I’ve been semi-obsessed with the idea of building social media communities for over half a decade. For the last 3 years I’ve been trying to build a Twitter following. I’ve got over 4,000 so far but there’s something about it which I’ve started to feel less than comfortable with. I think it’s largely because the site (much like Facebook Likes) can often feel like a competition which we’ve all unspokenly brought into.
A month ago I started to play around with MailChimp. And built myself a mailing list. Why?
Here are just a few reasons why I think having a mailing list is better than having pretty much every other type of social media communication with your fans –
- More personal.A Tweet or Facebook message goes out to everyone in one go. On email I can write “Hi Simon,” which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the small touches which make a big difference. Also I’ve segmented my mailing list by country / city. This means I only email people about gigs when I’m in their town rather than tweeting generically at 4,000 people hoping that some of them are local and some of them see it.
- More customisableBack in the days of MySpace and GCSE IT I spent far too long learning HTML. If I had know the way technology was going I’d probably have spent more time talking to girls (and if you believe that you’ll believe anything). Learning HTML and CSS is still useful sometimes, but because most sites come with WYSIWYG editors where you can drop and drag text boxes and dropdown bars it hardly seems worth the time I put in. Email newsletters can be really customised. The ones I send out vary depending on who you are and what you are in relation to the content. On Facebook the most customising you can do is making the image look different…
- People rarely change their email addressesHow many email addresses have you had in your life? I’m guessing 3. Maybe 4. The first one you got (which you are probably embarrassed about). The second one, which was probably your school email address. The third one, which was the one your careers adviser told you to get because you “can’t email jobs with the one you registered with when you were 12″. And maybe your work email (if you even count that one). But the chances are you stuck. You have an email you’re happy with and you use it daily.
- Less content to makeAs someone who works in social media, I know how much time and effort is put into planning content. Most brands plan between 4 and 6 weeks ahead of time.On my twitter I sometimes plan a little further ahead than that (but have slightly let it slip recently). With newsletters you do a mail out when you have something interesting to say, not because you feel you have to. That would be redundant and wasteful. So there’s less daily work, and more effort put in before you hit “send”.
- People read their emailNot everyone is on social media every day and even if they are, they don’t always see everything which was posted. One of the most logical and interesting moves the internet ever made was “putting the most recent content at the top of a page”. Which is great… but not when you follow 500 people and have 3 different social media profiles to check. You can’t physically read it all. So you might not check every profile… but your email, we all check & read.
- I don’t feel in competition with anyone else.Nobody except me knows the number of people on my email newsletter. It doesn’t matter to anyone else. Why would it? I suppose for curiosity they might want to know, but it’s largely an irrelevant number. On twitter or facebook the number of fans / followers is ultimately a vanity figure. I’d say 10% of your audience is dead / inactive anyway and a further 10% have forgotten why they joined your community to start with. On email, I feel like I’m building a private community. One which either cares about what I’m trying to do (and so signs up) or doesn’t (and so ignores me). It’s nice, because there’s no pressure and no “how come they have more fans than me?” feeling.
- It’s the ultimate in permission marketing.There’s two types of marketing: interrupt (where the advert / message is being forced into your life) and permission (where you’ve signed up to get the advert / message). Online it’s easier to ask for permission and after asking for it, it feels nicer to contact people directly. Because you know they’ve opted-in.
- It’s on par with someone’s telephone number (and less annoying)An email address is as personal to most people as their mobile number. However, getting texts from Dominos pizza gets annoying after a few weeks, whereas emails do not. There’s a load of psychology behind this, but basically it’s down to the medium and peoples associations with the medium.
If you’d like to sign up to my email newsletter you can do it here. Every email is hand written by me and you can leave at any time. I promise never to get your details away to anyone else. Also, I’m writing a book on how to build online communities and get that audience to support financially as well as spreading the message of your work. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love the book. So do sign up to the mailing list and you’ll find out as soon as it goes on sale later this year.
Thanks for reading,