“I’m not a spammer — I have a legitimate offer!”
“I’m not a spammer — I didn’t hide my identity!”
“I’m not a spammer — I used a targeted list!”
These are all laments I’ve heard from e-mail marketers who have had their mail servers crippled by e-mail bombs, been booted by their ISPs or received a torrent of abuse from angry Internet users who received their advertising.
In reality, it doesn’t much matter whether you think you’re a spammer or not. What matters is what the recipient of your e-mail thinks. That’s the person who has the power to cause you trouble or ruin your company’s reputation on the Internet.
It’s true that most spammers are promoting get-rich-quick schemes, questionable health products, pornography or other seedy offers. And it’s true that most spammers try to hide their identities so they won’t lose their Internet access or wind up in court.
But the essence of spam lies in another direction: how the e-mail list was built. If your list is made up of people who specifically asked to be on it, your list is an opt-in (permission-based or voluntary) e- mail list. If you placed people on the list without their permission and then mailed to them, you are on dangerous ground. You’re sending unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE). Chances are someone will regard you as a spammer.
Many Internet users resent spam because it invades their inbox (a very personal space) and hijacks computing resources. Some will retaliate. Count on it.
My recommendation is that you only rent opt-in e-mail lists and that you build your own lists on a voluntary basis. That’s the best way to stay out of trouble.
Al Bredenberg is senior consultant at Enterprise Interactive (http://www.enterprise1.com).