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Handling replies to bulk mail

This week’s Wednesday question comes from Ryan W.

I’ve been noticing a few e-mail accounts who reply to our e-mail sends with spammy type replies such as, “hey this is intense…..(link)” what do you think should we be removing those e-mails from our mailing?

There is no real clear answer to this question, but it’s certainly one that deserves some discussion. These replies are often the result of malicious behavior. Individual email accounts are compromised through some method or another. Once the account is compromised, the spammer sets up an automatic reply that sends out the message you’re seeing whenever email is received at the compromised address. In some cases this is done without any other interference in the email account and the user never knows they’re sending these messages out unless notified by a third party.
Most of these accounts are live accounts. There are real people there and they are your subscribers and purchasers. Removing them is not obviously the right thing for either the sender or the receiver. At the same time these spams can cause problems for senders if they come in sufficient volume.
My advice is to look at the data. I don’t think there is one answer to the question or even one blanket answer for a particular company. Here are the things I suggest considering when making the decision.

  1. Is this a new account / subscription or is this a long standing customer?
  2. How active has this subscriber been with previous mails? Did they click or open emails? Are they a frequent purchaser?
  3. What’s the revenue loss if we stop sending to this address?
  4. What’s the cost to continue sorting through spam in your reply-to account?

If this is a new account, then it may not be worth your time to wade through reply spam in order to sell. It may be a good idea, though, to send a confirmation message to the account. You will want to confirm that the account really has a human behind it and that it has not been totally taken over by the spammer.
If this is an account that has been on your list for a while, there is a different calculation to make. When you have history with a customer you can directly measure revenue versus cost. Clearly if handling the spam costs more than the subscriber brings in, then removing the address is a good idea. If, however, this is a high value subscriber then it may be worth employee time to sort through the spam.
Another option is to notify the subscribers That their account has been compromised. I actually don’t recommend this. Some scammers use fake notifications and sending real notifications can cause confusion and distrust.
That’s a vey long way to say I don’t have a specific recommendation for unsubscribing addresses sending,out spam in reply to mail. It really depends on what the specific volume is and how much the spam is interfering with normal customer interaction. Also, how long has this been happening? If this email account is used for talking with friends or family then the recipient will be notified by their normal correspondents reasonably quickly. Accounts that continue to send auto replies over weeks or months are probably abandoned and can safely be removed from your database.
 
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Have a question you want answered? Tweet them to wise_ laura or send them to laura-questions@wordtothewise.com.

1 comment

  1. alyssa@bulk emails says

    Hi laura..thanks a lot for a discerning post…well i would say replying to these spam mails could be mailicious..well got to know something new from your post..keep sharing

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