THE RULES OF THUMB
Here are the Rules of Thumb you can use:
1. Never use e-mail for advertising with one, and only one, exception: when you have a clear “opt-in” event.
2. When advertising with e-mail in an “opt-in” situation, always supply a working “opt-out” mechanism.
3. Never annoy anyone with any kind of e-mail.
4. Never mislead anyone (in either the opt-in process or in the e-mail subject header).
Now we will discuss each rule of thumb in turn.
RULE OF THUMB NO. 1
NEVER USE E-MAIL FOR ADVERTISING UNLESS YOU HAVE A CLEAR “OPT-IN” EVENT.
Again, e-mail is for communicating, not for advertising. The same is generally true of Newsgroups (Usenet), Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and Web-based Discussion Boards. Your own site on the World Wide Web (or another’s site – with permission) is the only Internet Resource where advertising is generally acceptable. Many marketers are resistant to this, but the sooner you accept this simple truth, the better off you will be. There are many effective ways to use Websites to market on the Internet. These techniques often involve using the one exception to the e-mail rule—the “opt-in” exception—as part of the process. But, the process begins with a Web page, whether that Web page is yours or another’s with your ad on it.
The spam rules usually refer to UCC. If the e-mail has been “solicited,” it generally is not considered spam. (Also, if the e-mail is not “commercial,” it is generally not considered spam—more on this in later installments.)
How do you know whether e-mail has been “solicited”? While there are no hard and fast rules that everyone will agree on, your common sense will provide you with a working definition that should be relatively safe. E-mail is not spam if it has been requested or consented to or if permission has been granted to send it to a particular recipient. There are two kinds of consent: express and implied. Express consent is where someone communicates directly to you permission to send an e-mail. Examples of express consent are when someone types in their e-mail address on a form on your Web page requesting more information or sends you an e-mail in response to a classified ad. Implied consent occurs when someone performs some act from which permission can be inferred. An example of implied consent is when someone posts a URL on your FFA page or takes advantage of some other free resource you are offering. (Be careful here, though, the extent of implied consent is very limited.) Implied consent also arises in many instances where you have a pre-existing relationship with someone. Ultimately, the question of whether implied consent exists is a question of fact to be decided based on all of the circumstances of a particular situation. Your opinion as the one accused of spam is not the opinion that matters. The opinion that matters is the opinion of your ISP or local authorities who will decide whether you have spammed or not.
When someone fills out a form or accepts a free service, this is generally referred to as “opting in.” That is, they have opted to accept an e-mail from you. When we use the term “opted,” we are referring to the same concept as “consent” or “permission” discussed above. Another example of an opt-in is the opt-in e-mail lists. There are a few such e-mail lists on E-groups, Onelist, Topica, and other such free e-mail list services available on the Internet. If the list’s creator allows, and the hosting service allows, ads may be acceptable on the list. The people who subscribe to the list are deemed to have “opt-in” to receive commercial e-mails sent through the list. (Note that the extent of this implied consent is only for e-mail sent through the list. If you send the list members e-mail directly, rather than through the list, you will be spamming.)
If you are accused of spamming, you will need to be able to clearly establish a documented opt-in event to justify the e-mail. The e-mail you sent must also be within the scope of the opt-in, or you will be guilty of spamming.
So, the bottom line is that e-mail is NOT a tool you can rely on to generate leads or new customers. Rather, e-mail is a tool that can only be used in conjunction with some other resource through which an opt-in can first be established. However tempting it is to buy a CD of over a million e-mail addresses and blast your ad out to them, do not do it. You will be spamming if you do. continues ALWAYS SUPPLY AN OPT-OUT MECHANISM