Social Media: Email

Email is THE most important form of Social Media out there. It enables you to communicate with buyers and turn them into collectors. It is also an essential marketing tool for artists. You can create marketing emails to send to a bulk list that not only look beautiful but keep people interested in what you are doing. The next series of posts will focus on email.

Let’s start with a little bit of history first:
The earliest electronic mail (email) goes back to the beginning of the 1960’s. It was a simple text, black and white message that existed on the same computer. There was no internet or even networking capability within an organization or office then. It was a file that was “appended” with messages from one author to another who were using the same computer and the same file. By opening that file the user could read what others had appended to it.

The first actual email, resembling what we know today, was sent around 7:00pm in the autumn of 1971. It was a test created by a programming engineer who had been chosen by the U.S. Defense Department to create ARPAnet. ARPA net was a precursor to the internet that allowed people within the U.S. Defense Department to communicate with each other.

By the end of 1972 Tomlinson’s two email software packages had become an industry standard and he first used the @ symbol in an email address. When he was asked why he used the @ symbol he said “The ‘at’ sign just makes sense. The purpose of the ‘at’ sign indicated a unit price for example 10 items @ $2.99. I used the ‘at’ sign to indicate that the user was ‘at’ some other host rather than being local.”

Email has gone from the early days with black and white text only to the addition of a choice of fonts, colors and backgrounds. You an also add images, video, audio and links. You can even send an email that looks like a mini-version of your website.

So let’s address some terms that are commonly used in email:

Email Bombing
The intentional sending of large volumes of messages to a target address. The overloading of the target address can render it unusable and can even cause the email server (such as AOL or Gmail) to crash.

Email Bankruptcy/Email Fatigue
This is when the user falls behind on checking their email and becomes overloaded with information. Very often they wind up deleting a series of emails based on what’s in the subject, just to get rid of the bulk of it.

Email Spoofing
An email that looks like it’s coming directly to you from a trusted source such as your bank. There may be a link in it which is called Phishing (see below).

Flaming Email
This occurs when a person sends an email with angry or antagonistic content. The term is derived from the term incendiary to describe how heated discussions on email can get. A flaming email can almost literally leap off the screen right into your heart. Emails can be perceived as Flaming even when the sender didn’t intend it to be that way because body language and voice intonations are not present. There are ways of saying things like “Lol” (Laugh Out Loud) and :-) for a smiley face to indicate something funny or a joke. Please don’t use those in professional emails. Just be very aware of what the recipient might see in your email communication.

Phishing
An email spoof or message leading you to a website that asks for your information. The source may be a spoof that looks like a trusted source (such as your bank) saying that they need to update your information. Don’t fall for it! No bank of any worth would do that online. If you do fall for it you may be asked to submit your name, address, phone number and Social Security Number or Bank Account information. It’s the beginning of identity theft.

SPAM
Spam is unsolicited commercial (or bulk) email that is of no use to the spammer. The cost of email is minimal so spammers may send out millions of email messages each day. This can lead to information overload. Most email servers will have a spam filter. Make sure that it is on the lowest setting. The filters aren’t perfect and they can block an important email. Most emails will also have a spam folder or bulk mail folder. Make sure you check that daily to be sure you aren’t missing anything.

I want to give you a brief, entertaining fact about the use of the term SPAM just for fun.

The term SPAM originally came from the meat produced by Hormel Meat Packing Company in Austin, Minnesota. It was first produced in 1937. The President of the company at the time came up with a really tasty recipe for Spiced Ham. Thus the name SPAM. In the first year of production SPAM captured 18% of the market. By 2002 more than six billion cans of SPAM have been sold with 44,000 cans per hour coming out of the factory. This means that a can of SPAM is sold every 3.1 seconds. Unbelievable!

So how does Hormel feel about the use of SPAM to imply something so negative? Hormel’s “official” position is as follows:
“We do not object to the use of this slang term to describe Unsolicited Commercial Email, although we do object to the use of the word ‘spam’ as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters so to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with upper-case letters.”

Back to the serious. On December 16, 2003 George W. Bush signed the CANSPAM Act into Federal Law. This was the first law setting national standards for the sending of email. It requires the Federal Trade Commission to enforce it. I will discuss marketing and bulk emailing in another post but note that you should have a visible “Unsubscribe” button in all of your marketing emails. To boil down the rest of it into simple terms the CANSPAM Act states that those sending emails have to be honest and forbids the use of false header/footer information.

This should begin to help you understand the use of email and some basic terms. I’ll begin to address using email in your communications and marketing in the next post so stay tuned.

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