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June 18th, 2007

Honk If You Hate Spam!

If you’ve seen those bumper stickers encouraging you to honk your car’s horn if you agree with the bumper sticker’s sentiments (“Honk if you like popcorn” for example), then you probably hate more than just spam. You probably hate traffic.

Assuming you do hate traffic, do you go around telling people this? Or, knowing you’re not the only one do you just go about your day?

Does your website say, “I hate spam”?

Saying “I hate spam” on your website’s subscribe form as a way to help people feel safe giving you their email addresses just plain doesn’t make sense. It’s sort of like saying you hate traffic. It doesn’t make you unique.

What’s more, it’s not a reassurance that you won’t send spam yourself. After all, don’t you think it’s likely that spammers themselves also hate spam?

Making a statement that you don’t like receiving spam seems pretty obvious, if you ask me. Since you have a limited amount of space on your subscribe form, there’s really no reason to devote any of it to something so obvious.

How do you know you hate it exactly the same amount?

Even worse than the sites that say “I hate spam” are the ones that say, “I hate spam as much as you do.”

What’s wrong with this statement? This statement assumes a level of familiarity you simply don’t have with your website visitors. How do you know precisely the amount your website visitor hates spam? (And, what’s more, most people’s hatred of spam increases the more they happen to get on any given day–so, their hating spam is a moving target of sorts.)

You might think I’m being too literal. And you’re right :-) . But, put yourself in your visitor’s shoes for a moment. They don’t know you. They don’t know that they want to know you. All they know is that they might be interested in what you offer. Their interest is probably minor at this point.

Say something else instead

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything at all to reassure visitors they’re safe giving you their email addresses. Rather, it means you should say something reassuring that reflects who you are, and that you haven’t seen on dozens of other sites. Putting your own spin on “We’ll protect your privacy” is a great way to start your relationship off on the right foot.

Each week, I get several emails from new readers to NIF thanking me for the *double opt-in* confirmation email. (This is the email you get before you’re a subscriber.) If I stuck with the default computerese text that most publishers use, I wouldn’t be getting these emails. But, because I’ve taken the time to personalize the process, new subscribers feel more welcome when they join the list.

By personalizing each step in your subscribe process, you will help readers feel more welcome when they join your list. Because this one sentence seems like such a small part of your subscribe form, it’s easy to make it your first “big” change.

It’ll hardly take you any time at all to write a sentence that better suits your newsletter and your approach than the generic, “I hate spam” and it will have an impact on your results.

Instead of writing something so obvious, take a bit of extra time to let your company’s personality shine through. For just a few moments of your time, you’ll be well rewarded with more subscribers.

What can you say that will convey how seriously you take readers’ privacy and let your company’s personality shine through? Post your thoughts below.

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5 Responses to “Honk If You Hate Spam!”

  1. Karin says:

    Thanks Jessica, that is a very helpful tip.
    And by the way, I am always looking forward to your newsletters:they’re fun and entertaining and I learn new
    tools every time
    Regards from New Zealand
    Karin Vrij

  2. My subscription form currently says “Privacy Policy: Your privacy is important to me. I will never sell or rent your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.”

  3. Thanks, Karin. I’m delighted to hear that you found the tip (and the newsletter in general) helpful!

    Glenda, I love that you tell people they can unsubscribe at any time–that’s a great idea! Because you have so much personality throughout your site, I’m curious to hear how you might express that even more strongly with your form :-) .

    Thank you both!


  4. 100% agreed. Using affirmative language is simply better than negative words like “hate.” I think that’s poor form and gives the competition a opportunity to get a leg up.

    We’ve adopted a quick-n-friendly “promise” statement that essentially says, “We promise not to sell or give away your email address” along with a few other details. It might be borderline corny, but it’s more effective than a negative statement.

  5. That’s a great point, Mark–that positive language is better than negative. Your mentioning that “it might be corny” made me wonder if that’s not perhaps part of the reason people take the negative approach–we tend to associate being critical and negative with “sophisticated” sometimes.

    Thanks for weighing in!


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