I've added an "invite your friends" feature to my site but reading through can-spam, it seems as if invites should be classified as unsolicited emails.
But invites must be can-spam compliant because everybody (facebook, google, microsoft, yahoo) uses them...does anybody have a good explanation for this ?
Note I'm following all can-spam rules (unsubscribe link, etc)
Thanks in advance.
The can-spam laws mainly state that you have to disclose that an advertisement is an advertisement if it is sent by email, and that you give your recipients an option to unsubscribe or opt out from your marketing list.
The bigger issue is getting blacklisted for your mail server, domain, etc.
This is why you see services such as constant contact, awebber, mailchimp and so on require that you have mailing lists that actually want to receive your emails.
The good news is that with an invite your friends feature you should not have tons of emails going out where it would be conceived as spam. I would also look into programming the invite your friends feature through a FB plugin where you could post something to your member's friends wall.
The facebook API has changed a lot since I last looked at it, so i dont know if this is possible. I know you can at a minimum have it update the subscribers wall.
Think of some more creative ways to do invites, and take a look at how sites like facebook and linkedin do it for guidance.
Don't forget most 'invite your friends' emails are either a) originated from the users email account (and thus not unsolicited, and open to the general exception that if a user is in the receivers contact book it will pass), or b) contains the name and/or email address of a contact from the receiver's address book (and likely won't trigger a spam filtering).
I would recommend reading some of A Smart Bear's archives on SPAM for reference, and to really get your fill of what it is about SPAM people hate. On the flip side, for your own reference here is the FTC's compliance guide.