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Top 5 Ways To Accidentally Become a Spammer

The worst possible insult you can receive on the Internet is to be accused of being a spammer. Any other attack on your character doesn’t have the same staying power. Once someone thinks you’re a spammer, you’ll almost never get back on their good side. The road to spamville is one-way only.

Worst of all, it’s surprisingly easy to take steps toward becoming a spammer without even realizing it! Here are the top five ways (in my opinion, of course) that you might get accused of being a spammer without realizing it.

Number 5: The Random Cause Invitation

Back in the early days of the web, seemingly everyone would forward you joke emails and urban legends. You would correct them via websites like Snopes or sigh as you deleted their messages, but in total, we all knew that this behavior was downright annoying.

The reason that these messages were so frustrating is that they didn’t seem relevant. You expect your family to use email to coordinate reunions and your colleagues to discuss business, not to forward the latest Internet petition which was debunked years before.

Thankfully, the Bored-At-Work Network seems to have mostly moved on. But now are inboxes are filled with random cause invitations. We are asked to save puppies, protect the environment, or stand up for the rights of a particular group whose rights are lacking.

And again, all of these causes are sound, but they seem random. They invade our space. If you want to support a cause, pick one or two to send to your friends. Otherwise, you’ll seem like a spammer.

Number 4: The Soft Opt-In

Time for a Marketing 101 refresher. Here’s a quick definition:

Express permission by a customer, or a recipient of a mail, email, or other direct message to allow a marketer to send a merchandise, information, or more messages.

That means that if I give you the explicit authority to send me messages, you can do so. But what if we meet at a networking function and I give you my business card? That means you can contact me personally, but it doesn’t mean I want to be added to any lists.

Likewise, if we happen to be on the same Reply-All list, you don’t have my permission to Reply-All about some topic other than the one at hand.

Remember that opt-in means opt-in. Otherwise, you’ll seem like a spammer.

Number 3: Abuse of CC

The most dangerous weapon in your digital arsenal is the carbon copy (CC) box. It’s like a whole box full of armed grenades: you want to be really careful about using just one and almost never want to use them all at the same time.

Remember the Brody PR Fiasco? Here’s the simple rule:

Only use carbon-copy if you are 100% sure that 100% of the people on the list know each other well AND would appreciate the chance to immediately Reply-All AND would immediately appreciate any Reply-Alls.

Every time I get a CC’d message where I don’t know people on the CC line, I think: you seem like a spammer.

Number 2: Preemptive Disclaimers

Have you ever heard of starting a sentence with No offense, but… or Don’t take this the wrong way? You can be certain they are about to say something cruel. Either we need to tell the honest truth or keep our opinions to ourselves. It will ALWAYS seem patronizing to say: Sorry for the SPAM, but…

So – don’t do it! If you promise you are not usually a spammer, you seem like a spammer.

Number 1: The generic private message

Here it is: the absolute worst way to look like a spammer. It’s when you send a message to an individual person that was intended just for them but could just as easily have gone to anybody.

A great example is a Twitter direct message (DM) or a text message. Consider this:

Hey, would you mind telling your friends about our new website? It’s at Thanks!

This might well have been a personal, handcrafted message sent just to one person. However, it reads like it could have been sent to millions! If you send a note that appears to be generic through a private channel, you’ll look like a spammer. Compare this with:

Hey Robby, you gave us such great feedback when we were building our new site. It’s up now, feel free to share it if you want. Thx!

That doesn’t seem to appear to be spam. Make sure your messages are specific, so you don’t look like a spammer!

Even If You’re Legally Allowed To SPAM, It’s Still SPAM

Under CAN-SPAM, unsolicited commercial email messages are allowed, but they must meet certain requirements, such as including accurate header information, a clear and conspicuous opt-out mechanism, and a physical address for the sender. In addition, the subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

Many other countries and regions have their own spam regulations, which may be more or less restrictive than CAN-SPAM. For example, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) imposes strict requirements for obtaining consent from individuals before sending them marketing messages, while Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) requires senders to obtain express consent before sending commercial electronic messages.

It’s important to note that businesses that operate in multiple countries or regions must comply with all applicable spam regulations in order to avoid potential legal penalties and reputational harm. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of the regulations that apply to your business and to ensure that all email marketing practices are compliant with those regulations.

Robby Slaughter

Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. His focus is helping organizations and individuals to become more efficient, more effective and more satisfied at work. Robby is a regular contributor in several regional magazines and has been interviewed by national publications such as the Wall Street Journal. His latest book is The Unbeatable Recipe for Networking Events.. Robby runs a business improvement consulting company.

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