“But They Said the List was Opt-in!” Don’t Become an Unwitting SPAMMER.

    November 25, 2003

Spam. A dirty word for those on the Internet. Also called UCE, or unsolicited commercial email, spam is when someone sends you their offer without your express consent.

Pretty much everyone has received spam. You know the type – email with loud proclamations such as “Make $10,000 in time for Christmas!” or “Send $5 to the address at the bottom of the list … (blah blah blah) … and in one month you’ll be $60,000 richer!”.

Spam provokes a variety of responses: some people simply scowl in irritation and delete the message; angry, frothing-at-the-mouth victims fire back nasty emails; annoyed techies meticulously pick apart the email header to find the right ISP to lodge a complaint … I think it’s safe to say that it’s highly unlikely that someone will squeal in excitement over a piece of spam.

Quite simply, spam wastes people’s time and makes them angry.

Don’t become an unwitting spammer! If you annoy someone enough, they could report you to your ISP. And it’s not only techies that can do this – there are a number of sites where you can get help in reporting spammers! You could end up losing your ISP account, get kicked off any affiliate program you promote in your email, and ruin your reputation. Your protestations of innocence (“But the list was OPT-IN!”) may not do you any good.

You’ve probably come across services offering “opt- in” email lists. “Opt-in” means that the people on the mailing list have specifically asked to be there. And TRUE opt-in lists are a fabulous way of making your offer known to interested prospects.

But beware! In their quest to make a buck, providers of some so-called “opt-in” lists could just be selling you a whole lot of trouble.

Before you run off and purchase that magical email list, consider the following:

Understand exactly what “opt-in” really means.

Legitimate opt-in lists ask users to choose topics they’re interested in, and then subscribe to the appropriate mailing list. Usually there will be some sort of “double safeguard” – the user requests to be added to the mailing list; they get an email sent to the address they provided; and finally they must reply to the email in order to actually be added to the mailing list.
This protects the user in case someone else tries to add their address to a list without their knowledge or consent.

Opt-in lists also allow its subscribers to “opt- out” (unsubscribe) at any time.

Find a reputable email broker: cheap is not necessarily better!

Real opt-in addresses do not come cheap. While you may be able to find 100,000 addresses for $30, you will find yourself bombarded with angry email (also known as flames). Worse, your ISP will be flamed!
So even if $30 seems like a great deal, it isn’t. You could end up losing your ISP account when people complain (and they WILL complain!).

Ask others for their opinions and experiences with a particular email broker.

Don’t just assume the list is “opt-in”, just because someone tells you it is.

People want to make money (gee, that’s pretty obvious – bear with me here). Online marketers who have heard that email is a fabulous way of making money need a mailing list. True opt-in lists are not cheap (usually starting from about 10-20 cents an address); and when aspiring Internet marketers discover an offer where they can rent 100,000 addresses for $30, they may think they’ve hit gold!
Not so. The people selling these extremely cheap mailing lists are also out to make a buck; they know that with the right price and some convincing words, they can get people to purchase their lists. They claim their lists are “opt-in” so that their prospective customers won’t get scared away.

Don’t be fooled! The providers of these “spam lists” harvest email addresses from classified ad sites, FFA sites, newsgroups, chat rooms, other email lists, and wherever else they can find them. Fabulous writing can be very persuasive … but using one of these spam lists can cause you far more trouble than it’s worth.

Subscribe to the email list yourself first.

If at all possible, join the mailing list yourself first. That way you’ll see exactly how they gather their addresses. Do they require you to verify your subscription by email or on the web before you are actually added to the mailing list? Is there a statement at the beginning of each email you receive that states how you can opt-out of the list? Is there a privacy policy that states that your email addresses will never be sold or rented to others?
The bottom line is PROTECT YOURSELF by doing your research. Your email campaign can be a fabulous success if you do it right!

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Angela is the editor of Online Business Basics, a practical, down-to-earth guide to building an Internet business on a beginner’s budget. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love the book! Visit http://www.onlinebusinessbasics.com or request a series of 10 free reports to get you started.