The ethics of using your e-mail list for social media

@Kevin | Strategy

In the last few weeks I have had some interesting discussions around the usage of a companies/bloggers e-mail subscription list to build social media accounts. The idea of using your opt in mailing lists and dumping them into social networking sites to build your accounts seems like a black and white issue when you first think about it. At first glance it looks rude, a violation of trust, and bending the rules of what the e-mail list was first established for. Instead of adding people to your social media accounts you should send out an e-mail letting them know you have established profiles on these outposts and where they can find you.

To be honest I have been on both sides of this discussion personally and professionally. And the more I think about the discussion the more I see it in thousands of different shades of grey. I wrote out some of the points that I think make arguments for and against doing this. Before I launch into that though I want to throw out a few things that I am assuming here.

1) You aren’t adding everyone to every social network at all once- Yeah that is kind of dirty and spam like in my opinion. When a user sees you adding them across multiple places at one time that comes off as creepy.

2) You don’t have hundreds of thousands of people on your mailing list- Of course if you had that many people you wouldn’t be able to add them all at once and at that size it probably is smarter to send out a message to everyone informing them of your profiles.


It is impersonal- Below I am going to argue that it is a personal way to reach someone for certain types of businesses but here I am taking the stance that it is kind of cold and impersonal. You are basically doing a mass add and it isn’t tailored to individuals in any way, shape, or form. It is all about numbers, which social media shouldn’t be about.

People may not want to be associated with your brand in that way- Let’s say you run a website about a medical condition or a hobby or product someone might not want people to know they use or participate in. By reaching out and having them on your profile because you invited them may make someone feel violated a little bit and very uncomfortable about their association with you.

You are taking the control away from the person a little bit- Sure they have the choice to friend/follow you or not but approaching them this way is a little aggressive and off-putting.


It shows that you care and is a personal touch- For arguments sake lets say you have a personal type blog or run a small service type business. By adding your readers or customers to social networks when you are in either of these groups it often is perceived as you extending your already somewhat personal connection. If anything it builds a relationship more and turns people into a further advocate.  “Oh look they found me important enough to follow me.”

It allows people to connect with you on their preferred service- Some customers/readers might feel more comfortable communicating with you on this social network or platform as opposed to traditional means. They see this as a win because they now can deal with you on their preferred means of communication and your adding them as being proactive.

It is still an opt in choice for them- They don’t have to add you back, you are presenting an option for them to do it or not.

Like I said I can see the debates and arguments on both sides of this but personally I think this needs to be taken on a case by case basis where what type of person or company is going to do this, what the brand thinks about it, and who is the core audience you are reaching out to.

How do you feel about using a company/blogger e-mail list to build a base on social networks?