How do you define spam messages?  Are they unsolicited ads for “male enhancement,” car insurance and diet pills, not to mention a cornucopia of prescription drugs?  Well, sure.  And it’s estimated that up to 96% of all world-wide email traffic is comprised of spam—a problem that needs no enhancement.  But with ISP’s becoming ever more vigilant, and better in many ways at detecting spam, many of the obvious offenders get sucked directly into the bulk folder.  If you’re like me, you rarely look at them and don’t even know how many messages get sent to the spam holding pen on a daily basis; you just go there once in a while, take the briefest of glances and then blast them out into the void like an alien out an airlock.

So that’s it.  Problem solved, right?

I wish.  Whether from the unscrupulous selling of emails, to the hijacking of address books, etc., there are still many slices of spam slipping under the door to the inbox.  Enough in fact that we’ve become quick on the draw when it comes to flagging messages.  And it’s evident that users fatigued from dealing with an ever increasing volume of email have taken to flagging many legitimate messages merely because they seem spammy, are annoying or because they’re seeking vengeance against senders that abuse our patience.  And therein lies the trouble.  It’s helpful and necessary to identify true spam, but when a sender’s legitimate messages get flagged it hurts the brand, the delivery rate of the IP address (and anyone sharing that address) and may even cause loss of whitelisting.

Here at Sailthru we’re constantly advising our clients that spam is in the eye of the beholder.  Just because you obtained a user email though sound practices doesn’t mean you can take that interest for granted.  Behavioral studies are showing that people react to what’s happening on their computer screen the same way they do in life.  Which is to say, if you wouldn’t do it out there, don’t do it in here.  Would you leave five voice mails with a friend during the day just to say “hi”?  (note: if you said yes…you might need a hobby.)  And which would be more annoying, the frequency of the calls, or the fact that they were devoid of content?  Answer: it doesn’t matter.

If you want an engaged, responsive user base that looks forward to your messages and keeps you in the inbox, then be sure to follow these five C’s:

-be CONSIDERATE.  There are real people, real busy people just like you receiving those emails who deserve to be treated like friends.

-be CONTENT driven.  We all want real content—a reason to open and spend time with messages.

-be CONCISE.  There’s no prize for longest or most busy email.

-be CREATIVE in design, branding and delivery.  Think about, test and get feedback on the user experience to your messages.

-be CONSISTENT.  More isn’t necessarily better, but if you’re weekly BE weekly, if you’re daily BE daily.

Because ultimately spam is whatever you say it is.