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.
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.