Anti Spam Laws – Where did your list come from?

Block Spam

Recently we encountered a problem with a data list that was supplied by a client for use within an HTML email campaign.

As is usual, we asked a few simple questions of our client regarding the data:

1. Where did the data actually come from?
2. Has the list been used before, and when?
3. Can you prove the subscribers actually have opted-in to receive mailings from your company?

Our client’s previous supplier did not subscribe to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 nor had they questioned the legitimacy of the list before agreeing to send out a campaign. So unfortunately in this instance, as our client was unable to prove the legitimacy of the data’s origin and show exactly how people had subscribed, we had to refuse to send the mailing.

As awkward as this was for the client, it was essential to protect them and ourselves from any possible prosecution regarding the distribution of SPAM. Had we sent to the list without reviewing its content, it is quite possible that we could have received hundreds, if not thousands of complaints that could have resulted in legal action against us both.

The Law
Anyone inside the European Union must comply with the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications.  Article 13 prohibits the use of email addresses for marketing purposes. The Directive establishes instead an opt-in regime, where unsolicited emails may only be sent with prior agreement of the recipient

What is Spam?
Spam is classified as “any email you send to someone who hasn’t given you their direct permission to contact them on the topic of the email.” Everyone must ensure that they have an opted-in permission from every single address on their mailing list before sending a campaign.

How can you ensure that you comply?
When the law doesn’t provide you with enough clarity, just ask yourself; can you prove you have permission to send to every individual on your list? If in doubt, don’t send, it’s not worth the risk.

In order to ensure that you fully comply when sending your next campaign, you must only collect data via:

  • An email newsletter sign-up subscription form made available on your web site.
  • An opt-in checkbox on a website enquiry form. (This checkbox must NOT be checked by default, only the person completing the form must willingly select the checkbox to indicate their desire to hear from you). If someone completes an offline form like a survey or enters a competition, you can only contact them if it was verbally explained to them that you or your business would be contacting them by email AND they ticked a box indicating they would like you to contact them.
  • Customers who have purchased from your business within the last 2 years.
  • If someone gives you their business card and you have explicitly asked for permission to add them to your list – you can contact them. If their business card was collected at random for example at a trade show, there must have been a sign clearly indicating that they will be contacted by email about a specific topic.

The above examples are obviously to be used as a guide but should ensure that your data is collected in a legitimate manner. This is likely to result in a smaller but much more targeted and accurate list being created. On the plus side, this should result in more genuine inquiries to be able to convert to sales as opposed to the more ‘scatter gun’ approach a lot of businesses are used to.

So to clarify, if you;

  • Do not have explicit, provable permission to contact in relation to the topic of the email you’re sending.
  • Purchased, loaned, rented or in any way acquired from a third party, no matter what they claim about quality or permission – do NOT buy lists!
  • Haven’t contacted via email in the last 2 years.
  • Copy and pasted from the web or any other location.

You MUST obtain permission yourself to use the data. Permission also doesn’t age well and these people may have either changed their email address or won’t remember giving their permission in the first place. Keep your data clean and clients happy.

If you would like any advice with regards what constitutes a permissible list, get in touch.

Social Intranets – Are you really prepared?

Many corporate organisations have yet to fully embrace Social Networking inside their own networks. Most are worried that by allowing employees to participate in collaborative online discussion, they might be wasting valuable corporate time. But will they? Most executives fear change and over the last 50 years executives have feared everything from the telephone to email and even the internet itself. It seems ludicrous to even contemplate that the telephone was once considered a waste of both time and productivity when we now rely on it so much in everyday life. Social Media has simply been added to the list of things they don’t understand.

Like most technology, Intranets have often evolved through several incarnations; from the initial static corporate fed communication tool; to any number of IT controlled interactive content managed confusions. The latest incarnation is likely to be somewhere in-between, providing those who have had the foresight to embrace it, the facility to be on the verge of a Social evolution. This will in turn provide them with the ability to manage their own paths and begin collaborative social gathering, turning the Intranet into a community.

