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Email Marketing and Social Media, Part 1: Adding Social Media to the Email Newsletter

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Email is not dying in the midst of the social-media revolution. As one social-networking company said to me, "accurate delivery of email is a main part of our deliverable."

Flipping that situation around: How can we, as emailers, best leverage the new social-marketing applications?

Let's consider the simple email newsletter and expand it to include social marketing.

Simplify

The first thing you should do is to consider the wordiness of your writing. Make it short and snappy, as your readers are likely on a mobile phone and unwilling to scroll and zoom, or tilt sideways, on their iPhone.


Include plenty of links to follow up and read in more detail. Keep images meaningful, well-labeled in alt-text.

Don't clutter it up with images solely used to manage layout issues (like spacer GIFs or transparent pixels), as they will appear broken and messy. The single-pixel GIF is OK if kept at the footer.

Recognize that they're subscribing to more than email

With the advent of micro-blogging tools, you can repurpose your content, in the form of mini updates, on several platforms, such as Tumblr, Facebook, your blog, your site, or Plurk.

From the user's perspective, this creates a whole range of subscription styles. Include a link to follow your company, or a newsletter theme, on each of those sites.

Also, create a user on those sites—and make it a real person, nothing is tackier than a fake avatar—and post your content on those sites. Once that's created, you can syndicate content from those sites and add them to aggregators such as FriendFeed and Social|Median.

Take those feed-of-feeds and create a feed, and add that to your newsletter. Now your email should have the following sidebar links: Follow me on Twitter, FaceBook, FriendFeed, Tumblr, etc.

To simplify and consolidate posting updates, consider Ping.fm; it will make your job as an author much easier.

Find your customers

If you're feeling overwhelmed, do some research. Find out where your customers are online and what social media they are using. While the traditional database marketer may want to find demographics on each social application, you can do it another way.

Contact a random sample of your customer base and find them, via email address, on the different sites. Determine which is a significant presence, and invest your time and energy on those platforms. The results may surprise you, so set aside biases.

Check your competitors

Where are they? Determine whether they are active on a particular application, such as Twitter, and determine whether co-existing is problematic.

There are options to create your own social network—such as Ning. Note, such sites can be a burden to maintain, and there is far less networking and internetworking available—you can't leverage existing circles of friends and acquaintances, a feature that makes Twitter such an amazing application.

The Bottom Line

Customers are telling you how they want information. Be prepared: It may not be just via email.


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Anna Billstrom is a technical database marketing consultant. She blogs at Adventures in Email Marketing (www.banane.com/workblog). Contact her at anna_billstrom@yahoo.com.

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  • by Kim E. Tue Aug 26, 2008 via web

    Great rundown of how to integrate social networking efforts! For those who want to find out what networks their existing members are on, check Rapleaf http://business.rapleaf.com/ I haven't used their service yet but I'm working on it :)

  • by Achinta M Tue Aug 26, 2008 via web

    Hi Anna,

    Very useful tips. Adding Social Media features to the newsletter is a very good idea. I liked your instructions on how to implement them.

    Your article reinforced my thoughts about the continuing usefulness of e-newsletters in B2B marketing. I had blogged about this topic yesterday on a post called “E-Mail Marketing is Alive ‘N Kickin'.

    I’ve added a link to your article as a follow up. You can find it at http://industrialmarcom.typepad.com/industrial_marcom_blog/

  • by Brandon Sutton Tue Aug 26, 2008 via web

    Great article Anna! We've been pushing these ideas for some time now, but it surprises me how many clients are resistant to announce their presence on the big networks to their email lists. I've found that some people don't want to risk losing readers of their emails to Facebook, MySpace, etc. We believe that wherever we can get the message out, we should get it out. Some people are just not going to pay as much attention to an email as they will a page or message on a social network. Since their attention is already in that space, the message is more likely to be received and even appreciated, depending on the context.

    Great job pushing this idea out!

  • by Kim Tue Aug 26, 2008 via web

    I just attended a webinar presented by Rapleaf re: their services and offerings. Isn't there concerns about privacy rules re: use of emails?

  • by Anna Wed Aug 27, 2008 via web

    @Kim- I'll checkout RapLeaf, thanks for the tip. I don't know about the privacy issues with RapLeaf, but generally I'm opposed to back-filling data on customers without their permission or knowledge, so there may be some issue.

    @Marchita- I'll read the article, and thanks for the link! Us email marketers need to definitely step up to the challenge of the new social arena, it's true.

    @Brandon- You've really touched on a key concern here, how companies are seeing it as a loss of readers, whereas I see it as a gain. Well, if companies aren't catering to content in different apps, like Facebook, it is a loss, and they need to start distribuint content according to how their customers want it!

  • by Steven Shaffer Wed Aug 27, 2008 via web

    Maybe I missed it, but I believe the addition of social media features directly into the email, i.e. a feature like www.sharethis.com, as well as ASKING readers to share (and giving them a reason to) are a must.

  • by Steven Shaffer Wed Aug 27, 2008 via web

    Great article, though. All good.

  • by Anna Wed Aug 27, 2008 via web

    Steven- Thanks, those are definitely key to an email marketing campaign that "gets" social networking. Check my post here for more info on designing a rather traditionally formatted campaign that aligns its core content with social networking, in fact, it had no offer in it and the email outperformed top sales campaigns. http://www.banane.com/workblog/?p=218

  • by Janet Fouts Tue Sep 2, 2008 via web

    Great article Anna,
    So many ways people can integrate social media tools into their email campaigns and add even more value to them.
    Email newsletters aren't dead, just the old ways of using them!

  • by Kevin Horne Wed Sep 3, 2008 via web

    Interesting through and through. My situation is probably off on a tangent, but my "e-mail" is my daily blog which 99% of readers are opting to get via RSS rather than a true e-mail sub. Feedburner is so unreliable all i can get are raw volume stats (vs. e-mail platforms which would tell me opens, click thrus, etc.). Kind of flying blind, you would say.

    I guess I need to leverage Facebook more, for starters. But if you are up for a follow-up article, how about "How To Get More Out Of The RSS Subscribers to Your E-mail Content?" ;)

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