Random Thoughts: On Being Subscribed

Random Thoughts

In marketing, email newsletters are a way to get the word out about your product or service quickly and to the broadest audience possible. And with newsletter distribution services like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, there’s a way to track the effectiveness of your letter. Yes, there are statistics which tell the sender how many were opened, how many were clicked through, et cetera.

As with most communications these days there has to be some form of “opt out” to the subscription. Spammers aren’t taken kindly to, and not offering a way for the recipient to unsubscribe has consequences. There is a law, in fact, set forth by the CAN-SPAM Act that mandates this.

But when receiving a “spam” newsletter – one that you didn’t purposely subscribe to – opening it and clicking “unsubscribe” does have a risk. That newsletter might not be a legitimate piece of marketing from a reputable organization. It could be the type of spam that if you were to click a link, it could install a virus on your computer, it could take you to a site where it logs your IP address, run a script that will cause your entire contact list to be spammed, or do something much worse.

If you don’t know who sent the newsletter, or whether it is “legitimate” spam or “harmful” spam, clicking to unsubscribe can be risky. And it might not be a risk you’re willing to take.

You can mark it as spam for your email to sort out. But that doesn’t rid you of the problem. You still see those messages in your spam folder every day, week, month. You’re still required to take action. Even if that action is simply to delete the message. It can be mildly annoying if it is weekly or less frequently and if it is just the one. It can be much more of a nuisance if the email is daily and if there are multiple emails that you have to contend with.

Being marketed to is part and parcel of being a blogger. But being added to a mass distribution list for products or services that may not be targeted to just what your particular area of interest is, can be a hassle. Especially when unsubscribing isn’t quite as simple as clicking the generic link in a Mail Chimp or Constant Contact list that is unmonitored or sent by a marketing company.

When unsubscribing means responding by email to the sender directly, it can make some bloggers uncomfortable. Even clicking “unsubscribe” to an author, blogger or publisher’s newsletter can have the same result, as that action will be recorded and could be seen by them. With the occasional clashes in the blogosphere between bloggers, or between bloggers and authors, some may feel opting out could result in drama and would rather live with the annoyance than risk bad blood.

When the act of unsubscribing can result in hurt feelings or insults, it makes it that much more complicated. Whether it’s to an author’s or publisher’s newsletter or even another blogger’s, some may choose to live with the tens or hundreds of daily correspondences versus act. Personal feelings should not be an issue, yet unfortunately sometimes they are. Which is why there are some who choose to reach out after an unsubscribe to ask why.

This act of reaching out looking for a reason, unless it’s an auto-generated survey type of questionnaire, is yet another reason why some might feel hesitant to unsubscribe when spammed. Having to explain oneself for not wanting to receive yet another email, or why they aren’t interested in the product or service to the person whose service or product it is, puts the blogger in a position that is awkward and uncomfortable.

These newsletters or other mass email distributions are a way for someone to spread the word about their book, editing service, tour company, or even themselves. It’s mass marketing. It shouldn’t have a personal component. Someone subscribed without their consent shouldn’t be made to feel awkward about not wanting their email inboxes to be filled with newsletters or generic outreach emails.

In marketing, finding a balance can be hard, but making a good first impression is still important. And if that first impression is subscribing someone to a series of mass email distributions without their consent, it won’t likely be a positive one. And putting the recipient in a position that makes them feel uncomfortable if they have to take action, definitely won’t.

So what can you do if you want to reach out to a large group of people on a regular basis with news and updates?

Invite them to subscribe. Send one email out with a link asking if they’d like to subscribe instead of simply added them to a mass distribution list without their consent. A single email campaign has the potential to be just as effective, perhaps more so, than adding them to a list and spamming them with a series of emails they didn’t request, don’t want, or aren’t in line with their interests.

If an invitation is not an option, then use a service like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact with an easy “opt out” button. But don’t reach out to those who unsubscribe and make it personal. Don’t send an introductory newsletter that starts off with “Hello new subscribers!” to those who haven’t chosen to subscribe. Don’t send the newsletters with such frequency that it will appear to be spam to those who might have actually been interested in the content. And if you don’t want your content to be seen as spam, when creating lists of those to reach out to, be sure that those on the lists are appropriate for the outreach.

Subscribing implies continued communication. And if the person being subscribed isn’t the one who opted to do so, making sure they are the right audience for said communication and making it easy for them to opt out if they aren’t, can help to ensure that you aren’t labeled a spammer.

My Thoughts

While I have no problem with outreach, whether marketing or otherwise, I cannot stand being subscribed to something without my consent. I have a hard enough time managing those emails and newsletters I have chosen to subscribe to. I hate having to spend even a fraction of a second with each unwanted email newsletter I receive.

The time spent dealing with unwanted subscriptions could have been time I spent responding to email I should be responding to. And having an email box filled with subscriptions I didn’t ask for makes me hide from it even more than I already do.

Being invited to subscribe makes me feel like the choice is mine, and sometimes I actually do subscribe when invited. Especially if the information is something of interest. But having the choice made for me makes me instantly dislike the product or service. It’s one of those knee-jerk reactions I get, like when someone tells me something I must do, see, read or watch.

And when there are security concerns, or if unsubscribing means dealing directly with the individual that subscribed me, it puts me in a position I don’t like to be in. And so I live with – and cringe every time I receive – unwanted email subscriptions.

I don’t click links in emails unless I absolutely trust the sender. And I don’t like confrontation. So being subscribed without my consent means that I spend just a little bit of time each day angry or upset when checking my email, feeling very much like the spammer’s hostage.

I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like to be invited versus forced?

What Do You Think?

Do you have any qualms about clicking to unsubscribe?

Do you fear that the spam is of the “harmful” variety and refuse to click to unsubscribe? Or is the risk of a virus, or worse, worth it to not receive the unwanted emails?

Is unsubscribing when it’s through a form easier than reaching out to an individual? Or do you have no problem telling the sender to remove you from their list? After all, they signed you up without your consent, why should you be made to feel uncomfortable.

Have you ever encountered someone who responded to your request to unsubscribe with a question as to why? Have you responded to them a second time or have you simply chosen to ignore them? And have you ever had an unpleasant situation result from having requested to be removed from a mailing list or group?

What are your thoughts on being subscribed?

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