SPAM! and the customer is gone…

spamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspambaconspamspamspamspamspamspamspamspam… etc

Spam -_- a word we all associate with annoying emails and advertisements, useless junk we don’t want and people trying to scam us online! Or simply the scrumptious looking canned meat in the famous Monty Python sketch…

This is a topic that digital marketers need to understand as most spam is actually illegal, and on top of that it annoys the viewers! Thankfully my email account filters the content and my spam ends up in its own folder, slowly multiplying and being ignored, but I don’t have to worry about sifting through hours of emails that turn out to be junk!

fry-can-t-tell-meme-generator-can-t-tell-if-spam-or-actual-email-9a6bf0

Whist consumers may say “OMG this person keeps spamming me/I’m being spammed by this company”, this is often an inaccurate and over-exaggerated exclamation. Officially spam can be defined as unsolicited commercial email and related undesirable online communication ( Rao and Reiley, 2012). Advertising, whilst it may be a nuisance and irrelevant to consumers, is different to spam in that the user has no option to opt out of it, there is no benefit and it is completely unsolicited. The point is, advertising is just something we have accepted as part of the package for using/viewing services and content.

#myinbox

#myinbox

As you can see in the screenshot to my left, the spam has clearly been seperated into its own category. The email providers want users to be satisfied so destroy the spam problem for us! Gmail as well divides its emails into ‘Primary’, ‘Social’, and ‘Promotions’ sections. The promotions inbox is not actually spam, as these are from brands that I have subscribed to and allowed for them to send me emails on updates, new products, sale information etc. Most of these are fashion brands and at any time I can unsubscribe from their email list and stop receiving the messages. So this is not spam. The spam sitting in my inbox is something I have no control over, and whilst I may not bother to read all (or most) of the promotional emails, I accept them and they have certain relevance to me. Any brands that I would find in my Spam inbox are undesired and most likely useless or dangerous (a scam) and there is no way to prevent there communication! In addition, the actual advertisements at the top of my promotions list (Energy Australia) are not ones I have asked to receive communication for but are paid advertisements that still have the ‘x’ icon allowing for me to close their promotions.

Is it allowed?

The Spam Act (2003) was created to prevent invasive content and to guarantee that businesses aren’t spamming their consumers with a few simple regulations. The Spam Act states that emails must not breach (ACMA, 2015):

  1. Consent: consent must be clearly provided by consumers prior to receiving an email;
  2. Identify: the email sender must be easily identifiable;
  3. Unsubscribe: receivers must be presented with an unsubscribe link to cease receiving emails from this sender.

Don’t be fooled by scammers, if it doesn’t seem legit, it probably isn’t! Know your source and check that there is a way to opt out of communications.

Social media opens the window for all sorts of communication and spamming, so be careful. If you’re unsure, check out how to identify and prevent spam.

On the other side of the coin, marketers need to understand how to not spam! If you a marketer here is some advice on avoiding spamming your consumers. There are 5 simple steps to increase deliver-ability

  1. Avoid spam words! ($$$$, Bargain, Cash, Earn, Easy terms, etc.) These are all suspicious!
  2. Don’t look spammy! (The colour red, multiple links, confusing subjects, overload of symbols, etc.)
  3. Choose the right service provider! (With a credible and positive track record)
  4. Certify your IP! (Email providers will like you better)
  5. And common sense!

Hope these tips help you to avoid spam/spamming!

Don't end up in the spam box!

What are your thoughts on spam?

How do you identify spam?

What types of spam do you receive most often?

Do you notice spam on social media as much as in emails where they are usually clearly filtered?

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9 comments

  1. stephmarshall1995 · October 15, 2015

    Hi Phoebe, really well written piece!It’s very unfortunate from marketers perspectives that their advertisements have become linked with spam, and its incredibly negative connotation. Like most people though, I constantly refer to these emails as spam due to the masses that it comes in! Like you mentioned, it is vital that marketers manage the perfect balance of communicating with customers without being over the top. To be completely honest, either I don’t receive actual illegal spam (often) or I must not notice it. These advertisements on the other hand are constantly flooding my email and mobile. I get a text notifying me about a sale at Ishka at least once a week (I’m starting to think they never don’t have a sale on…but that’s another marketing issue in itself!). And the amount of ‘spam’ emails I get makes me exhausted to even think about checking my email…
    The frequency of emails has a counteracting effect on me as a consumer, as the more often I receive an email from a single brand, the less I bother to read them.
    In reference to your final question, I have notice a significant increase in advertisement material on social media (I don’t think I’ve noticed legitimate spam though). In some instances I enjoy it, when I’m bored and social media itself isn’t entertaining me. However sometimes it’s too over the top and detract from the actual purpose of the sight. My guess is the degree of advertising from these brands on social media is much more prominent compared with emails, however I don’t find it as annoying on social media, unlike when it clogs my email.
    Hopefully more companies take notice of the tips you’ve provided and use them to their advantage! As this unit has demonstrated, having a good understanding of social media platforms is such a vital aspect of marketing in todays day and age!

