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From Fan to Sp*m and Anti-Social Networking

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Right Way and the Wrong Way to Integrate Social Media Messaging and Email Marketing

Or, to paraphrase the mathematician played by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, "just because you could doesn't mean you should."

In this issue of List Building for Bloggers you will learn:
  • The Wrong Way to integrate social media contacts
  • The Right Way to integrate social media data with your blog's email marketing
Yup: This one is that black and white.

[This is the tenth article in the List Building for Bloggers series – Click here to read all the #LBB posts]

Integrating Social Media Messaging and Email: The Wrong Way

Permission and relevance are the keys to successful list building, with timeliness following closely behind.

Permission though, needs to be explicitly granted. I've covered this before in previous List Building for Bloggers posts. I emphasize it frequently because it is essential to your success as a blogger in building your list and getting your message delivered.

Social networks, increasingly used for commercial purposes, rely on email and other messaging to inform you of updates. They also can enable you to email your contacts / friends / fans / followers – and with that functionality comes the very strong temptation to cross the permission line. The social networks, after all, want you to connect with your contacts, and they have features that exist for expressly this purpose.

So let's take your friends on Facebook. One of the things you're probably able to see is your friend's email addresses, unless they've been very restrictive in their privacy settings. So you can, in theory, harvest these addresses and add them to your mailing list. Because they're your friends, it's OK, right?

Wrong.

Just because someone has made you a friend doesn't mean you have permission to add them to your list. A social media site isn't a personal CRM (custom relationship management) database. Sure, mail them relevant social stuff -and encourage them to join your list - but use the social network itself to do the messaging. Anything that even smells of mass mailing outside of the network itself is spam, plain and simple.

Similarly with your fans – some may allow you (either by design or sloppy privacy settings) to see their email addresses. Again, don't add these addresses to your mailing list. Even if they've become a fan of your business Page on Facebook, it is not permission to import them into your list. Pressing "like" for a page is nothing more than an electronic congratulatory pat on the back; don't misinterpret it as a carte blanche to deluge them with email. You should do that with status updates and wall posts instead, which is the right way to keep them informed.

Another path to abuse with Facebook is the event. As others have noticed, messages from Facebook itself have excellent deliverability. If you can "hijack" that then you're pretty sure your message is going to be read. The unethical have started to do this and I've seen training videos online on how to do it. Ugh.

By all means create legitimate events that are relevant to your Fans and promote them. Don't fake it, and don't (ab)use Fans from Page A to promote the unrelated business from Page B. Keep your messaging to what's relevant.

Facebook also allows you to import addresses into events, up to 5,000 at a time. If you're not already a fan, Facebook invites you to become one. I personally find this distasteful. Yes, I agreed to be on your list. But I don't want to be a Fan of your Page. If I did, I'd have become a fan already, see? Trying to force me into it? Not cool.

If you want to promote your event to your mailing list, use your mailing list! And by all means have a call to action in your mailing to "Visit us on Facebook" to make it easy for subscribers to like the page. Link to the event on Facebook. But trying to coerce me into becoming a fan via import? From my perspective, it will have the opposite effect. I'll be off your list ASAP, nor will I attend your event or like you page. It boils down to respect for your audience – if you don't respect me and the permission I gave you, I'm out of here.

Same with LinkedIn. Agreeing to share professional contact information is not permission to add the contact to your mailing list. Don't mass mail your LinkedIn contacts via your list – don't add them to your list at all! But you can (and should) list your subscription page on your LinkedIn profile, and occasionally set your network update to invite your contacts to join the list. Just don't overdo it.

Integrating Social Media and Email: The Right Way

Is all lost? Not at all. There are plenty of ways you can do this right.

You can use social network features to communicate properly, respectfully, with your network (and with those outside it) using those networks. We all know the rules of the road on each platform. Follow them and market / sell / promote away! Good luck! It's worth it! You can (and should) use social media to encourage new subscriptions (read the earlier posts in this series!).

You can also use social networks to find out more about email addresses that you have properly acquired.

Let's say I add myself - phil@feedblitz.com - to your mailing list. You don't know too much about me. But if you can find my email address in your contacts at LinkedIn, or as a Facebook friend, you would know that I am male, my full name and other personal information. It is OK to grab that data – I have voluntarily made it available to you or to the world – and you can append it to your mailing list. Now you can personalize your mailings to me using my name. I'd probably like that. I'd much rather be greeted as "Dear Phil" than "Dear Customer."

Why is this OK? Because the email address (and my permission to use it) came first. You're backfilling with other data you also have permission to access. In other words, you're not adding me to your mailing list; you're just finding out more about me. No permissions about my mailing preferences have changed or been assumed or implied.

So you can use social networks and other public data to find out more about your list if you want to put the effort in. That's OK, as long as you get explicit permission to mail first.

You should not start with demographic data (e.g. a name) and then find an email address and add it to your list. That's spamming.

Or, let's say Joe@MegaCorp.com was on your list, properly permissioned. You find out from Facebook that Joe has left MegaCorp and is now at AcmeWidgets. Should you update your email list to Joe@AcmeWidgets.com? No. You don't have his permission unless you've heard from him that it's OK to update your list.

What you should do instead is send him a message via Facebook and say "congrats on the new gig, may we update our mailing list with your new address?" It's perfectly OK for you to solicit permission within the context of the social network as long as you're being respectful and following the rules of the road.

Let's say Joe says "Don't add me to your list, I'm in a different area now, but feel free to contact my replacement, Mary@MegaCorp.com" you cannot add Mary to your mailing list. She needs to give you her permission to do that; a third party (Joe) cannot. So fire up the phones or a personal email to Mary, introduce yourself and start from there. You can't assume implied permission simply because Mary replaced Joe functionally.

Next Up

How to find and avoid the traps for the unwary that can prevent your emails from getting through.

About List Building For Bloggers #LBB

Written by Phil Hollows, the FeedBlitz Founder and CEO, List Building for Bloggers (#LBB) is a series of posts to help you make the most of your blogging by harnessing the power and capabilities of email, the universal social network, with your bog and social media communications. No matter whether you're a novice or a more advanced blogger, there will be something for you to learn, apply and benefit from in this series. Click here to read more about #LBB

P.S. If you think your friends or followers would find this series valuable, please retweet on Twitter or "Like" on Facebook using the buttons below. Don't forget to use the #LBB hashtag when you do. Thank you! And if you have a comment, contribution or something else to say, please comment too. :-)

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