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Social media marketing: In search of an opt-out

Social media marketing: In search of an opt-out Spencer Kollas

As I was having dinner with friends the other night, one of them said to me, "My company is doing email marketing, but I really need to get into this social media thing." His statement got me thinking. How similar are the worlds of email and social media?

You see, my friend is an avid social media user on a personal level, but his company is doing very little with this new marketing channel. There are a number of industry professionals who are integrating social marketing into their marketing plans, but many of them are flying blind when it comes to what all these social media "numbers" mean and how best to optimize their social marketing efforts. Tools are popping up to help marketers better understand and capitalize on the channel (including tools from StrongMail), but what I want to discuss today relates to how one fundamental of the email marketing world correlates to what is currently happening in the social marketing world.

Any time you start trying to understand an aspect of email marketing, you have to start at the beginning: your opt-in policy. This is one of the most important parts of email marketing, and it will have a waterfall effect on everything you do moving forward. Most of you already know this, but any time I have the opportunity to talk about how important opt-in programs are, I do. Of course, there are still those marketers who are doing opt-out programs that are not as effective and have the potential to increase spam complaints.

One interesting marketing tactic that I recently witnessed was on a retail store's website. While I was purchasing an early Christmas gift for my wife (once she tells me something she likes, I order it right away so I don't forget), I opted-out of future email communications with this retailer during the checkout process. It is not uncommon for marketers to have an opt-out during the checkout process, but what caught my attention this time was that less than a minute after completing my purchase, I received an email from this retailer -- and it was not my receipt. Instead I got an email that stated the following:

While registering as a shopper with companyXXX.com, you chose not to receive our promotional Email. This is being sent to confirm that [email protected] will not receive Email from companyXXX.com.

The decision to receive Email is personal and can be influenced for a variety of reasons. In an attempt to better understand and respond to our customers, we would appreciate it if you would answer a short survey on this topic.

To participate in the survey, click here.

Your responses, and your email address, will remain private and will help us to continue to build a better shopping experience for you, and a stronger relationship with our customers.

CompanyXXX.com has always believed in using only permission-based Email marketing. If, in the future, you decide that you would like to begin receiving our promotional Email you can subscribe at companyXXX.com.

Thank you for your participation, and thank you for shopping with us.

I thought this was an interesting tactic, and while I was having dinner with the aforementioned friend, we discussed this email and tried to determine what the equivalent to an opt-in/opt-out program would be in social media.

An opt-in would be equal to a "Follow" on Twitter or becoming a fan of something on Facebook -- but what equals an unsubscribe? Of course, the first thought both of us had was the "Unfollow" on Twitter, or removing yourself from a group as a fan on Facebook. As we kept discussing this, we tried to think about how often either of us (or anyone we know) actually takes some form of action to no longer be a part of a social media network, such as unfollowing a brand or no longer being a fan of a product or company. I have seen very little of this, which is probably because people are having a harder time managing all of their social connections.

All of this leads to the obvious question: Is there a practical equivalent in social marketing to the unsubscribe or opt-out in email marketing? I don't have the answer to this question right now, but it will be interesting to see how it unfolds as the popularity of social media marketing continues to rise.

Spammers are already adopting the channel, which makes it more important than ever for legitimate companies looking at using social media marketing to follow through with another smart email marketing tactic -- sending relevant messages. In doing so, you shouldn't have to worry as much about any impending social media unsubscribe.

Good luck and good sending.

Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services for StrongMail Systems.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Spencer Kollas is a recognized industry leader in email deliverability and subscriber engagement. For more than a decade, Kollas has worked with the world’s foremost email marketers to help them connect with their customers and increase the...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Andrew Pitre

2009, October 26

Great topic, thank you for adding your knowledge.

The largest reason that I've all-but-abandoned my MySpace account is the huge amounts of spam I was receiving. And it wasn't all from "malicious spammers." Much of it came from legitimate companies who just didn't understand the privacy conventions of the new medium.

(In their defense, I think social media privacy norms are still evolving.)

That said, the lack of an effective social media opt-out or, at least, a social media spam filter, was enough to end my use of the worlds most popular social network. This is a topic that not only needs to be discussed by legitimate marketers, but also by social networks themselves.

Currently, about 90% of all email is spam. The way I see it, social media interactions will eventually see a similar trend. It is essential for social media marketers to develop best practices to avoid being lost in the noise.