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Twitter Fight! Twitter Fight! Twitter Fight!

By Ken Magill

Twitterland was abuzz last week—at least in email circles—when a debate broke out between two email professionals over what constitutes permission in business-to-business marketing via the social network LinkedIn.

It all began with a Jan. 4 tweet from email deliverability and spam expert Al Iverson: “DK New Media harvested my email address from LinkedIn. Not cool.”

DK New Media is an Indianapolis-based marketing agency/consultancy headed by Douglas Karr.

Karr had recently changed the format and frequency of his firm’s email newsletter and sent a message regarding the changes to DK New Media’s subscriber file and Karr’s connections on LinkedIn.

In response to Iverson’s tweet, Karr posted: “@aliverson harvest? These are folks that gave me explicit permission to their email addresses.”

As the debate played out, various people chimed in offering their opinions. Most, if not all, sided with Iverson.

Spectators also tweeted about the debate offering no opinion other than that they were entertained. “I’m following a heated Twitter debate between @douglaskarr & @aliverson re: LinkedIn, email lists, permission and Spam. It’s getting good!” tweeted Meggie Dials.

“I am watching the @aliverson v. @douglaskarr Permission Battle of 2011 unfold like a tennis fan at Wimbledon. Who’s with me?” tweeted Lisa Trifone.

The debate also got a little rough when Red Pill Email’s John Caldwell posted a thread on to discuss the issue titled: “New Fun with a Spamming Scumbag.”

In any case, the email at the center of the debate carried the subject line: “Our Newsletter is Going Weekly – Subscribe for an iPad!”

Opening the message revealed the headline: “Subscribe To Win Over $10,000 in Prizes.”

And the body copy began: “In the past, you were opted into either the Marketing Technology Blog daily email or you may have opted in at Corporate Blogging Tips for weekly advise (sic) from us on your corporate blogging strategy. Or – we are connected on LinkedIn!”

“This will be the last email, your last chance to subscribe to the Marketing Technology Weekly Newsletter – and your last chance at winning over $10,000 in prizes! Even if you received our old email, we’re asking you to opt-in since we’re changing the format and how often it’s sent (weekly rather than daily).”

The words “Marketing Technology Blog” and “Corporate Blogging Tips” in the first paragraph were hotlinked to the respective sites where recipients could subscribe to the newsletter and be entered into the contest. The email went on to further pitch the newsletter and contest, and include more links to various properties, including two more to the sites at which recipients could subscribe to the newsletter.

In an interview with The Magill Report, Karr bristled at the accusation he harvested any email addresses.

 “Harvesting is a terrible thing that spammers do. They find a Web site that has email addresses, they write code that grabs these addresses and then they spam these people,” said Karr. “That is absolutely not what I did. LinkedIn is a professional business network. It’s not like Facebook or Twitter. Its primary purpose is to be a business network.”

He added that LinkedIn requires explicit permission from both parties in order for one to contact the other.

“So if you tell me, ‘Hey, let’s get together on LinkedIn,’ I have to connect with you and you have to approve that connection, or vice versa. It requires both people to take action,” Karr said.

“Now, the purpose of a network is to communicate. Their [Iverson’s and others] premise is that even if you connect with me on LinkedIn and I provide you permission to access my profile details like email address, you shouldn’t be able to email me,” said Karr. “My argument is, no, that’s the exact purpose of connecting with someone on a professional network. Why else would you give someone your email address if you didn’t want them to email you or your phone number if you didn’t want them to phone you?”

He likened connecting with someone on LinkedIn with trading business cards.

“If we’re at an event and you give me your business card, I’m taking that as you want to connect with me,” he said.

Karr said recipients of his message were explicitly told why they received it and had to opt in to get the newsletter.

“I didn’t even provide a form,” he said. “People had to click through to my site, find the subscribe link and put their email address in. I even made it double opt in. … If I were spamming, I wouldn’t have asked them to opt in.”

Karr added that the message had a 35 percent click-through rate.

Iverson, of course, sees things differently.

“To me, this is just straight up spam,” he said. “He took my email address out of LinkedIn, put it in his list manager and sent it email.

“Doug said he has explicit permission and that doesn’t ring true,” Iverson added. “If he had explicit permission, why was he sending an opt-in email? Secondly, he called it an opt-in email, but it was a page and a half of newsletter with, like, 20 links in it.”

