Having worked in the Marketing departments of 2 large firms for the last 5 years of my Web Development & Digital career, I have grown to appreciate the importance of being able to speak with your customer base or audience. While these two groups might be one and the same for your website or blog, the aim is definitely to establish a relationship with an audience and engage to later become your customer base even if you are only selling advertising on your online presence.
While there many levels to how specific and targeted you can become in your strategy, this guide aims to explain why you should at least start to collect & maintain a basic subscriber list if you aren’t already. If you are collecting a newsletter subscriber list already, good on you, this articles is designed to serve as a reminder as to why you should keep up the good work. You might even find way to improve on your current newsletter subscriber list.
1. Full ownership & control over your followers sourced
This one is a little harder to understand just from the heading however, in my opinion is the most important reason of them all. If you never read another point, and walk away from this article only having read this point, you would acquired the cream of this article.
Most blogs or websites nowadays have caught on to the power of using social media platforms to acquire, grow & engage their audience right where they are already spend most of their time while online. Whether on the go or actually settle down to relax, more people these days use social media to fill in those boring moments in life by catching up on what’s happening in their friends lives e.g. using Facebook. This as you can imagine has resulted in the rule of thumb becoming, if you have a blog or website, you must also have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and an Instagram profile at the bare minimum. Some blogs and websites have been birthed out of a Facebook page due to the ease of use and relevant low need for technical skills in setting up one.
The problem then comes after you have worked hard to build your number followers up, with a lot of sweat and tears, requests, invites & engaging content; when one day you wake up and Facebook or other platforms have changed their terms and conditions. Even worse they could have changed their code on purpose to reduce the number of people who get to see you Page posts, despite indicating that they want to follow you, so you can pay to promote further to your already acquired followers.
When you maintain your own newsletter subscriber list direct from your blog or website, you don’t have this problem. You control and manage who gets to see your communications when you send them a newsletter, no middle man. You determine the terms and conditions and reduce the risk of your followers not seeing your message down to, whether they open your email or not.
2. Users don’t live online, they live in the real world
I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to you but not everyone is online all the time. Most people actually have tasks, commitments and other engagements in their day to day lives e.g. work. I am one of the few people privileged to work, online and with social media so I a more socially active than most people. That being said, other people work doesn’t include a computer or forbids the use of mobile devices for focus and other reasons.
This means the time they are not online could mean they don’t see your well thought out and beautifully crafted message on social platforms like your Facebook page. Twitter is even worse as it encourages short messages but in high volume which can be very hard to keep up with even for me.
When you maintain a mailing list however, if your subscribers are not online at the moment you sent the message, they don’t get left behind. Your email will still be there in their inbox, waiting for them to attend to it at their leisure.
3. Low deactivation of email accounts vs. deactivation of Facebook accounts
Don’t ask me why people do this, as it is beyond me, but some people from time to time feel the need to delete their Facebook profiles/accounts. The reasons I’ve heard for this behaviour seems to vary from case to case. Some feel the technology is consuming too much time from their lives and they need to get away from it i.e. addictive, some are running away from a bad relationship break up and it’s associated social complexities and others better still for religious reasons. The latter is my personal favourite on the list of things I still struggle to wrap my head around.
No matter the reason or cause for one to deactivate their Facebook account, the result is a person you might not be communicating with if you are relying solely on that platform. If you also have the same user following you on another platform, we already talked about the shortcomings those platforms may have e.g. Twitter being too high volume and users can get lost in the noise.
Email addresses however seem to be used more consistently and deactivated way less. Yes, email accounts can be abandoned or neglected however even the social media platforms themselves use them still to get you signed up to them, subsequently communicate back to you and validate/authenticate you are really you when you forget your password. I could stop this article here and say, “so why aren’t you” but that would be missing the bigger picture and this point.
These online social platforms understand that you might change email accounts but you will always at the very least have one. In fact, I have never heard anyone say they are about to deactivate their email account because it is taking over their life, but I have heard so many people say that about their favourite social media platforms’ account.
