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"Spam" is the popular term for unsolicited commercial e-mail that's sent in bulk.
According to Linda Formichelli and W. Eric Martin (a marketing and advertising writer) The name is most likely a derivative from a Monty Python skit featuring a group of Vikings in a restaurant who repeatedly sing an annoying song consisting mostly of the word "spam." By the end of the skit the spam song, which started out as background noise, becomes so loud that it completely drowns out the other participants.

There are many myths about Spam but basically it is ineffective, annoying and illegal. Here are some common myths and reasons why Spam is sent:

Myth #1: Bulk E-mail is an Acceptable Way to Advertise
Bigger companies know that bulk e-mail is a good way to trash their reputations, which is why you'll never get an unsolicited ad from IBM or Wal-Mart in your mailbox. Most of the spam is from porn Web sites or pyramid schemes, so even if people receive spam from a legitimate company, there is automatically a negative association and creates bad faith.

Myth #2: Bulk E-mail is Low Cost
Actually spam is very inexpensive. Initially it may seems like the perfect way to promote a business. Entrepreneurs can send an e-mail ad to millions of potential prospects without buying an expensive direct-mail list and without the cost of printing, paper and stamps. But the reason e-mail mailing lists are so cheap--and the drawback for small business owners looking to reach a particular market--is that they're completely untargeted. Bulk e-mail companies use software to "harvest" the e-mail addresses of Internet users from personal Web pages, discussion forums and newsgroups--kind of like pulling random names from the phone book.


Effective Spam Alternatives

Opt-In E-Mail Lists
Opt-in e-mail lists include only those people who have specifically asked to receive information. You can create your own opt-in list by adding a section to your Web site asking interested visitors to leave their e-mail address. "You won't get into trouble with opt-in mail," says Dan Zerkle. "But you have to set it up so that people who opt in are sent a confirmation e-mail that they have to reply to. This ensures that the people who are on your list really asked to be there, and weren't put there by someone else."

Banner Exchange Programs
You display a banner on your Web site that brings up an ad from other banner exchange members every time someone visits your site. A banner is a small, banner-shaped ad with graphics and a link to your site. For every two people that visit your Web site, your own banner will appear once on another member's site. Banner exchanges are a popular (and free) way to get the word out.

A signature is like letterhead for your e-mail--a few lines at the end of your message that lists your business name, contact information and even a link to your site. This information automatically appears in every e-mail message you send out, so the visibility potential is great, especially if you participate in online discussion groups. Just be sure not to make the sig too long (four lines is considered the maximum).


Federal Spam Law

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them.

Basic Mailing List Management Guidelines for Preventing Abuse

Mailing lists have an important history on the Internet. Mailing lists are an excellent vehicle for distributing focused, targeted information to an interested, receptive audience. Consequently, mailing lists have been used successfully as a highly effective direct marketing tool. Unfortunately, mailing lists are also vulnerable to misuse through a variety of means.

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Here are some Guidelines to avoid misuse

  • Permission of new subscribers must be fully verified before mailings commence. This is usually accomplished by means of an email message sent to the subscriber to which s/he must reply, or containing a URL which s/he must visit, in order to complete the subscription. However it is implemented, a fundamental requirement of all lists is for verification of all new subscriptions.

  • There must be a simple method to terminate a subscription. Mailing list administrators must provide a simple method for subscribers to terminate their subscriptions, and administrators should provide clear and effective instructions for unsubscribing from a mailing list. Mailings from a list must cease promptly once a subscription is terminated.

  • There should be alternative methods for terminating a subscription. Mailing list administrators should make an "out of band" procedure (e.g., an email address to which messages may be sent for further contact via email or telephone) available for those who wish to terminate their mailing list subscriptions but are unable or unwilling to follow standard automated procedures.

  • Undeliverable addresses must be removed from future mailings. Mailing list administrators must ensure that the impact of their mailings on the networks and hosts of others is minimized. One of the ways this is accomplished is through pruning invalid or undeliverable addresses.


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