Unsolicited Commercial Email “UCE”, or Unsolicited Bulk Email “UBE”

What are the acceptable uses of personal contacts? Are there conventions or gulp, laws that exist to protect our inboxes?

As wise, technologically aware professionals we need to understand our tools. Email is an important tool we use to operate our businesses. From time to time, during my career it’s been beneficial to share my experience with the issue.

For starters, the usual case.

Your email list is probably much like mine. I have hundreds of mail addresses collected from years (nay decades) of correspondence with family, friends, business associates, volunteers and all sorts of folks I can’t remember how I know. I use the addresses in various ways. Sometimes, I’m fundraising for an NPO. Or updating a group of people on recent events.

However unlikely it may be… If I use my contacts in bulk for commercial solicitations, eventually I could be held accountable by someone or some system not even on my list. Bulk email comes with risks.

One of those risks is having your domain blacklisted by anti-spam services. But there are other problems with bulk emailing from one’s inbox. (Ask me or see links to more info below.)

Broadcasting email is NOT the same as blogging.

Instead of broadcasting solicitations in email, use the blog on your website. The features there protect you. For instance, this article is a post to my blog. You can choose to follow me here.

If these seem like bothersome facts, perhaps they are. But serious reasons exist for the professional conventions that have evolved over decades since Al Gore invented the Internet. (Purposeful humor…)

IT pros (such as myself) have been educating businesses for more than 30 years on how to leverage digital assets. Among these, Personal Contact lists are very valuable. And the proper way to leverage personal contacts certainly includes sending email to those addresses. There are two general rules I’ve shared.

  • First rule of personal email contact “distribution” lists? It’s OK to occasionally (4-12 times per year?) email your associates newsy stuff and a link to your blog. Or email them a link to a post you’ve made. (There’s a marketing difference, but that’s out of scope in this discussion.)
  • Second rule of personal email contact “distribution” lists? Limit the number of addresses to 25 or less. This can help avoid detection by some algorithms that automatically divert your messages to SPAM folders.

This good-natured advice is not complaining, by the way. From my perspective, signature taglines like “Wisdom for Exceptional Results” … ride in humorous juxtaposition with the manner in which the owner Bulk Emails personal contacts. I trust they will appreciate this view in retrospect.

Staying in touch with your contacts is a professional best practice. Frankly most of us would benefit from investing ourselves in that activity. Anyway, I know I don’t do this as often as I “should.”

At the very least, don’t email your contacts in an open CC. Use BCC.

Help yourself to more information:

Wikpedia on SPAM

Some facts are:

Spamming is considered a direct violation of Acceptable Use Policies by most, if not all, ISPs. Most developed countries also have laws in place making UCE illegal. Technically speaking, spam refers to any bulk sending of messages on an electronic system, but most consider the term “SPAM” synonymous with “Email SPAM.”

UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) is basically the same as UBE (Unsolicited Bulk Email). The term UCE is used by the Federal Trade Commission in its enforcement and regulation in the United States.


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