    Liked by 1 person

    • phoebechapman · October 19, 2015

      Thank you Steph! Yes I completely agree with you, its hard as marketers that now consumers have so much control and very little patience with advertising that even promotions that are not technically spam are thought of in this way. Any advertising that people can’t avoid and is rather regular is seen as annoying and people often term it as ‘spam’ even if it complies with the Spam Act.
      I think the fact that email providers filter and highlight the spam purposely has made it easier for us to identify the illegal spam and have more negative attitudes towards, whilst on social media which is flooded with all sorts of communications already it is potentially easier to slip in undetected as spam, as people are constantly scrolling and generally only pause on a post that catches their eye and interests them. Although, just today I received actual spam email in my primary inbox and was fairly annoyed that it managed to get through!
      I agree that social media is probably a better use for marketers in terms of promotions, whilst the ones ive referred to in my promotion inbox are not officially spam, many people will term it this, but on social media it blends in better and is part of a more favourable platform when it comes to communication.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Like

  2. toddacope · October 19, 2015

    Hey there, Pheobe!

    Great post, I like that you included a very accurate description of what spam is and agree that the term “spam” is widely misappropriated.

    In my opinion advertising emails now convey a similar feeling that spam used to create when it flooded my inbox before algorithms to filter out the spam became good enough to catch most of it. As a result, I have managed to create a more valuable email management system by utilising the “VIP contacts” feature of Apple’s native email app. If you receive regular emails from certain people that you always want to read, then open an email from them, click their name, then “add to VIP”. This creates a new inbox with all VIP emails and sends you a push notification when you receive an email from any of your VIPs.

    How do you feel about the advertising emails that you receive? Is advertising essentially the same as spam in regards to the feeling it conveys? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    Like

    • phoebechapman · October 20, 2015

      Thanks for your support!

      You make some good observations, even though ‘actual spam’ is being filtered out of our main mailboxes, the amount of advertising that brands do is really becoming considered to be spam as well.
      The VIP contacts feature sounds really useful! As I have no apple products (sony phone and microsoft tablet) I’m not aware of this feature, but it does sounds fairly similar to how Gmail categorises primary emails, where I only receive notifications in this main inbox from actual contacts. So whilst there is an inbox receiving promotional emails it is separated but categorised well enough that if I’m interested in looking for sales of my favourite brands I can easily open this inbox. The sheer number of these promotional emails as we’ve discussed is obviously the problem, but if I really didn’t want them I could always unsubscribe.
      The point is I have willingly signed up to receive these emails for the inital discount or to receive notifications on sales or new products, and whilst I usually ignore the 50+ emails I receive a day in this inbox I am an avid online shopper and like to bargain hunt. On top of this due to the separate inboxes I do not get notifications for these types of emails that mislead me into thinking I have received important mail.
      In regards to my and others feelings towards it, I think to an extent it these advertisments have negative associations and can be considered ‘spam’ but are not quite in the same league as real spam which can be actually dangerous, a scam and completely useless and irrelevant!

      Like

  3. Ivy Ye · October 19, 2015

    I’m much the same as you both. I’m not sure whether or not I receive legitimate spam. But I have same feelings towards the marketers whom think it’s a great idea to send me emails everyday about a new sale, or product and service. Yes at one stage or another, I did willingly sign up to their subscription list (probably for that 15% off sign up code). But I did not sign up to be almost harassed with over 75 emails if I don’t check them for two days (okay I do a lot of online shopping). It has gotten to a point where I am starting to unsubscribe from majority of these emails.
    I know it’s not spam, but it certainly feels like it. The negative connotation is real and I’m also being effected as a customer.
    I find there can be quite a few spam accounts on social media (at least that is what I think they are), those accounts that comment on lots of social media accounts or have somehow tagged you in a post… When you have no idea who or what they are? However I remember Instagram doing a cleanse of spam accounts on Instagram which resulted in almost all Instagram users to lose followers (celebrities like Akon lost over half his followers that day… http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30548463).
    I think social media operators and users can agree that spam is not welcome, it ruins the experience for everyone. Which is probably why they gave users the option to report items and posts as ‘spam’. Is that enough? Maybe we could do more?

