Many artists will tell you that your mailing list is of supreme importance. It gives you a way of staying in touch with your art fans and potential collectors. You have it whether or not the social media platform you use falls out of favor. You can control its use and should protect it and grow it.
About thirty days ago, I started seeing an uptick in subscribers to my list. I was thrilled! They had normal looking email addresses from a wide variety of domains and I wondered how people were finding me. I must be doing something right. Yea, me! Then I started to get them every few hours. What is going on? I was hoping that some super famous artist or international art magazine somehow mentioned me, but that was not the case.
I logged into my newsletter service (Mailchimp) and took a closer look. Here is what I found:
My form only requires an email, but most people give at least a first name. As you can see, these names in recent sign-ups the name fields are filled with strings of letters and numbers. This was very suspicious. As is my way, I started Googling the issue.
I found several articles by people who have had the same problem. It seems that email addresses are collected by spammers and then entered into random forms on the web. I have no idea why this is advantageous to spammers, but I can explain why it is an issue for those of us who send emails to collectors and potential collectors.
Why is this a problem? Several reasons: 1) If the address is a valid address, then people who did not sign up will receive your email (and perhaps hundreds of others) and can (will?) report it as spam. You can then be put on automated lists keeping your REAL collectors from getting your newsletter. 2) Your "open" stats and other metrics will be waaaaaaay off. You will feel like you aren't connecting with your audience. 3) If your list is large enough, you may be paying to send to subscribers that will never benefit your community or your wallet.
Is this occurrence nefarious? I'm not sure, but by clicking on each subscriber individually, I did find no matter what location was listed the language was Russian:
So, you are aware of the problem. What now?
First, check your list. I ran a bunch of address through an email checker. I used one at Clean Talk. Some of my fake subscriber addresses were real; some were not. Most had been blacklisted. That made me confident that I was not deleting actual subscribers. Then, I deleted these fake subscribers.
I also activated the reCAPTCHA feature for my sign-up form. Full instructions are on Mailchimp help, but below is what I needed to know:
Another step is to require those who sign-up to receive and respond to a confirmation email. I haven't done that yet. (I do send an automated welcome email.) If the problem continues, I will add that step. I'm trying to keep it as easy as possible for people to join.
Other people have gone to the extreme of charging a (refundable) fee of $1 or $2 to sign-up, but if I did that, I would send the subscriber something, whether a postal postcard or a digital item by email.
Spam is a pain in many areas of online life, but as long as it exists, these tips should help you identify and eliminate it from your sign-up lists. I'd love to hear your experiences and if my tips work for you.