building an email list in marketing

Another Reason To Not Chase Clients

After my email about building an email list instead of a social media following, someone pointed out something very important.

Subscriber Carl Seleborg of DasCask.com (mmm, I love whiskey), said the following, reprinted with his permission, which I completely agree with:

I think this has become a big no-no in many parts of the world, and even if it were legal: we really should stop throwing people's data around, especially when they trusted us enough to sign up for our newsletter. We're entering an age where privacy is turning into a basic right, and the added restrictions on how I can collect and use the data I have on people make that data even more valuable, I find.

Indeed. As a Canadian, privacy is something we take very seriously, too.

So two clarifications are in order.

First, the purpose of mentioning that one could upload emails to social media was to emphasize that building an email list should take precedence over building a social media following if one had to choose between the two.

Regardless of whether you do or not, since you can upload your list of subscribers to social media platforms but you cannot download your list of followers from them, then building a list is the better choice.

Second, “uploading emails” is in reference to creating custom audiences for targeting paid ads on social media networks. Some platforms offer this. Audiences largely fall into one of five major categories:

  1. People who like and follow your page, or have interacted with any of your assets (such as groups, events, or videos created on the platform).
  2. People who meet demographic criteria, or who have liked and/or interacted with other properties on the platform.
  3. People who are on your list (mostly emails) that you've uploaded and, if they have accounts associated with those emails, they will be targeted.
  4. People who have interacted with your business offline, such as customer lists, visitors to your store or office, attendees to an in-person event, etc.
  5. Lookalike or affinity audiences, i.e., audiences that match or resemble any of the above, and at varying degrees (from very similar to less similar).

Three and four are where most people have privacy concerns, and rightfully so.

Number four is particularly disconcerting. If you login to other apps using social accounts (called “SSO” for single sign-on), you may be passing on your data.

As one person discovered, their FitBit tracked their geographic locations, such as stores they visited, which they passed onto Facebook as their “offline activity.” This data was likely used to target them.

I'm personally not a fan of it.

For those who upload lists of emails, subscribers should give their consent. With most professionals, they must. This practice is either legally prohibited or highly scrutinized, especially when it comes to medical, legal, and financial professionals (HIPAA and PIPEDA laws are a few examples).

It goes without saying that you should never upload lists of people who have never opted in or never agreed to have their information used this way.

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal a few years ago, social media have taken extra steps to give users more control over their data — such as the ability to turn off tracking, delete their data entirely, or opt out of any targeted ads.

These steps notwithstanding, the latest California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) force companies to comply with stricter privacy and non-consensual tracking rules.

Another example is face-recognition technology, which is the latest threat that remains largely unregulated.

So we're going to see more laws in the future.

My point is this.

It goes to reason that, as a professional, you're better off positioning yourself and attracting your ideal clients than trying to chase them…

… Particularly when “chasing them” is not only unproductive, taxing, and a sign of desperation, but also becoming an increasingly sensitive area for many.

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