What can we learn from SPAM? Turns out, a lot – about us, about how to and how not to get folks to care about our message, cause, and/or communication. Herewith is what I honestly believe in my heart of hearts to be an actual SPAM message. I’ll dissect it to see what all we can learn from said SPAM message.
Mariam Yak has sent you a message.
Mariam and I are connected on LinkedIn… she has three connections. Upon receiving this SPAM I have already disconnected from her. Zero tolerance. You SPAM me with crap, I disconnect.
Subject: VERY IMPORTANT
Not really. Terrible way to set expectations Mariam. SPAM is never VERY IMPORTANT. In fact, Mariam, you’ve called too much attention to your message and the ALL CAPS wears on folks.
We’re NOT friends. Mariam should have used my first name to make it personal to me. Something like… “Hey William” … knowing me, that’s how I’d greet me.
My name is Mariam Yak, 21 years old originated from Sudan. I want to have a good relationship with you. My father Dr. Justin Yak Arop was the former Minister for SPLA Affairs and Special Adviser to President Salva Kiir of South Sudan for Decentralization.
WTF is originated from Sudan. Packages originate. Here’s the thing… get command of the English language. The first paragraph is your opportunity to get the reader on your side… it usually starts NOT with something about you, but something about them. Like this… “William, it seems from your LinkedIn profile that you know something about HR… the human condition at work. That’s really interesting to me, etc.” Also, I want to have a good relationship with you… again, WTF is that? Are you hitting on me? This just got weird Mariam. Thanks. Also, I have no idea where the Sudan actually is. I believe it is in Africa… but, Africa is one giant mystery to me from a geography perspective. The last two paragraphs are gibberish to me… a bunch of meaningless names, acronyms, organizations and places I’ve never heard or care about. You’ve given me NO hook… no real reason to give a shit about you Mariam. Surely, your second paragraph wins me over.
My father Dr. Justin Yak and my mother including other top Military officers and top government officials had been on board when the plane crashed on Friday May 02, 2008.
Sad, but, people die every single day. Why am I getting this note Mariam? I desperately want to be pulled in to this elaborate story Mariam. Work with me.
You can read more about the crash through the below site:
Okay, BBC… reputable source… 2 points… also, Mr. Yak is mentioned in the article. That’s good but you should have mentioned that… meaning, I should NOT have to connect the dots.
After the burial of my father, my uncle conspired and sold my father’s properties to a Chinese Expatriate and lives nothing for me. On a faithful morning, I opened my father’s briefcase and found out the documents which he have deposited huge amount of money in one bank with my name as the next of kin. I traveled to Benin Republic to withdraw the money so that I can start a better life and take care of myself.
The intrigue for me is… who is the antagonist in the story now… the Uncle or the Chinese Expatriate? I’m awkwardly curious. And then Mariam you do it again… “lives nothing for me” means nothing. Dammit… I was starting to get the point… I was starting to believe in you… and you lost me with your lack of attention to detail. Also, “huge amout of money” – really? WTF… this would have been a perfect time to bore me with details. Lastly, where in the holy hell is the Benin Republic? Is it next to the Banana Republic? Mariam, context… we live and breathe with context.
On my arrival, the Branch manager of the Bank whom I met in person told me that my father’s instruction to the bank was the money be release to me only when I am married or present a trustee who will help me and invest the money in Sudan or overseas and I want you to help me because nobody knows tomorrow and am sending this message to you with tears.
Here’s the thing… too many “or’s” in this paragraph. Married “or” trustee… money in Sudan “or” overseas. Or’s have sunk your credibility Mariam. And, really, tears… you sent me a SPAM message with years. Better be fucking dolphin tears.
I have chosen to contact you after my prayers and I believe that you will not betray my trust. But rather take me as your own family. Though you may wonder why I am so soon revealing myself to you without knowing you, well, I will say that my mind convinced me that you are the true person to help me and you have nothing to lose with this matter.
Interesting use of the word “trust”… seeing that I don’t know you and my first communication from you has done nothing but eliminate your credibility. Trust is most definitely a word I wouldn’t use. Dammit Mariam, “my mind convinced me” – WTF is that?
More so, I will like to disclose much to you if you can help me to relocate to your country because my uncle has threatened to assassinate me. The amount is $4.5Million with the 20 kilo of gold dust and I have confirmed from the bank in Benin Republic .You will also help me to place the money in a more profitable business venture in your Country. However, you will help by recommending a nice University in your country so that I can complete my studies.
Oh no… turns out the Uncle is Devil reincarnated… and Mariam, I would have used the word “kill” rather than assassinate. It’s a modest slip up compared to the others you’ve made but here in America, we only assassinate “known” people. You know, the money isn’t that much to me… I was really hoping for a larger payday. Now, I am quite curious about the gold dust however. Also, “your Country” would have been a perfect place to personalize… the United States or even more so for me… in Texas, etc. Lastly, introducing new facts at this point is too much… you want me to recommend a University and… wait, you’re a student. Too generic… you should have introduced those facts earlier in the story.
It is my intention to compensate you with 25% of the total money for your services and the balance shall be my capital in your establishment. As soon as I receive your interest in helping me, I will put things into action immediately. In the light of the above, I shall appreciate an urgent message indicating your ability and willingness to handle this transaction sincerely which I would like you to forward me your full information in your next reply including your Phone number and your country. Please do keep this only to yourself. I beg you not to disclose it till I come over because I am afraid of my wicked uncle who has threatened to kill me.
This is the classic “give to get” call to action paragraph… but, Mariam, my get is very confusing… specifically, what will be my take? How will we split the gold dust? I want clarity Mariam. For instance, William, I know I am asking a lot of you… here’s what you’ll get in return, etc. Bore me with specifics. And, wait, I can’t tell anyone about this plum deal. Really? Well that just sucks, Mariam.
Please reply to my email Address firstname.lastname@example.org
Why in the world is Address capitalized? WTH. Details, details, details.
What we learned in grade school about sentence construction, paragraph construction, great transitions still applies… to SPAM, cover letters and thank you notes. When penning one of these… ask yourself… what’s the objective of my communication? How clear can I make my story? Will the reader understand my message and/or take the action that I want them to take, etc.?
Poor Mariam, I never responded… I trust her mean ass Uncle didn’t assassinate her. That said, I’m still thinking about that gold dust. Yes, I’m that shallow.
William is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He’s written over 200 HR articles, spoken at over 150 HR & recruiting conferences and he’s conducted over 1000 HR podcasts. William prides himself on being easy to find on The Internet, Google him and connect with him via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email.
William serves on the Board of Advisors for Talentegy, Wellocity, GlitchPath, Talent Ninja, Universum Americas, Engagedly, Echovate, VibeCatch, Continu, Hyphen, Bevy, Happie, RolePoint, Causecast, Work4Labs, Talent Tech Labs, and SmartRecruiters. He was previously an advisor to PeopleMatter (sold to Snagajob Q2 2016), Good.Co (sold to StepStone Q1 2016), Smarterer (sold to Pluralsight Q4 2014) and a board member of Chequed (merged to create OutMatch Q3 2015).
William is a graduate of the University of Alabama of Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.