Theresa Greenfield is running for Congress from Iowa. I know this because I get a daily report from my email spam filter and I’ve learned to check it. Greenfield’s campaign has sent me six messages over the past week, and not one of them arrived in my email inbox — all six ran afoul of the spam filter. Had I not checked, I would have had no idea that they were ever sent.
Of course, I never ASKED to join Greenfield’s list, and I suspect that’s a big part of the problem. Her campaign is clearly sending messages to a purchased or swapped email list, one built for another campaign and perhaps for a different purpose entirely. As we’ve explored before, sending emails to people who’ve not opted-in to your list is a big no-no, and not just for ethical reasons.
Email can seem like you’re sending messages to people one at a time, but Gmail, Yahoo, AOL et al actually track the performance of mass email senders and penalize those who send messages people don’t open. What good is an email trapped in a spam filter or buried in an “other” or “promotions” folder? Persistently low open rates and high spam-alert rates can put many of an organization’s followers functionally out of reach.
In the Iowa case, Greenfield’s campaign may have technical problems as well, since every single message sent to me landed in the spam filter. Perhaps their SPF record isn’t set up correctly, or they’re sending from the wrong domain entirely. In any case, they have some serious email deliverability issues to address.
How SHOULD campaigns build their email (and SMS) lists? List swaps are fine as long as everyone involved opts-in to the new sender, as Allyson Goldsmith explained on Epolitics.com a few years ago. And while Facebook frowns on Custom Audiences made up of purchased lists, plenty of political actors use them for recruiting purposes. Just upload the list, let Facebook match it to the email addresses it has on file, and start running Facebook lead-generation ads at its members (or a lookalike audience). You’re effectively paying to sign up people whose addresses you already have on hand, but this way they’re not nearly as likely to mark you as spam — and screw up your whole email marketing campaign.
For more about email marketing done right, check out past Epolitics.com articles on the subject or download the new 2019 digital campaigning guide. For more on what it takes to get your emails arrive in your supporters’ inboxes, check out the 2018 EveryAction email deliverability report. Take heed.