Just how pervasive has spam become? E-mail traffic increased 14 percent between November 2001 and the end of January 2002, but in that period the amount of spam increased 46 percent, according to a survey by Brightmail, a company that develops spam-fighting technology for Internet service providers. A 2001 European Union study estimated the worldwide cost of spam to be about $8 billion annually. Research firm Jupiter Media Metrix reported that Internet users each received an average of 1,470 junk messages in 2001 and can expect about 3,800 annually in 2006. It’s possible that instead of helping customers, we’re going to cause them carpal tunnel syndrome from the repetitive motion of deleting spam.
Spam might seem harmless. After all, a simple click on the delete key sends it away, but it is not without cost. Some users pay for the time they spend downloading e-mail. Business travelers are often paying phone fees by the minute to read their e-mail, incurring particularly onerous charges from overseas hotels. The bulk of spam is so great that $2 to $3 of every user’s monthly e-mail bill goes to spam-fighting efforts and equipment upgrades by their Internet service providers.
Be concise and to the point.
Answer all questions and pre-empt further questions.
Use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Make it personal.
Use templates for frequently used responses.
Do not attach unnecessary files.
Use proper structure and layout—short paragraphs and blank lines between paragraphs.
Do not overuse the high-priority option.
Do not write in CAPITALS.
Don’t leave out the message thread.
Add disclaimers to your e-mails for legal protection.
Read the e-mail before you send it.
Do not overuse Reply to All.
For mailings to multiple addressees, use the bcc: field or do a mail merge.
Use abbreviations and emoticons sparingly.
Be careful with formatting to avoid awkward line breaks.
Be careful with rich text and HTML messages. RTF does not transfer well to all browsers so be aware of the recipient’s capabilities.
Do not forward chain letters.
Do not request delivery and read receipts.
Do not copy a message or attachment without permission.
Do not use e-mail to discuss confidential information.
Use a meaningful word or phrase in the subject line.
Use active instead of passive verbs.
Avoid using URGENT and IMPORTANT.
Avoid long sentences.
Don’t send or forward e-mails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist, or obscene remarks.
Don’t forward virus hoaxes.
Keep your language gender neutral.
Don’t reply to spam.
Use the cc: field sparingly.
Not only is spam annoying to the vast majority of consumers; in some cases it’s illegal. For example, it is now illegal to send spam with forged sending information or a misleading subject line to Washington State residences. A similar law that went into effect in California on January 1, 1999, requires senders of bulk e-mail to include a valid return e-mail address or toll-free number and specifies damage of $50 per message if a sender violates an ISP acceptable-use policy. A Nevada law lets residents sue spammers for $10 per unsolicited message.[14 ]In March 2002, lawmakers in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee overwhelmingly approved landmark legislation that would allow consumers to refuse unwanted e-mail and would give Internet service providers the right to sue to block unsolicited e-mail from their networks. The legislation would allow ISPs to sue spammers for $500 per message in violation of the policy.
People who might have been receptive to marketing messages in the past are likely to delete all commercial e-mails—even those from companies they know—without reading them. It’s not just the bad guys sending tens or even hundreds of thousands of e-mails an hour offering to clean up bad credit reports and making other dubious promises. It is, too often, reputable firms who claim to be using e-mail for CRM.
Kim Peterson, “Spam Overload,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, April 1, 2002, p. E1.
Christine Tatum, “Unwanted E-Mails Are Clogging the Internet, with New Remedies Available for Users and Service Providers,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 21, 2002, p. C3.
Linda Formichelli, “When Spam Burns You: Why Unsolicited Bulk E-Mail Is Bad Business,” The Network Home Journal, as reprinted by twowriter .net, March 30, 2002, p. 2.
[14 ]Ibid., p. 2.