Iverson said a more personal approach may have been acceptable and that LinkedIn offers the tools to do so.

“LinkedIn has a system that’s made for stuff like that,” said Iverson. “People in the industry use it all the time and it’s an accepted part of LinkedIn communications. But there’s a barrier to entry in that I believe LinkedIn charges for it.

“He [Karr] claims that I put my email address in his CRM. My rebuttal to that is no I didn’t. I gave him access to my contact info as part my LinkedIn profile,” Iverson said. “That’s a pretty important distinction. I gave you access to my profile. That doesn’t mean I gave you permission to opt me into your list.”

Iverson added that Karr’s effort was also clumsy in that it came from DK New Media and there was no reference to Karr until below the fold.

“I am LinkedIn to Doug Karr, not DK New Media,” said Iverson. “The permission ball was dropped here. … This guy holds himself up as an email expert. He really ought to know best practices.”


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

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Date: 2011-02-11 17:52:46
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Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-12 21:28:12
Subject: It's not about warm and fuzzy.

You have a personal relationship with individuals with whom you do business. That's the basis behind LinkedIn. It's a social network. Giving permission to connect on a social network isn't giving someone permission to be solicited for a newsletter. Connecting to someone on LinkedIn shouldn't be viewed as the digital version of the magic fishbowl. Drop in your business card (or connect). Get a chance to win. Get spammed.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-12 16:00:32
Subject: Warm and fuzzy

What is driving me nuts about this conversation is that it was a simple opt in request to a business contact where a relationship exists. Being connected to Doug on Linked In didn't mean you started getting his newsletter. If you didn't opt in you didn't get it. The problem people here have is with email marketing. I guess Doug should have went through one at a time, using the tools Linked In provides - sent the same letter individually, over and over, to each contact. What everyone wants here is to feel warm and fuzzy about how they were contacted - but lets not confuse that with actual permission.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-12 11:47:14
Subject: Nyet.

Connecting with someone on LinkedIn is not an invitation to be added to someone else's marketing mailing list. If anyone on my contact list did that, I'd be removing the connection post-haste as it shows both a lack of manners and a total lack of understanding of the target audience - me! It is just plain not ok. I don't connect with people on LinkedIn to be sent advertising. Maybe some of you guys do? -Annalivia
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-12 11:43:43

True opt-in starts with a subscriber-initiated request. When you make an assumption – based on the fact that they are previously connected to you on LinkedIn – this is you taking action, not the subscriber. While I think Al may have been a tad overzealous, what Karr did isn't very good. If I received the email I would have complained too...just probably not via my Twitter account.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-12 10:56:16
Subject: SPAM Definition

"SPAM is not defined by whether the email is one-to-one or one-to-many." Wrong. SPAM is not defined by YOU, no matter how much you might hope otherwise.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-12 10:54:41
Subject: from Al Iverson

As I mentioned to Ken, if any client, or my employer, were doing something similar, I'd be looking to make it stop. ... That's my job. If one of our clients is not following permission best practices, of course I want to know about it. That's my job! I regularly chase down and reform, remediate or terminate clients in response to internal auditing, spam complaints, blacklistings, etc.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 19:00:27
Subject: Permission. Period.

If you give me permission to contact you..I will. I am not going to worry about discerning your personal comfort level with how - that responsibility lies with those giving permission - not those that received it. Otherwise its a slippery slope that leads to no one ever actually doing business. If Al is going to be uber sensitive - then he should explicitly tell people the details of his permission. Maybe there should be a contract on the back of his business cards. Not to mention Linked In allows mass exporting of your contact data. Why on earth would they ever allow that? What on earth is the reason to ever do a mass export? Hint: its because people actually want to use the data outside of Linked In. The number of links in the opt in email is silly as well. If you are changing the format of the email and asking for a double opt in why on earth wouldn't you highlight the that new format for them? Seems like a smart move to actually get people interested enough to opt-in. I wonder how successful that boring, text only email would have been. Would Al's company have suggested such a stale approach? This seems to me like blind email ideology and nothing more. Something tells me that Al would not have been so cavalier had it been one of his clients...and it very well could have been because I assure you they are doing it.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 18:20:31
Subject: One-to-One

It's interesting that you mention one-to-one. I see that plastered all across Mr. Iverson's company's website... so how is it that he has list management services that provide one-to-one communications but Mr. Karr's email is not "one-to-one"... it's SPAM?
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 18:06:43
Subject: So SPAM is only one-to-many?

