Frequency and Relevance: Insight from Actual Recipients

Last night, the email practices of Facebook, Verizon and LinkedIn sparked something of a discussion on IRC.

Rather than trying to summarize into a business language friendly post I thought I’d share the whole thing.

Warning: Includes strong language and graphic descriptions of human on salesman violence.


Huey: I may have just arrived at a Laura guest blog post.
Huey: About engagement, now that you mention it.
Laura: yes?
Huey: Why isn’t ‘engagement’ part of opting in? Why isn’t it a preference that the user can set?
• Steve cocks head
Huey: Having just now deleted the third LinkedIn email of the day, and previously gone on a f**king tear about Verizon-
Steve: Oh.
Steve: Yes.
Huey: Let’s look at organizations I interact with.
Huey: Facebook.
Steve: I get what you mean, but I don’t think “engagement” is the word. That’s more a metric than a choice.
Huey: I keep facebook open in a tab that’s near the top. And even when I’m KVMed into the other computer, Facebook is still live and scrolling on the computer I’m not using.
Huey: Why? Because Facebook has interesting things to tell me, on a minute-to-minute basis.
Huey: On the other hand: …how often do I need to hear from LinkedIn?
Huey: For me, once a month would be fine.
Huey: Not three f**king times a day, that’s for sure.
Steve: “Frequency” or something. “Things about your company I give a sh*t about”.
Huey: How often do I need to hear from Verizon?
Huey: How ’bout ‘Never’? Does ‘never’ work for you?
Huey: Seems to me that the business of capturing ‘engagement’ would be easier if the customer was engaged in the engagening.
Laura: Sadly, they don’t
Huey: “How often do you expect to hear from us?”
Laura: and linked in has a pretty extensive preference center
Laura: that lets you pick days or weeks or no mail
Laura: they don’t == users don’t engage with preference centers very much.
Huey: Honestly, LinkedIn haven’t annoyed me enough to go looking for it yet.
Steve: Linked-in doesn’t even have working unsub links.
Laura: and, yet, they’re pissing off some of their users by unsubbing people who don’t click on group links
Huey: On the other hand, if Verizon’s webpage had a button for “Kill all of you with a shovel”, I would write a bot that clicked that nonstop.
Steve: Click. Get challenged to log in. Log in. Get sent to page that doesn’t allow you to unsubscribe. Click around a bit. Find something mentioning email. Still no clue as to how to stop the f**king email.
Steve: (Feel free to use that quote)
Steve: When your recipients view you like that, every mail sent is a potential sales opportunity doused with gasoline and set on fire.
Huey: I would put out that fire.
Huey: By beating it vigorously with a shovel.
Huey: I’ve got a really nice six-foot oak-handled dirt spade that I could totally kill somebody with.
Huey: …and if I sat down and thought about it for half an hour or so, I could probably come up with something coherent about engagement that didn’t include the vision of me clubbing a verizon salesbag to death with a shovel.
Huey: (which I’m guessing might be a deal-killer for the professional blog)
Steve: Nope. If it’s OK with you, I’m planning on taking this gentle chat and (after some light editing consisting moistly of s/f**king/f**king/) posting it tomorrow as “Insight from actual recipients”.
Huey: although I may still need to use the words “Seriously, Verizon: STFU and GTFO”.
Huey: Oh, very well then. Feel free to characterize me as a shovel-wielding homicidal maniac.
Laura: :)
Steve: It’s Verizon. People will empathize.


  1. Catherine Jefferson says


  2. Jacques says

    LinkedIn’s preference centre really is shit.

  3. Kris says

    This just made me laugh out loud. Well done!
    Unfortunately, I think too many people see signups as a numbers game and don’t want to do anything that would slow down or complicate that process. I do think allowing the user to set their preferred “frequency” is a great idea, and works well as part of a confirmed opt-in process.

  4. Catherine Jefferson says

    Heck, if I see a “frequency” setting and can count on a company to respect what I tell them, even I will sometimes sign up for a newsletter. (Not often, mind you, but it has happened.) ;) Sales and marketing through email do not have to be hostile to the best interests or wishes of customers. They just often are. :/

  5. Huey says

    Yesterday, I figured out why LinkedIn hasn’t made me upset: GMail has helpfully been filing almost all of their mail in the spam folder.

    Perhaps I should go looking for their horrible preference center.


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