Using BCC to email people in bulk? Shame on you.

Using BCC to email people in bulk? Shame on you.

A few months ago I received an email from Vodafone. It was addressed to 1000+ Vodafone subcontractors. I know, because they were all listed in the CC field. I can imagine several of those subcontractors going through the list, finding out who their competitors were and maybe giving them a call to discuss and coordinate their upcoming negotiations with Vodafone.

Last night at 1am, I received an email addressed to every technology blogger and journalist in The Netherlands. I know, because they were all listed in the CC field. Within minutes some of them started to reply, to all, with jokes about the ineptitude of the PR person who screwed up. I’m sure those replies will continue for a while and this PR person is not having a good week.

Something can be learned from all this. And no, it isn’t just to pay attention to what fields you use. I think the lesson here is more important and structural. Email is a serious technology which is way too easy to abuse. People abuse it knowingly (spammers) and unknowingly (accidental Reply-Alls and CC and BCC mixups) and we all suffer.

So what should we do? We should realize that the BCC field is not something you should ever use. Never ever. If you think about using it there are basically two options: you should email less people or use a dedicated tool like Mailchimp.

If you want to promote your upcoming event you could simply paste everybody you know into the BCC field. But that doesn’t really work. We all notice it when you do that. The effectiveness of such an email is incredibly low. Take those 1000 people you want to email through the BCC field and select only 50. Now go through your email and find the last email they sent you. Reply to that, say something nice to them and then invite them to your event. The response will be 1000% more productive. Sure, it will mean more work. But it will be worth it.

Lets say you have good reason to email more than 50 people. Don’t be an amateur and use the BCC field. There is too much at stake here and too much to lose. Sign up for a professional newsletter service, like Mailchimp (which we love and use ourself), or any of the other services out there. You won’t ever be at risk of using the BCC field, you will have statistics and an archive and people will be able to unsubscribe to your email easily.

If you want results you will have to put in the work. Taking a shortcut just doesn’t cut it. If you are a professional and using the BCC field to contact lots of people, frankly, as it dramatic as it sounds, you should be ashamed of yourself.

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