We all know what spammers do. They harvest your email address from an unprotected list and then send you info you didn’t request. But, you may not realize that how you grow and use your email list could qualify as spamming too, and the FTC could shut you down for it.
If you’re running a small group or still sending your small business email from your personal email account, you may not be following proper net etiquette much less all of the new rules and regulations for email lists set forth by the FTC. In other words, you may be operating just like a spammer.
If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you’re acting like a spammer.
- Do you harvest email addresses from any email you receive where the addresses of everyone it was sent to are visible?
- Do you harvest email addresses from business cards that are given to you?
- Do you harvest email addresses from folks who send you their newsletter?
- Do you harvest email addresses from anyone who contacts you through your site?
- Do you send emails to your list with everyone’s address visible?
- Do you send news other than your own newsletter or on behalf of others to your list?
- Do you share your list with anyone else?
If you receive an email address, from any source, and then put it on your email list without the expressed consent of the owner of that address, you are a spammer.
If you do not take measures to protect the privacy
of the addresses on your list, you are a spammer.
If you use your list for anything other than the intended news folks
subscribed to receive, you are a spammer.
The new FTC regulations, called the CAN-SPAM Act, also require that you offer an opt-out link in your group emails so that folks always have a way to discontinue receiving any unwanted, and un-requested, emails from you.
It’s very easy to comply with the regulations, even for small, informal group emails. First, simply BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) everyone on the list. That hides everyone’s email address from others on the list.
Second, put a small text line at the end of the email instructing folks how to opt-out of future emails. It could be something as simple as this:
If you no longer wish to receive these email updates,
simply reply with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.
Honor those unsubscribe requests promptly.
It’s also easy to move up to a more professional listserv, or email management system. MailChimp is easy to use and free for up to 500 addresses. It automatically handles all of the opt-in/out process for you and, it allows you to run several different types of email campaigns.
There are other free and paid programs. All of them are in compliance with the FTC regulations, including the requirement that you provide a physical mailing address, which is the only drawback some small groups have in using such services.
If you have a website, check to see what free or low-cost options your host provides.
Don’t do what the spammers do. Be kind and follow net etiquette by respecting the privacy of others.