Fredonia’s Patio BBQ’s

Remember last summer when Fredonia sent out weekly reminders about its Patio Barbecues? Remember how annoyed you were, given that you weren’t even on campus?

Yes, you were being spammed. The way I define it, spam is a message that you don’t want to get–it’s impersonal, irrelevant, and annoying. Spam was at the heart of television for decades: You bought a subscription to a television provider in order to see content you enjoyed, but advertisers subsidized your cost in order to spam you.

Now, advertisers do the same thing on social media. For instance, this morning I opened my Twitter feed and saw an advertisement from a children’s hospital in Minnesota. On my Facebook feed is a call to become a certified Zumba instructor. Impersonal, irrelevant, and annoying.

Fredonia’s Patio Barbecue e-mail campaign was considered a success if it persuaded even one person to come order lunch. E-mail marketers measure clicks and sales: “How many people opened our e-mail?” and “How many sales did we make?” The waning trust of the thousands of people who didn’t open the e-mails were ignored.

This is critical to understand if you use e-mail or social media: You are the product. Your attention is being sold to advertisers on every e-mail and social media platform. That’s what’s keeping the system afloat. That’s why Snapchat doesn’t charge you for it’s service. That’s why your Gmail account is free.

This is also critical to understand: Don’t act like an advertiser. For the first time in history, everyone has their own platform of people they can spam. Everyone can post selfies, measure ‘likes’ and ‘opens’, creating content that people don’t want to see.

Three months ago I started an e-mail newsletter. To date, it averages a 90% “open rate.” (15% is considered standard in the world of e-mail marketing). The open rate is so high because I make sure that the people who are on the list actually want to get the e-mail.

If you don’t want to get my e-mails, don’t sign up.

If you do, register here and I’ll send you Issue 11, which went out this morning.

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