In July, my family celebrated the Serbian Orthodox holiday Slava. As we prepared for dinner, the priest came to our house and blessed the food and our home. The preparation for his arrival typically includes a candle, red wine, a list of residents in the house and the traditional bread that my mother-in-law makes and decorates. This year, as I handed him all the "tools," he asked for one more thing" my email address.
Wait? What? Why? Feeling put on the spot and not entirely sure I could really say "no," I obliged. So what happens now? It seems that there is a lot the church wants to share, so now, I get email daily, sometimes multiple times in one day. Since I have made a career working in the email marketing space, I understand the desire to reach his parish via email, but c'mon!
Think about your email inbox for a moment (I know, it isn't always the most fun thing to do) and what do you find in there? It's probably a combination of offers from companies you do business with, companies you are clueless about how they got your email address, companies that you gave your email address to but are sending you too much stuff (or stuff you just don't want) and the occasional email from aunt Jackie (or in my case, my priest). Experts estimate that consumers get approximately 17 emails each day - but what do you do when you don't want to get that email anymore?
Well, once upon a time, it was a common practice of spammers to include an unsubscribe link in the junk email they sent - and when you clicked that link to be removed, it actually validated your email address...so they kept sending, more and more and more. With the introduction of CAN-SPAM laws that restrict the use and collection of email addresses, the act of clicking an unsubscribe link has been legitimized - providing marketers with a 10-day window with which to suppress you from receiving additional messages from the sender. But with the introduction of the "This is SPAM" button in many email systems (Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, AOL and others), consumers have rampantly turned to this as a way to unsubscribe...but consumer beware..."This is SPAM" does not equal UNSUBSCRIBE.
The report as SPAM function works a little differently for each inbox provider. For most, the act of clicking "This is SPAM" tells the inbox provider two things: 1) that the sender is not relevant to you, and 2) that the marketer's messaging may not be relevant to any of their email users. As a result, the email you are trying to stop ends up in your bulk folder. For the marketer, it limits their ability to get their email to any of the subscribers at that provider.
In some cases, but not all, the inbox provider has a system called a feedback loop process that sends a notification back to the marketer that you have complained and will suggest that you be removed from their mailing list. However, because you did not expressly unsubscribe, there are no legal requirements to do so. That means you'll still download the messages and have to weed through them when looking for legitimate email in your junk folder.
The only way to ensure that you do not receive email from a marketer is to click the unsubscribe link or button in the email. If there is no official link in the message, then "This is SPAM" is the way to go...unless it's your priest. I'm a little worried that clicking "This is SPAM" would be equivalent to "Go to Hell," and I don't think I want to find out.
Kara Trivunovic is the Global Director of Strategy at StrongMail Agency Services.