Social Networks and Bacn – The Good, Bad, and Ugly

As social networks increase their use of email marketing in order to drive more site traffic and user frequency, bacn has come back into the headlines. Bacn was described by The New York Times in 2007 as “Impersonal e-mail messages that are nearly as annoying as spam but that you have chosen to receive.” Bacn is one example that proves that email has not been murdered by social media but instead is sizzling hot due to social networks’ increasingly strong reliance on email marketing to get its users back and active on their sites. So blame social media for the extra order of bacn in 2011. Even Dow Jones MarketWatch interviewed me for a radio spot on the surge of bacn.

These types of emails are often dismissed as annoying, yet they drive traffic, high response rates, and ROI, and for the end subscriber (oh yeah, us email marketers often forget about her) they provide something essential to the relationship you have with the sender. Sometimes it’s a shipping confirmation, a welcome email, or statement balance. With social networks as the hub for many Internet users, email is the bridge informing you of everything under the sun as it relates to your friends, followers, and connections, all with the goal of getting you back on their site.

The bacn messages most certainly take up space in your end box, but you want them and gave permission, right? Let’s take a look at how the three big social networks bring home the bacn.


Facebook states that about 600 million people visit the site each month, and that about half come back every day. Besides the addictive nature of the social network, what gets its users to come back? Emails notifying that a user commented on a photo, a new friend request, or your ex-girlfriend’s birthday. That’s bacn.



Twitter has followed this trend and raised it once playing up to the average tweeter’s sense of vanity and needing to know what is happening in real time. Emails are now instantly sent notifying a user when they are mentioned, retweeted, and followed. This is some self-satisfying bacn.



The best email marketer of the social trinity, LinkedIn is constantly adding new features to its email mix and it’s geared toward empowering the user with choice (opt down from Group emails) and information (overview of your network’s activities).

LinkedIn also uses the Amazon methodology of “you bought this, so you may be interested in that” in its connection confirmation emails, suggesting other new contacts from your new connection’s network as well as companies to follow (a relatively underused feature).


The popularity of these social emails has meant phishing scams that look like a real piece of bacn from these networks have emerged and are dangerous since so many consumers won’t pause for a moment to click on the email that looks like it’s from Facebook. So keep an eye out for that and make the most of this potentially satisfying email dish.

Tips and Best Practices to Follow if You Deliver the Bacn

  • Provide users with the ability to control frequency, type of messages, and other settings so these don’t backfire and send the subscriber running to your competitor.
  • Leverage the treasure trove of data to customize the message to increase the value and relevancy of each and every message.
  • Ensure you have designed, coded, and tested your messages to still deliver the essential information when a subscriber has images turned off.
  • Make sure your subject line clearly teases the purpose and value of the email.
  • Have your marketing people own these, not IT, and remember to update creative and cross-promotional elements frequently .
  • Don’t have automated messages that are essential to someone’s relationship with your company segue into more promotional emails without getting a true opt-in. I would argue LinkedIn Today (a top headlines email I didn’t sign up for) crosses a line since I didn’t sign up for it and I clearly don’t “need” it for my LinkedIn membership. CAN-SPAM then becomes applicable as well, since it is not considered a transactional email and this email (below) is not fully CAN-SPAM compliant.


What’s your take on bacn and do you need it or despise it?

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