4. Some people don’t use social media vs. some people have at least one email account.
Now if you are a part of the young, instant, we want it now, microwave generation like myself, you might want to sit down before reading this next part. There are some people on the planet that don’t have a Facebook account. More so, some of these people have a computer and a reliable internet connection but do not have the desire to have a Facebook profile or online presence. Let that sink in.
To drag you out of your potential shock from this information, I would like you to realise that there are also people who don’t have email accounts. So be of good cheer. The difference between the two, having an email address or having a social profile, lies in the fact that former is more necessary while the latter is more optional in our present world.
As users and consumers of information ourselves, we have become accustomed to having at least one email address in our lives for use in many purposes. That job you do, that university application you are about to make, government forms, job applications and every other form you fill in your daily lives (real world or online) wants or must have your email address. This makes it less likely for your followers to deactivate their email address. Which is why you should probably talk to them through the email medium, as well as their social platform of choice.
5. Better abuse management – block-list
Anyone that has managed a Facebook page, blog or website with a large number of users understands the need for some form of abuse censorship. While the rules around online censorship can get quite tricky, most social platforms now give you the ability to blacklist certain individuals if you deem they have poor conduct.
While this is a good start, my only gripe with this system is it is a reactive feature that only comes into play after the crime has been committed publicly for all to see. I could argue that this could have negative polarisation for all other followers that pick up on the online crime or a decrease in brand image but I won’t as it really depends on how good you are at handling such situations. Let’s just say most large organisations have teams of people working together to avert such crises.
On the other hand, email has a prevention is better than cure approach to this – prevention from such negative encounters going public that is. As email newsletters are personal and go to the individual, if they are disgruntled, spam or abused you in response, this is usually isolated from public view. Crisis management can then proceed while all is well with the rest of the world. Should things really go south or take a terrible turn with a user, they can opt out or you can simply stop communicating to them by removing them from the send list.
6. We’re moving house or platforms
Let’s face it, todays hot social media platform is not necessarily going to be king of the hill tomorrow. Somewhere in a garage, halfway across the globe might a team of people working on the next best solution. Even more common these days, a much larger company might be close to buy the next best start up solution to give themselves a much better package & ultimately the upper hand in the user marketshare.
When that happens, and the trend change comes full circle to a new king of the hill, you will also need to jump ship or re-prioritise your efforts to this platform. In some cases this is easier said than done. Ask anyone that was popular on MySpace and see if that carried over equally to Facebook or Twitter. Even closer to yourself, see if you number of followers on Instagram or Twitter are the same as your Facebook friends/followers.
This online market change however does not affect your newsletter subscriber list, no one is lost or left behind. In fact, you subscriber list is isolated from the changes altogether. This is also becomes very important when maybe you have to change the software that runs your blog or website. Maybe you have out grown it or just need to redesign it. A newsletter subscriber list is a great way to communicate this upcoming change to all followers or to repopulate the new platform with existing users.
7. Two sticks are better than one
This article isn’t about abandoning social media altogether to go back to using the old technology that is emails. It does emphasize and highlight the importance of a less trendy but still powerful technology or strategy in emails. After you see the benefits of a newsletter subscriber list, the hope is that you use both social media and a mailing list as a 2 tier communication campaign. This can prove to be a powerful, fault tolerant and future proof approach as your blog or website grows.
8. It’s not just business, it’s personal
While definitely social media is the more casual side of a website or blog, it is still broadcast in nature. By that I mean there is not way to customise your communications to be personal to the reader. This you definitely can achieve in a newsletter mailing to have the recipients name included in the subject line & other custom details in the message body for a communication made. You can even design emails to only have information that matches the indicated interests of the subscriber to make it more relevant. While how to do all of this is outside of the scope of this article, this customisation can invoke a greater sense of a one on one conversation if executed well.
Conclusion: Should collect a newsletter subscriber list?
Our worlds is always advancing, exceptionally faster in the online & digital space. The temptation then becomes to hop on to the next bandwagon, leaving the old one even when there isn’t need to discard to old method. Newsletters mailing lists are still useful and shouldn’t be overshadowed by other shinier options we have. I hope you can now see why it is still worthwhile your effort as add more and more platforms to you list of accounts to manage.
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