Building bridges: Expanding email lists with social media

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bridge_small.jpgADOTAS – Email marketing continues to be one of the most powerful marketing tools for small businesses. Building a community around your company and keeping it engaged with a consistent supply of valuable content keeps businesses top of mind and leads to reliable repeat business.

Email newsletters are easily forwarded to others, which means they can be an excellent form of viral marketing that can spur a healthy flow of new customers. Because email marketing’s return-on-investment of cost, time and effort is so high, many small business owners place the growth of their email distribution list atop their marketing priority list.

Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, by their nature, enable businesses to build connections and relationships. Each of these networks has seen a dramatic and well-documented increase in users in recent years, as they have enabled businesses to treat their customer engagement as a valued activity.

As businesses discover the best way to engage with their social network audiences, most have mimicked the best practices for email newsletters: let the audience choose to hear from you, share content that matches their interest, don’t focus solely on your own marketing material and maintain a steady flow of communication. As a result, moving followers, friends, fans and other connections to your email subscriber list is a very natural transition.

Archive your newsletters to extend content to social networks. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all provide easy ways to send updates to people who want to hear from small businesses. A best practice here is to keep these messages very short, even for those services that don’t impose a character limit. Make sure you archive your newsletters online and then provide a one-sentence overview of the content and a link back to the full article.

Archiving also has the benefit of extending the life of your content, so if a particular article becomes relevant to future conversations, you can link back to the article whenever it is appropriate. The more compelling the content, the more likely it is that your social media connections will share the information with their networks and distribute your message even further.

If you include a “Join my mailing list” link in your newsletter, every click-through to the archived newsletter is a potential new subscriber. Using a URL shortening service like http://bit.ly also allows you to track vital reader information including when people clicked-through and which readers shared your link with their social networks. Stating in your newsletter that you appreciate those who share your content is a great way to encourage that behavior.

Finally, Facebook and LinkedIn offer groups centered around topics related to your business. Joining these groups (or starting one on your own) and posting non-commercial content from your newsletter, with a link to the archive, is a great way to extend your brand and bring more people to your email distribution list.

Let people know you have a newsletter every chance you get. People who follow your updates in online social networks may or may not know you provide the same kind of content in a more comprehensive format through your newsletter. Simple steps like sending an update that you are working on your newsletter, soliciting stories for feature articles, or telling your community that you are including a coupon in your next issue are simple ways to drive subscriptions.

Another way to advertise your newsletter is to add your newsletter archive URL to your bio or contact information. Those who appreciate your status updates will most naturally gravitate to the content in your newsletter, and can easily find your homepage from the newsletter archive.

Bring your social network into your newsletter creation. I discussed soliciting your network for their story ideas earlier, but there are many ways to help your audience feel invested in your newsletter content.

For example, you can poll your community on a relevant topic before issuing every newsletter and then drive them to the newsletter to see the results. Ask people in your network for permission to include their interesting comments in a “Top Tweets” section of your next newsletter.

Use your newsletter to recommend interesting Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Ask people to share pictures of themselves using your product or visiting your store. There are countless ways to bring the content from your social media activity into your newsletter and each will lure more subscribers.

This is just a short list of ways to connect your newsletter with online social networks to build a larger and more engaged subscriber list — with very little effort. As you participate in social media and extend your sphere of connections, your newsletter subscriber list will grow and provide an opportunity to reach your audience with the professional-looking, rich and sustained communication that can’t be replicated through the shorter forms available through social media.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Eric,

    Thanks for your invaluable tips. Perhaps in a future article you would consider speaking on newsletters vs blogs – when they be one versus separate.

    We’ve had a lot of success with newsletters over the last 10 years. We now want to just on the bandwagon of social media marketing options; striving to do more, reach more, with less time spent. Your suggestions would appreciated

    Thanks in advance.
    Lillian Aaron
    Business Accounting Software, Inc.

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