Mailing your Facebook Contacts? That’s a no-no!

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As a deliverability consultant, I am exposed to all sorts of peculiar questions aimed at optimizing email marketing campaigns and skyrocketing one’s ROI. Some of them can be quite outrageous, but hey… GetResponse is here to take on all challenges!




For example, I was approached with this the other day: “Can I export my Facebook contacts (in this case, people who have joined a fan page) and add them to my mailing list?” The first answer that comes to the mind of anyone who believes in the permission-based way is, of course, NO.


But then, you might ask, if they’ve expressed enough interest to become fans of my company, why not send them a newsletter every now and then? On top of that, a quick Google query will point you to a plethora of resources that let you export Facebook friends/contacts along with their names, email addresses etc. Sounds like they don’t mind getting emails, right?


CAN-SPAM and email marketing best practices aside, let’s see what Facebook’s Terms of Service have to say about this:


  • 3. Safety

2. You will not collect users’ content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission.


Anyone want to “keep in touch” with their social media contacts via email? Check out this one:


  • 8. Special Provisions Applicable to Developers/Operators of Applications and Websites

2. You will have a privacy policy that tells users what user data you are going to use and how you will use, display, share, or transfer that data.


5. You will not include data you receive from us concerning a user in any advertising creative.


6. You will not directly or indirectly transfer any data you receive from us to (or use such data in connection with) any ad network, ad exchange, data broker, or other advertising-related toolset, even if a user consents to that transfer or use.

 


Pretty clear, I’d say. Let’s face it – “exporting” contact info from social media profiles is just another way of harvesting email addresses. The friend-to-friend or fan page admin-to-fan relationship does not give anyone legal rights to initiate commercial communication via email without explicit consent. Think about it… does the fact that someone follows you on Twitter give them the right to invade your inbox space with their offers? Nope. And the fact that the Internet is brimming with black hat software that can help automate such tasks does NOT mean that they are legal.


Furthermore, don’t forget about all those “friendly” and “sociable” folks out there who are in the habit of sending out friend request invitations en masse. Or those groups uniting people who are willing to express their hatred of mosquitoes… or whatever. Add the export feature to this mix and you’ve got a volatile combination that gives the bad guys tons of opportunities to spam mailboxes. The fact that most Facebook users provide an active and valid email address on their profile makes it all the more attractive.


That being said, there are two bulletproof reasons to support the thesis that sending commercial emails to an exported list of Facebook contacts is a big no-no.


  1. Not only will this lump you in the spammer category because you have not obtained explicit permission to do so, but
  2. you’ll also run the risk of attracting the attention of Facebook’s lawyers. And, as we all know, they have a pretty good record of chasing down abusers and making them pay.

Any “outside of the inbox” relationship, by which I mean there is a lack of explicit consent, will lead to sending unsolicited mailings and all the negative baggage that goes along with it. In the case I described, it was certainly not a matter of the sender’s deliberate ill will to spam. Rather, they erroneously assumed that being someone’s contact on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. gave them the right to add him/her to a mailing list without obtaining permission. I’m pretty sure those friends would instantly turn their backs on the sender and use the spam button to abruptly break up the relationship! It’s just bad form, after all.


Interested in learning how to integrate your GetResponse account with a Facebook page and capture sign ups in compliance with industry best practices? There’s a blog post for that!


Maciej is an Email Solutions Specialist for GetResponse, focused on optimizing email deliverability, improving conversion rates, and increasing email marketing ROI for our customers.

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