The reputation of email newsletters being:”The unsexy older cousin of social media” is a statement many nowadays would not question but after being tasked researching it for a brief month, I learnt there is actually a lot more depth in this medium – if given the time to grow.
Despite newsletters being constantly underestimated, many groups that utilize it, such as Artillery Marketing’s Douglas Burdett, warned that those:
In an interview with email veterans Tom Cullen and Michael Katz. They agreed that email can be seen as less sexy but that it still has great potential when given the right amount of time and nurturing.
As anyone can imagine, there are several ‘how to’s’ littered around online on creating newsletters and rather than quoting each and every one of them, I thought it would be more beneficial to touch on two recurring themes. Namely: personal touches and nurturing relationships.
The highlights of emails
‘Add a personal touch to emails’ – something nearly all the how to’s have advised and in my interview with Tom Cullen, he said:
“Facebook and Twitter have become so heavily used in a professional capacity, not just personal, that it is starting to lose that friendliness.
Unlike public social media, with email you can have a direct connection with your reader … and the fact that it is closed means it offers a club feel, like you are part of a click.”
Newsletters are a personal and direct approach to their inbox, and this is where email’s true value comes in. If you feel that it is becoming increasingly impossible to keep up with all the content being posted on your Twitter this also means your own articles are being lost in a sea of content and crap otherwise known as your audience’s Twitter feed.
Even for the standard Twitter addict – it is nearly impossible to keep track of all their feed’s tweets. Content will undoubtedly be missed. If you personalize your emails, however, you make a lasting impression directly to the reader’s inbox – after all they wouldn’t give you their email in the first place if they were not at least a little bit interested in your work and this is when the opportunity to nurture and grow your relationship with your audience comes in.
Emails are a chance to solidify that passing-interest and transform it into loyalty. Ideally, with time, you can embed your email newsletters into the daily life of your reader. No matter how many followers you accumulate, those few loyal readers that make your work a part of their daily life is worth far more than online views, many of which click on the link on a whim.
The business side of emails
Burdett Douglas (2014) said: “According to the Direct Marketing Association, the average ROI (Return on Investments) is 40:1. According to a study by Message Systems, 63% of marketers cite email as the channel that offers the best ROI.”
ROI (Return On Investments) is another one of email’s strong points. It has a very low start-up cost, especially compared to the ‘sexier’ forms of distribution, such as Facebook, which means any views or money coming in are a profit.
Despite this, my research suggests that email is still not a sure-fire technique with nothing to lose. The slowness of email newsletter success compared to the faster social medias such as Facebook or Twitter is lamentably noticeable as well as the time it takes producing it.
Considering that in the field of journalism speed is an important factor to take in, it must be more carefully balanced alongside the pros.
This is particularly the case for groups with limited sources or personnel (which happens to be the majority of independent journalists nowadays). If you are going to do it badly, don’t do it at all, the Internet is an unforgiving place for bad journalism and time needs to be invested intelligently.
We’re reaching the point where we need an email newsletter that provides a digest of all the email newsletters. — Markham Nolan (@markham) October 27, 2014
A peek into my research choices
After trying various ways to spread and achieve subscribers in my experiment, posting through Facebook and Twitter did, in fact, gain far more subscribers or views compared to other techniques but it also revealed the simple fact that other social media can easily achieve followers because it is a simple click of the button while email requires input of an email address (or name) and a commitment to directly receive newsletters.
People are: (according to Michael Katz) “Strangely protective of their inbox”. Unless behind a well-known name or already having built a strong community around a website or social media, asking readers to become loyal through email is unrealistic in a small time frame.
In my quest to perfect the product itself, I found myself spending longer than I thought I would compiling the perfect list of news and events each week to make sure the content was of the utmost quality while also learning how to use MailChimp to create it, RIOT to reduce lag time of each image and other tweaks like personalizing subscriptions, video editing etc. Unlike other social media, email is more focused on quality over quantity. planning over speed.
The overview of emails
The experiment showed that email is indeed the “unsexy cousin” of social media. Through articles, forums and forwarding – very few opened it. Once posted on Twitter and Facebook however, the web version of the newsletter was opened and read by many more but still often not subscribed to and separate posts containing the subscription link was utterly ignored. Since the browser-form of the newsletter was opened far more often, it may as well have been a blog post summary rather than a newsletter.
Perhaps, as the email veterans said, email publication is definitely not dying … but it certainly isn’t suited for those that are not willing to dedicate several months to see growth.
You seem to either require a large brand, a name for yourself, or dedicated a long time to build a community around a site or social media account for people to willingly give their email as a sign of loyalty.
One month or even two was simply not enough time to experiment with such a slow-growing platform. It is almost as if email addresses are the new home addresses of this decade in that people would only give it out to those they trust or have proven to provide valuable content and that obviously takes time to earn.
Despite this setback, my research did indicate it is still worth pursuing. Email is a strong way to build a relationship around interested readers, convert them into loyal ones and more importantly: (Burdett, 2013) “nurture the relationships”.
Only the continual weekly/monthly posting of newsletters will open the door to measurable results. After all, email:
“Is like a muscle, you need to continue using it to see results.” (Michael Kats, 2014)
— This is a brief presentation of my research essay —