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 RedPillEmail.com 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.”