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Training recipients

Want to see a WWF style smackdown? Put a marketer and a delivery expert in a room and ask them to discuss frequency and whether or not more mail is better.
The marketer will point to the bottom line and how much more money they make when they increase frequency. The delivery expert will point to inbox rates and user engagement and point out that too much mail drives users to ignore the mail.
This isn’t actually unique to marketing mail. Send a lot of mail that doesn’t engage recipients and recipients are trained that they don’t have to actually pay attention to the mail. Some of them hit delete. Some may even report the mail as spam.
According to Cloudmark, this is exactly what happened when LinkedIn informed users of the recent data breach. They estimate that up to 4% of users who received the fully DKIM authenticated mail about the data breach deleted it immediately without reading it. This is higher than notification emails from other social networks.

Cloudmark suggests that part of the problem is that LinkedIn has an unclear opt-in process. Instead of asking users for preferences, LinkedIn assumes that all users want all the mail LinkedIn cares to send them. Then LinkedIn makes it difficult to find the page to change mail settings. This means recipients are very trained to ignore mail from LinkedIn. I know I ignore most of it. Anything that’s not a “want to connect” gets filed in the “I’ll read it when I’m bored” mailbox. So far I’ve not been bored enough to read any of it.
But I’m not sure it’s just about too much email. LinkedIn is a company that is heavily forged in phishing mail. Since May 1, just one of my email addresses has received over 50 messages purporting to be from LinkedIn.

Mailbox Screenshot

Phishers like to forge LinkedIn


All of these emails are phishing attempts. The mailbox you’re looking at is not registered at LinkedIn. None of them are legitimate LinkedIn messages. I suspect part of the problem and the reason that so many people treated the mail LinkedIn Password mail as spam is that the phishers have trained recipients that unexpected mail that mentions LinkedIn and a password is spam. I suspect most people never even opened the mail from LinkedIn. They saw the subject line, and just hit this is spam.
Authentication, careful wording, and all the right things LinkedIn did with the email doesn’t matter because there was nothing in the message list to distinguish this mail from all the phishes.

2 comments

  1. Huey says

    I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a LinkedIn phish. Since my primary email account (and the one that LinkedIn knows about) is at Gmail, getting a LinkedIn phish to me would require first getting it past Gmail’s phishing filter (at least partially user-report-driven, generally pretty accurate) AND Gmail’s spamfilter (also generally pretty accurate) and this normally effective performance has meant that I’ve gotten lazy about looking through my spam folder in the last year or three.
    But let me tell you why _I_ ignore emails from LinkedIn: because everything I get from them (that I actually see, anyway) is both legitimate, and useless to me. All of their emails seem to be of the form “Do you know {douche}, {tool}, or {dork}?” (Answer: Yes, but I would never recommend the first two, and while the third might be a nice guy, I’ve never worked with him and couldn’t in good conscience recommend him either) or “{Dude who never shuts up} has posted on {subject you only peripherally care about} in {group you are not a member of}” or “{someone you know} has added a connection to {someone you don’t}”, or some similar message that is essentially useless information to me, in that I could easily find it out by refreshing at their webpage, which I usually have open in a browser tab anyway.
    And while Facebook makes it relatively easy to find the “never send me any email ever” checkboxes, and also generally abides by those choices, this process is less trivial in LinkedIn, to such an extent that I’ve never wasted a bunch of time trying to find it.
    It’s kind of like if Pepsico had a robocaller leave a message on my answering machine every day while I was at work that said “Hey, we know you used to drink a lot of Mountain Dew, and you haven’t recently. Wouldn’t one taste good right about now?” Yeah, see, here’s the thing: if I want a Mountain Dew, I’m pretty sure that I know where I could pick one of those up, and I’m more than capable of connecting the thought “I would like a Mountain Dew” with the process of going to one of those places that sells it. I don’t need a reminder.
    Most of LinkedIn’s emails seem designed to drive traffic to their website. And that’s probably a good idea, from a business perspective. And as much as I know that it’s a mistake to ascribe my own motives to the world at large, for me, this is a wall of noise that I can easily ignore.

  2. Catherine Jefferson says

    Unlike Huey, I can’t/won’t ignore a wall of noise. When LinkedIn made it clear a few years ago that users could not opt-out of their marketing email and keep an account on LinkedIn, I closed my (mostly moribund) account and never looked back. I suspect that, on the range of user reactions to LinkedIn’s prolific emails, Huey and I represent the extremes. He ignores it completely; I won’t tolerate it at all.
    If I were a LinkedIn marketing manager, though, this “range of user reaction” would worry me. I don’t see anything between “don’t care/ignores the cr*p” and “won’t tolerate it at all” that gives them any chance of improving their bottom line.

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