Mr. Iverson, with all due respect... SPAM is not defined by whether the email is one-to-one or one-to-many.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 18:03:34
Subject: RE: Connection is not a newsletter

So Al - none of your clients take their email addresses out of one system and put it in an ESP? Really? Now you're changing your tune... LinkedIn is "making business connections of a more personal nature". What?! That's ridiculous... so it's not business, but it's kind of business, but it's really personal... but not really personal?
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:59:16
Subject: Cardinal Mistake

The cardinal mistake here is that Iverson gave his email address to a guy who might not handle it correctly. Hey Iverson, can I have your Social Security Number?
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:57:49
Subject: Connection is not a newsletter.

Permission to make a one-to-one connection is not permission to take my contact information out of one resource, add it to another, and contact me en masse. LinkedIn is for making business connections of a more personal nature. It is not for building your email list by pulling (scraping, harvesting, whatever you want to call it) the addresses of your contacts out of their system and into yours for a unsolicited commercial email, whether that email was a one-time COI email or not. My permission for you to contact me via LinkedIn do not extend to permission for you to contact me via other channels. As a businessman, you are showing extreme disrespect of your connections and their boundaries by doing this. Had your contacts on LinkedIn been interested enough in registering for your newsletter, they would have done so. Understand this about B2B. There are almost no FBLs, meaning that you seeing a complaint rate of 0% means almost nothing. I'd be more interested in seeing your rejections the next time you send.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:57:33
Subject: This is just flat out dumb

So Iverson gave Karr his email address and then got mad when Karr emailed him? Really? REALLY?
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:55:16
Subject: List Manager and Number of Links???

I didn't realize that a 'list manager' and the 'number of links' in an email constituted SPAM. I thought SPAM was unsolicited email. So if Karr sent the email from Outlook, it would not have been SPAM? But since he sent it from an email provider it was SPAM? Sounds like Mr. Iverson needs to go back to Deliverability School.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:38:41
Subject: RE: Yeah, I'm with Al

I didn't call Al for pizza. He accepted a connection to communicate with me within my professional BUSINESS network.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:37:16
Subject: Re: Cardinal Mistake

I never said I was an 'e-mail expert'. In fact, I had 2 other ACTUAL industry professionals hired to develop and execute this initiative. They never brought up any hesitation - mostly because they were taught this practices of 're-opting' in a subscriber by Al's company. At issue here was that the email came with a logo other than Al's company - so he saw fit to call me a spammer in public (that's what really p'd me off). One other note: While deliverability 'experts' ONLINE climbed aboard the Al Iverson bandwagon, I had several direct messages, emails and phone calls from other deliverability pros within the industry stating that I did nothing wrong. And the stats to date? 0.00% Complaint Rate on this campaign. That's the only stat I care about - not an overzealous deliverability guy lashing out.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:32:30
Subject: Yeah, I'm with Al.

Permission is not an all-or-nothing thing. If I call a place to order pizza, and give them my phone number, that doesn't mean they can call me five times a day to tell me about their specials. I gave them a number so the delivery guy could ask me to turn my lights on or ask for directions, not so they could put me on a marketing list. People who have expressed interest in personal communications from me personally have not necessarily asked for bulk communications from my company.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:31:21
Subject: Douglas Karr

Thanks for the fair debate, Ken! i appreciate you taking both sides and putting it out for everyone to see. That said, I also still don't see any evidence of SPAM, harvesting, nor violating permissions. That said, why would Al Iverson... a guy that I DO NOT KNOW outside of our business connection, provide me with access to his contact information? I really wanted an answer to this... what was he hoping that I would use it for? I don't know... maybe he was looking for a date. He should have connected with me on a dating site instead of LinkedIn if that were the case.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 17:25:27
Subject: I'm with Karr

Come on people, pull the stick out.
Posted by:
Date: 2011-01-11 15:57:39
Subject: Cardinal Mistake

Karr assumed permission, a cardinal mistake of e-mail marketing. If he wants to style himself an e-mail expert, he really ought to at least familiarize himself with best sender practices.