Emails from social networks are marked as spam 100% more often then those from other sectors, and in the case of Friends Reunited, one in four of its emails failed to reach the inbox. 

According to Return Path, the deliverability issue is partly a result of spam complaints from recipients, which suggests that social networks need to take a closer look at the issue. 

Friends Reunited sends around 30m emails per month, and found that almost 33% were not reaching subscribers' inboxes. While 5.7% ended up in recipients' spam folders, 27% were blocked at ISP level. 

Return Path managed to improve this deliverability rate from 67.1% in May to 92.5% in June 2010, but the fact that ISPs are blocking such a high percentage of social network emails suggest that others may need to look at their email strategies. 

I suspect the sheer volume of emails from Facebook, Twitter and others is a big part of the problem, and perhaps these sites need to send fewer emails, or bundle news into a daily update. 

With emails telling you that someone has commented on your photo, or that you have a new follower, the number of emails soon mounts up, and for people who have become disinterested, its often easier to hit the spam button than the unsubscribe link. 

These firms need to make it easy for people to unsubscribe from emails, and also provide options to allow subscribers to adjust their preferences and reduce the frequency of emails

facebook email

You can immediately unsubscribe from all Facebook emails, and this process take just two clicks from the email, though you need to login to adjust preferences. This is a good approach though, as it allows you to hold on to subscribers who may otherwise opt out. 

Another tactic is to remove inactive subscribers from databases as they are much more likely to hit the spam button, driving down reputation metrics, and affecting the deliverability of the whole database. 

Deliverability issues also represent a waste of marketing budgets; Econsultancy's Email Census 2010 found that companies lost an average of 9% of their email budget due to non-delivery of emails. 

Graham Charlton

Published 12 August, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (5)



The other issue is that a lot of the web services / social media services don't seem to really understand how email works. I've seen plenty of them put their services live with mail configured so badly that it would be dropped by 90% of mail servers immediately!

almost 8 years ago


Andrew Bonar |

FriendsReunited had truly horrible deliverability stats that is without a doubt. High levels of spam complaints tends to do that. There is a bit of a history of some poor practice with email at FriendsReunited. It has also gone through a succession of owners, I bet there were allot of things in a mess. Your correct also that volume has a significant part to play in email deliverability, however done right there is no need for deliverability to be impacted by your volume. Most ISP's are pretty clear how much mail you can send, how many messages at a time etc. A sophisticated outbound mail agent like powerMTA would handle this for you easily enough. Another issue will be when your selling your network the numbers count, so I am sure they previous owners looking to offload the database would not have been to keen to cull their member lists by too much. I completely agree that it is imperative that you remove inactive subscribers for better deliverability, but I am pretty sure that FriendsReunited got themselves where they did because deliverability was not the primary concern and there were other business elements, concerns and stakeholder issues at play that took precedence. This meant deleting subscribers may well have not been the right thing to do for the business, even if its best for deliverability... So when a new owner comes along and wants to make a real go off things and take a serious look at its email practices it is not really a surprise that RP can create such 'dramatic' results. Andrew Bonar

almost 8 years ago



Friends Reunited sends around 30m emails per month, and found that almost 33% were not reaching subscribers' inboxes. While 5.7% ended up in recipients' spam folders, 27% were blocked at ISP level.

almost 8 years ago


Ecommerce Web Design

Very Well Said Andrew ! Thanks

almost 8 years ago



Spam Sleuth can be set to work in one of two modes of operation. In polling mode, it will periodically connect to your mail servers, filter the messages and delete any that are deemed to be spam (copies of these messages are kept by the program should you need to "rescue" them later). This leaves your mail server with only good messages which can be downloaded by your regular e-mail client.

almost 8 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.