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Avoiding the Spam Trap: for Users and Organizations

Avoiding the Spam Trap

In my last post, 10 Tips to Protect your Privacy on the Web, I reminded users about various online risks and provided tips to help bring awareness to this issue. In the post Does Free Always mean Free?, Randall Craig, Social Media Expert, talked about the cost of privacy being at stake when users sign-up for ‘free’ apps or online products. While compromised email information is the number one reason for spam, there are some things users and organizations should keep in mind to reduce marketing-related spam. There is a huge gap between what the users and organizations consider as spam. To the users, any unsolicited communication is spam. However, most organizations would assume they have permission to send commercial messages when:

  • someone gives them their business card
  • someone leaves their email address to access or download a whitepaper from their website
  • someone attends an event at their organization
  • the organization acquire a list of emails from a third-party provider

Organizations need to understand that they must obtain permission from the user before sending them commercial messages electronically. In Canada and the United States, legislation offers some guidelines around the use of emails for commercial purposes. Non-compliance can result in government penalties and negative brand reputation. Organizations can avoid the spam trap by defining a privacy policy that clearly indicates how they intend to use the personal information. Furthermore, they should make sure that the employees understand and respect the policy.

Users can avoid the spam trap by being cautious while giving away their email address and other important information. Here are a few actions users can take to avoid having their email addresses compromised:

  • Make sure the website is legitimate and if possible, read the organization’s privacy policy before sharing their email address.
  • For marketing spam, the best way is to click on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. Usually once you unsubscribe, mature organizations will not bother you. (For scams or phishing emails, never click the unsubscribe link as these spammers (or scammers) use these emails as a bait to identify whether the email address is real or not. Clicking “unsubscribe” in such emails may result in increased spam).
  • Use your judgment and mark/report all spam emails in the Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook account upon receipt. These providers can trap any future emails from the sender, or automatically redirected them to your junk/spam folder.
  • As I mentioned in my previous post, it is best to maintain multiple email accounts: one for personal emails and another for receiving marketing messages from different companies. Only use the latter when trading your email address for information.

Both users and organizations should take responsibility to control spam. While organizations should use the email information ethically, the users should also exercise their judgment and be more careful with their personal information.

Ashish Malik is Partner, Client Services at 108 ideaspace inc., a firm that works in Web/Social Media/Marketing Automation strategy and implementation. A Certified Consultant, Ashish has helped several clients automate their sales and marketing as well as grow their business by implementing CRM. For more on Ashish Malik or 108 ideaspace, visit ideas108.wpengine.com.

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