feature to scan for certain key words, like “manuscript” “submission” “publication” that might be attached to a legitimate email that has been mistaken for spam, something that happens less than half a percent of the time, by my guess) just to be sure things aren’t slipping through. I get, maybe, a half-dozen spam messages that make it through the filters into my inbox on a bad week. It’s like the Wednesday advertisement flier we get in the mailbox every week. Easy enough to throw away.
Similarly, the WordPress.com Akismet spam protection program does a pretty good job of keeping the “comment spam” segregated and away from what the average blog reader would see. I also use the “first comment by a user has to be approved by the moderator” option to keep spam out. Again, I occasionally look at the spam, just to be sure nothing “real” is accidentally lost. Or, maybe to laugh at some of it.
There is a kind of “spamming” though, that really gets on my nerves, and here’s an example of it.
I was minding my own business, organizing my blog posts for the week when I received the email to the left. The subject line is “Reliable Delivery” which seems odd, but, we have a LOT of things delivered to the apartment. The UPS guy knows me by sight so that if I’m out walking Joy when he comes by he hollers to me, “I’ll just put it by the door.” We also had a problem, recently, with a USPS package being delivered to the wrong place AND a UPS package that was “out for re-delivery” that never showed up. (Pretty sure the normal UPS guy was on vacation…) All that to say this: Reliable Delivery seemed to be a reasonable subject line.
But then, after opening the email, I see it is a general solicitation for a delivery service in New York. Their trucks have liftgates. Swell. If I ever need a liftgate-enabled truck to deliver a manuscript, I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, and I suppose I’ll have to get the manuscript to New York, first, but those are just logistics.
This appears to be a legitimate business. They have an extensive website (even if the design is a bit amateur, it gets the job done) and my guess is they are trying to build their business by using online solicitations. But, look at the “TO” address again. The sales department sent me this email by finding me on WordPress.
Not a smart move. First, there is NOTHING on my blog which makes me a realistic target audience for this company’s service. Why would you send a writer in Florida THIS email? Terrible, terrible targeting. Second, let’s pretend for a moment that the person in the sales department (whose name I’ve redacted) is a reader of this blog and saw something that made her think I’d benefit from knowing more about her company. The appropriate first email would be along the lines of, “Hey, I work for company X and we do Y would you mind if I sent you some info?” I respect that sort of thing. I would say, sure. Send away.
All this really does is make me a little mad. Now, the same reason I’m the wrong person to send this to (the business does not pertain to my needs) is the same reason this won’t hurt them, in theory. It’s not like I was about to use this company for a big cross-town move, so, they aren’t losing any business from me, but what on earth is the point in marketing this way? These good folks need to talk to my friend Ken over at Inkling Media about how to properly use social media and electronic communications to build a business.
The kicker was this line, at the end of the email. Email solicitation protocol dictates that companies should have a way to “opt-out” or their email lists. Problem is, I didn’t opt in. No, I don’t want more emails about your “white glove service” and “blind and hidden shipments” but I also shouldn’t have to click a link to be removed from an email list I didn’t sign up for.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, as writers “build an audience” and use social media for our own purposes, we have to keep in mind these same common rules for using tools like email distribution lists and blogs. These things that drive us crazy when attempted by a “regular” business will also drive away people when we are attempting to publicize our new book or website. Social media marketing is about relationships and legitimate interaction. That’s something even writers have to keep in mind.