Update (August 29, 2015): I reached out to LinkedIn Customer Support to get their thoughts on members adding connections’ email addresses to email lists without permission. Alas, Customer Support wasn’t very supportive:
“Only your 1st degree connections will have access to your email address on your profile and is possible for them to export those connection’s email information. This is why we recommend only connecting with members you know and trust. If you find a member is misusing your email address, I would recommend breaking the connection.”
If everyone on LinkedIn follows the lead of the person who contacted me, all LinkedIn users will get getting a lot more unsolicited email, which isn’t good for the individuals, the industry or LinkedIn.,,
Back to the original post:
I recently received an email message from someone I know. He had what he thought was a brilliant idea: he had exported the email addresses of all his LinkedIn contacts and was going to ‘auto-subscribe’ them to his email newsletter list.
If you know me or have read my ClickZ column, my book or this blog, then you know that I am devoutly opt-in. That means getting permission before you add someone to an email list. Opt-in isn’t required by law in the United States, as it is in some other countries. But it is a best practice and not getting opt-in permission greatly increases your risk of spam complaints which may get your IP address blacklisted. Also, any legitimate email service provider (ESP) has an opt-in clause in their contracts — so sending to people who haven’t given you permission could cause your ESP to fire you as a client.
I’ve also done research that shows opt-in lists perform better than lists without permission.
But there’s another reason this is a bad idea.
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”
— Immanuel Kant
In other words, think about what you’re doing. If everyone did this, what would the result be? Would it be a good thing?
I have no idea how many LinkedIn contacts this guy has; but I have over 1,500. So I decided to do some math on that. If everyone that I’m connected to on LinkedIn decided to ‘auto-subscribe’ me to their monthly email newsletters that would be more than 1,500 unsolicited email newsletters a month. Assuming a 30 day month, that’s an average of more than 50 unsolicited email newsletters a day. And that’s assuming monthly publication — the total increases dramatically if some are twice a month, weekly or daily.
Initially this line of reasoning wasn’t gaining any traction. He felt that by ‘auto-subscribing’ everyone he would garner a few new business leads — and that the value of this would outweigh any annoyance of spamming people he’s never met or interacted with.
This is the kind of thinking that continues to damage the reputation of the entire email marketing industry.
There are many people who I’m happy to be connected to on LinkedIn — but I wouldn’t want their companies sending me email every month, week or day. And I don’t assume that everyone I’m connected to wants to get my email newsletter twice a month. Would I ask them if they want to receive it? Sure. Would I ‘auto-subscribe’ them? No.
In the end, after a few email messages back and forth, I seemed to have swayed him. I believe that he’s going to invite his LinkedIn contacts to subscribe to his email newsletter. At least I hope that’s the case.
He’ll likely garner fewer new subscribers than if he forced them all on his list. But those who choose to sign-up will be more engaged. He’ll also be decreasing his risk of spam complaints, blacklisting and being fired by his ESP by going the opt-in route.
Update: Based on an email I got from this person, he is back to his original plan. ‘Auto-subscribe’ all of them. I reached out to Linkedin earlier today to see if this is within their member guidelines. I’ll let you know if I hear back…