It’s not that difficult to break the traditional mould controlled by IT and technical teams when it comes to Intranet deployments. In 2013 you need to help release control of the Intranet back to the internal communication and marketing teams. Whilst IT teams are obviously likely to still be required to provide the support, foundation and delivery of such platforms, the decision can often now be heavily influenced by software choices and specific Social requirements rather than functionality alone. Solutions abound now and are more cost effective than ever encompassing social media tools as part of the ‘out-of-the-box’ solution rather than an expensive add-on.

In recent years Proteus have provided many of our clients with various different Intranet based solutions from .NET MS SharePoint, Ektron and Kentico to Open Source Solutions like Joomla. Each solution has its own merits but having worked with and deployed of all these solutions at a granular level Proteus has deep understanding that we can pass onto you. Facebook spent millions developing such social environments; we can now provide you with similar solutions for a fraction of the cost.

We can help you:

1. Setup a goal and vision

2. Define your audience

3. Plan and build a site structure

4. Manage the key applications / requirements

5. Plan your budget and help allocate resource

6. Manage Group and Role Permissions

7. Design a visual hierarchy to support both your brand and corporate vision

8. Plan a project timeline with key delivery milestones

9. Help plan for the future evolution of the site

10. Help manage and maintain feedback and monitor site analysis

So if you are considering taking the next step with your Intranet and would like to find out more, give us a call. We can help you control and channel a positive Social Network revolution within your business.

Networking is Social

Let me start by saying social media isn’t for everyone. Like any marketing activity you need clearly defined goals. You also need to invest time and resource into it, ensure you’ve got worthwhile content to drive it and that you’re saying the right things, in the right way to right people, or it just won’t work.

Right, now that’s out of the way…

Social media is widely accepted as an addition to our personal social spheres. For millions of us ‘Facebooking’ a friend is as acceptable as texting, calling or writing to them are/were. It’s also accepted as a set of tools for B2C marketing campaigns, driving brand awareness, engagement and sales leads for companies as diverse as Tabasco, O2 and Nike.

However according to Eloqua (as reported by Technorati):

“64% of the UK companies surveyed use social media as a [B2B] marketing tool, meaning that over a third (36%) do not”.

Why not? After all for many, networking has been the favoured way of doing business for years, so why not do so digitally? At the very least you avoid the stale canapés and concentrated orange juice.

Of course, aside from the culinary benefits, you’re able to do much more than ‘just network’ across digital social platforms. According to the same survey there are:

“…three top reasons for using social media: creating brand awareness (83%), encouraging social sharing (56%) and gaining trust and followers (55%)…”

This makes sense to me. Like networking events, engaging with followers, like(r)s and connections in conversation and delivering content for them to share is what these platforms are created for. They’re geared up for individuals to do just that, so why shouldn’t commercial entities be able to do the same? If you’re chatting to someone face-to-face and they’re keeping your interest you’ll likely be more ‘aware’ of them next you see them, want to share ideas and trust them more than you would if you’d not spoken with them.

But…

Under a third (32%) said they use it for lead generation, while only 16% use social media to assess market perception of their brand”.

This also makes sense to me. Again, you’re not going to be easily sold to if you’re face-to-face networking. No-one likes an unsolicited pitch launched at them out of the blue. It’s the same if you’re using social media, you don’t usually want to be sold to. You’re there to engage, so content has to be particularly eye-catching to drive you to become a lead or indeed to make a purchase.

As to market perception, I think this is where my ‘social media as networking event’ metaphor falls down. I think that social media, provided you’ve the time, is an excellent place to judge brand perception. People are less guarded on social networks and you’re much more likely to get an honest opinion, but unless you’ve got the inclination to wade through every post about your company it’s hard to get an overview of what people think about you (without using the notorious ‘sentiment tracking’ software). There are also concerns for many about the power of one voice in these instances; it could be you’ve one particularly vehement detractor or passionate advocate that could skew your findings. Of course, if you’re at an event and you have a passionate advocate or vehement detractor, it could be difficult to deal with them without things getting, a little, well… odd.

I think the big thing, though that the metaphor does reinforce, is whatever your goals in using social media, remember:

Social media is first and foremost social. Be nice, transparent, honest. The kind of person you’d like to network with.