Why faux friendliness gets emails deleted

Do you start your emails with “I hope this finds you well”? Cut it out. Forced chumminess, apologies, and praise prompt the author—and myriad others—to trash online solicitations. Are you guilty?

I’m sure there’s a ton of evidence that shows personalizing subject lines increases open rates.

I’m not going to bother researching it for you, because I know it exists. Heck, Publishers Clearing House made its business on throwing as much personalization into its direct mail and messaging as possible.

Seeing my name on a lot of direct mail and mass email is fine. People I don’t know call me David all the time. It’s my name. What I find highly irritating is when total strangers use faux engagement in mass emails as part of an incredibly lazy ruse to try to trick me into paying attention to them.

Mass faux engagement takes many forms, such as:

Faux friendliness

Often, after a salutation, I’ll get an opening greeting such as:

How’s it going?

I hope the week is going well.

You looking forward to the Super Bowl?

I hope you’re having a good day!

What is the expected response here? It’s a mass-mailed message. The sender obviously does not care how my day is going. This is just a poorly veiled ploy to get me to respond. This is a move one would pull on a moron, and if we were morons you probably wouldn’t want us writing about your product.

Faux apologies

This is where the opening line apologizes for the mere existence of the email. I’ve received messages that begin:

Sorry to bug you.

Apologies if you’re receiving this a second time.

The sender is not sorry that I’m receiving this second time. We don’t usually apologize for something we’re actively and consciously doing. There are only two things that could have happened: I missed it, or I saw it and I deleted it. That’s it. Nothing else happened. The sender shouldn’t be apologizing for sending the message a second time; they should say they’re sending it a second time hoping that they might be able to catch my interest now.

For all those people sending faux apology emails, stop apologizing. If you’re going to do something you think someone will find annoying, don’t do it. If you do it, own up to it and explain why you’re sending something that’s likely to irritate the recipient.

In addition to stopping faux apologies, you can also avoid predicting how busy I am.

Faux praise

Here’s a message I just received. I have changed the names of the person and the company.

Hi {first name}!

I’m Matt, the Community Manager over at COMPANY X. Pleasure to connect with you!

We love your blog and all of the great social media marketing tools that you share.

First thing we all notice is their mass mail didn’t work. They obviously didn’t test it properly. But the second line is what gets me. They’re trying to compliment me, but it’s obviously a blanket compliment that they’ve given to everyone on their mailing list.

Do they truly love all our blogs and all the social media marketing tools that we all share? Wow, they must have a lot of love to give out.

That could be the case; the more plausible explanation is that they’re lying. If engagement is the goal, opening with a lie is probably not a good tactic.

Call out faux engagement

Faux engagement is a hideous, obnoxious trend that must end. If you’re responsible for sending faux engagement emails, stop it. It’s having the opposite effect. We all think you’re an a-hole.

Those who are subjected to faux engagement should respond to the a-hole and call foul. If enough of us do it, this irritating trend will come to a rapid death.

David Spark is the founder of the brand journalism firm Spark Media Solutions and co-host of the Tear Down Show. A version of this article originally ran on his blog, Spark Minute.


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