    Like

    • phoebechapman · October 20, 2015

      I agree with all your points and am in exactly the same boat for the reasons to subscribing to these brands! I don’t mind receiving a notification for a 40% off sale to one of my favourite brands, but the ones I am less interested in or the emails that I find no exciting information in do in fact annoy me and the number that clogs this promotion inbox is very annoying, so that when I do end up scrolling through I often can’t be bothered really going through the emails to look for the sales or new release information!
      In saying all this, as a marketer, do you think that they should not send out these emails then? In my opinion it is still necessary, and if the consumer has subscribed they’ve shown an interest in receiving advertisements, what are your thought or suggestions on this?

      I feel like Facebook I don’t notice much or any spam, whether it is really there or not. However, on instagram which I have recently become active on I have received quite a bit of spam, I have been tagged by spam accounts in spam posts trying to scam me into signing up to sites and buy products. They can easily be identified due to their unidentifiable source and the generally sketchy nature of what they are suggesting.
      I remember this social media cleanse as well! It happened to quite a few celebrities from what I remember and was interesting to see the difference it made to the popularity standings on social media. I think social media do a reasonably good job of preventing and removing spam from their platforms, but perhaps have to be even more active and efficient, however besides these few recent instagram incidents I have not been exposed to much. It certainly does detract from the fun and social experience of social media though.

      Like

      • toddacope · October 21, 2015

        That’s good to know that someone else feels the same as me towards these advertising emails. Just the other day I bought a blazer from Jack London, signed up for a discount and that very same day I got sent an email with specials on jackets. I just bought a jacket, why would I be looking for another one later that day? I would only be shopping for another one if I was dissatisfied with my purchase from Jack London. That’s not an image they want their consumers thinking.

        I definitely think we could do more. I think we should be able to report advertising as “feeling like spam”, and this could send a notification to the sender about the quality of their content, encouraging them to change their content or frequency of emails.

        Do you think that would work?

        Personally I think that email marketing can work well. I don’t think many companies do it well. They need to be more relevant than they currently are. For example, if Jack London saw that I purchased a jacket, an email could be sent offering a discount unique to me on pocket squares or lapel pins, something to complement the purchase instead.

        I’ve also noticed a large number of spam followers on twitter that blatantly follow people and are only looking for the people they follow to purchase their products.

        Like

  4. toddacope · October 21, 2015

    That’s good to know that someone else feels the same as me towards these advertising emails. Just the other day I bought a blazer from Jack London, signed up for a discount and that very same day I got sent an email with specials on jackets. I just bought a jacket, why would I be looking for another one later that day? I would only be shopping for another one if I was dissatisfied with my purchase from Jack London. That’s not an image they want their consumers thinking.

    I definitely think we could do more. I think we should be able to report advertising as “feeling like spam”, and this could send a notification to the sender about the quality of their content, encouraging them to change their content or frequency of emails.

    Do you think that would work?

    Personally I think that email marketing can work well. I don’t think many companies do it well. They need to be more relevant than they currently are. For example, if Jack London saw that I purchased a jacket, an email could be sent offering a discount unique to me on pocket squares or lapel pins, something to complement the purchase instead.

    I’ve also noticed a large number of spam followers on twitter that blatantly follow people and are only looking for the people they follow to purchase their products.

    Like

    • phoebechapman · October 21, 2015

      Not a bad point, the frequency of emails isn’t just annoying for consumers, but actually pretty useless. Do you think that the brands you receive more promotional emails from actually deters you from shopping at the brand? Or are the emails simply annoying without having much impact on your perception of the brand image?

      Thats a good idea being able to give feedback on these emails! When you unsubscribe from receiving emails they often ask for a reason, one being ‘received too many emails’, so an option to give this sort of opinion before coming to the point of unsubscribing seems like a sensible idea for brands. Then again what if not all their customers feel the same way, then reducing number of emails or types of emails isn’t a great idea. Perhaps a way for this feedback to generate more personalised and relevant emails from the brand…?

      You definitely raise more good points about it being more personalised as I just said, as I definitely do find some email marketing effective, even if I am not currently looking to buy something, sales, new releases and special offers often peak my interest, if delivered in an appealing way.

      I haven’t been very active on Twitter but sounds just like the Instagram problem, hopefully there is a more effective way for social media platforms to prevent and stop spam accounts, or even once they are active, have a means of easily identifying them as well as a simple way for users to report the spam, as most are very lazy so many of the processes like on Facebook seem like an effort.

      Like

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