Spam, or
I can send email to millions of people!

Spam. Bulk Email. Explore the myths and fallacies of this potentially dangerous "marketing tool" — before you try it.

The Internet is a whole new world of opportunity. You can communicate with millions of people. You can market to the world! You can strike it rich and famous ... or something like that.

Unfortunately, many people new to Web marketing are not yet aware of its complexities, nor that there are certain actions that can ruin your reputation on the Web. One of them is spam.


"SPAM" is trademark for a meat product produced by the Hormel company.

The word "spam" acquired its Web usage from a Monty Python skit in which the characters said, "Spam spam spam spam" over and over again. Why?

Because it never stops.

What is spam?

While there are many definitions of spam and the debate rages on, in general, spam is unsolicited commercial email. This does not include email from your friends, relatives or associates, nor commercial email. It's unsolicited commercial email, and it's usually sent out in bulk -- loads of emails.

Spam would be those emails from total strangers offering to take your life, your income, etc., to undreamed-of heights -- if only you will send them your credit card information. It's the junk mail of the Internet, but with a nasty twist.

You might be surprised to learn that many, if not most, of the return email addresses are fake, that the email has been routed around the Web so that you can't tell where it came from, and other neat spammer tricks.

If your email address can be found anywhere on the Web, you'll likely be plied with spam hyping just about anything, including for using "bulk email" techniques to send email to millions of people to improve your business. After all, as the hype from spammers goes, you can send email about your products and services to millions of people all over the world. The implication is that people will read it and, stunned senseless by what you offer, fall all over themselves to buy your product. You'll be an instant millionaire! For only $39.95!

It sounds great, but if you are a legitimate business, the answer is -- "not hardly."

Why is spam a Bad Thing?

Spam spam
Spam spam
spam spam
spam spam SPAM SPAM

Spam clogs your inbox, making it difficult to find important email and forcing you to read at least part of it (just to make sure it isn't spam!).

It can be annoying. Some of it is downright frightening, like the "how to make bombs" spam I received some years ago.

And, truthfully, if spamming were an accepted marketing practice, you'd be receiving spam from just about every big company on the Internet; you'd need a full-time Internet connection just to download this stuff!

The truth about spam

Unscrupulous individuals may try to steer you into spamming (often using spam to do so, of course). Millions of people. Untold wealth. Blah blah blah.

Think again. If this incredible "marketing technique" worked, they'd be using it to sell you something of real value instead of clogging your inbox, wouldn't they?

What can happen if you spam?

What spammers do not tell you is that, for all their efforts, this is what can happen:

They get nasty emails in return. Spamming is a violation of Internet etiquette (or "Netiquette"). Truthfully, in return for your trouble, you are likely to email in return. Very angry, insulting email. In Internet parlance, it's called a "flame."

With the click of a button, you can ruin your company's reputation with millions of people all over the world.

People will not think your product is incredible — they'll think you're a spammer! And, since so many scammers use spam, you'll immediately identify your company with swindlers.

You may lose your Internet connection. Some ISPs are on the lookout for multiple emails going through their servers; if that doesn't happen, you may be reported by someone you've spammed.

You'll be contributing to slowing down the Internet.

You may get sued. In the state of Washington (United States), you can be sued for $500 per spam. And, some years back, Earthlink won a lawsuit against a notorious spammer and was awarded $2 million.

There's more, but the above is bad enough. So, the next time you get an offer to make you a millionaire in five seconds for $39.95, or to buy someone's "million dollar publishing company" for $140.00, think again.

One last word of caution: do not try to "unsubscribe" from a spam email. This will only confirm that your email address is valid, and you will continue to receive spam. In fact, the spammer will probably sell your email address, along with thousands of others, to other spammers.

And my recommendation: do not, for any reason, give your credit card number to a spammer or any company using a free (read: untraceable) email address such as Yahoo, gmail, Hotmail, etc. If you look further, you may find they've also camouflaged the source of the email.

Better to toss your credit card onto the street. At least, you may get it back.

How can I use email to promote on the Web?

It's not necessary to risk spamming in order to be successful on the Web.

The "secret" is that -- there is no secret!

The truth is the same as in the "brick and mortar" world -- work, persistence and proper marketing. On the Web, a professional website incorporating solid marketing techniques and a good promotional strategy will get the word out there for you and your company.

If you want to use email to promote your services and products, there are reputable companies offering email addresses of people who have opted to receive commercial email of one sort or another. However, I'd recommend that you be very, very (very) careful to ensure that these are legitimate opt-in email addresses.

Of course, one sure way to ensure that an email list contains only legitimate opt-in email addresses is to build your own.

Diane Vigil founded DianeV Web Design Studio, has served as a consultant to numerous companies, as a moderator and administrator of the JimWorld SearchEngineForums and Cre8asiteforums, on the Site-Report Experts Panel — and has designed and built numerous websites since 1997.

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