Spam I Am

March 1999

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Spam I Am

Know your Netiquette before you use e-mail promotions

If you've considered e-mail as a new medium for promotion, don't ignore the sputterings about spam. Unsolicited mass mailings by companies using e-mail's inexpensive direct-marketing potential have ignited rage in the Internet community.

Opponents of this so-called spamming compare it to junk faxes, outlawed in 1991 by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Unlike postal junk mail, unsolicited electronic mail consumes the recipient's resources: disk space, computer time, Internet connection time and personal time. Some spammers have blotted their reputation further by repeating messages, sending mail anonymously or from illegitimate Internet accounts and, in the worst case, "mailbombing" individuals with thousands of identical messages. Don't become one of them.

There's no law against e-mail spamming, but many Internet users consider "freedom from spam" a right and see junk e-mail as trespassing. As a result, Congress is considering the Anti-Slamming Amendments Act, an amendment to the Communications Act of 1934. The original Senate bill called for advertisers sending unsolicited e-mail to disclose contact information and to let recipients remove their names from the list at any time. The amended House bill, passed back to the Senate in October, would put such regulation on the shoulders of Internet service providers (ISPs).

Meanwhile, netizens worldwide are lashing out with anti-spam Web sites, preachy preformatted responses and software that blocks the pesky e-mails. ISPs post their own guidelines. MCI, for instance, disallows multiple similar postings to newsgroups or e-mail lists and unsolicited messages to 25 or more users.

What does all this mean for 'Net-savvy promoters? Here are a few guidelines for commercial e-mail:

  1. If possible, get permission before you send e-mail. Include a column for e-mail addresses in your customer book and add a space for a mailing list sign-up on your Web site.
  2. If you send unsolicited commercial e-mail to a mailing list, be clear you're selling something; include your name, physical and e-mail addresses and phone number; list a place to respond to be removed from the list.
  3. Don't send repeat mailings. They're ineffective and irritating.
  4. Read your ISP's policy on spamming. The company could shut off service if you violate the policy. Read user agreements carefully before posting commercial messages on any newsgroup, forum or Listserv.
  5. Obey Internet rules: newsgroups are for broadcast messages and e-mail is for person-to-person contact.
  6. Use a legitimate Internet marketer. Companies such as Bonusmail (www.bonusmail.com), eDirect (www.edirect.com) and Bulletmail (www.bulletmail.com) use "opt-in" mailing lists, which allow consumers to receive e-mail offers for products and services that interest them and, in turn, give marketers targeted, enthusiastic audiences.

– by Stacey King



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


 

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