[This is the first article in our List Building for Bloggers #LBB series]
So you’ve started your blog. You’re on Facebook and perhaps even have a Twitter account. You’re rocking this whole social media thing; why on earth should you bother with email? It’s so, well, twentieth-century isn’t it? Isn’t email extinct, dead and gone?
Why bother offering email subscriptions at all?
Because you can’t afford not to.
- Email subscriptions are WAY more popular than RSS.
- Email subscribers are your biggest fans.
- Email is everywhere.
- Email is accessible.
- Email is the most effective subscription mechanism available.
- Adding email subscriptions to your blog is fast and easy.
- Managing email subscriptions won’t take up your time.
You’ll grow your readership, build your community and monetize more effectively by combining your blog with email. It’s that simple.
Email Subscriptions are Very, VERY Popular
The facts are that email works: people want it. Email subscriptions – i.e. your newsletter or mailing list – are familiar to the vast majority of people online. They’re comfortable with the concept. When FeedBlitz partnered with FeedBurner back in 2005 to deliver their email services for them, email subscriptions were the #1 requested feature.
Need some data? HubSpot ran a survey in 2009 and found that email subscription rates varied by audience, but could be as much as 12 times (not 12 percent, 12 times) more popular than RSS.
Darren Rowse, aka @ProBlogger, revealed at a session Blog World 2010 that ~75% of his subscribers were email-based; that’s 3 times the number of RSS subscribers.
Based on these data points, if you don’t offer email subscriptions you’re potentially missing three to ten times your potential subscriber base.
Your mileage will vary, but clearly the opportunities lost to connect are significant. Can you really afford not to grow your subscriber base that much with a simple step?
Put another way, if someone told you that you could boost your subscriber count four-fold or ten-fold with five minutes’ work, wouldn’t you leap at that opportunity? That’s what having email subscriptions in your blog can deliver over time.
Email Subscribers are your Biggest Fans
These days it’s work – it takes commitment – to subscribe to a properly run mailing list, what with CAPTCHAs and dual opt-in. The email subscribers on your list have made this commitment to you, and they are inviting you to barge right in and occupy their inbox (you need to do this respectfully, of course, but that’s for a later post in the List Building for Bloggers #LBB series).
See too Jay Baer questions the current vogue of trumpeting the number of Facebook fans and compares the trend to email subscriber valuation:
“The psychology of Facebook “likers” is similar to email newsletter subscribers (I have enough kinship with this company to allow them to stay in touch with me). However, in comparison to your Facebook fans, your email subscribers usually provide far more important information to your business when they subscribe. It takes a lot more than one click to subscribe to an email list.”
Compare and contrast. Your email to a subscriber is in their inbox, by invitation. Fully branded. Content rich. Tracked. Customized. Personalized. A Tweet? Not so much.
Your subscribers are your core audience.
Email is Everywhere
Email is Accessible
A growing number of companies are now blocking social media access from their offices. There a variety of reasons used to justify this – control, legislative compliance, security, productivity are just a few – and as short-sighted as you and I might think this is, it doesn’t matter. Debating the wisdom of such a move is irrelevant. Very often sites like Facebook are forbidden within the corporate firewall.
Email is also the #1 application used on mobile phones for most people aside from, well, phoning. I’ll talk about making your emails mobile-friendly later in the #LBB series, but every smart phone has an email app built in and you can reach the mobile user with an email subscription process too.
Email is the Most Effective Subscription Mechanism Available
Email Subscribers Are the Best Subscribers You Can Have
I’ve already mentioned that an email subscriber is a committed subscriber, based on the work they’ve had to do to get on your dual opt-in list in the first place. It takes time and effort to do this, and it’s much more of a meaningful investment than clicking “follow” on Twitter or sending a friend request on Facebook. In a sense, the ease of following someone on these social sites, while it ramps up your friend and follower counts, makes these counts increasingly meaningless. It’s all too casual. And causal is not committed, not invested and not as valuable to you in the long run because of that.
But the best part of email subscriptions is what you as a blogger can do with them.
- Unlike an RSS subscriber, you know who they are.
- Unlike RSS and social media, you can brand emails to reinforce your message.
- You can add your own ads or third party sponsorships.
- You can ask them to tell you more about themselves.
- You can personalize the interactions with each update (you can’t do that with a tweet, RSS entry or wall post).
- You can target segments based on history, activity of other demographics.
- You can track activity easily.
- You can set up autoresponders for drip marketing and affiliate sales.
- You can offer rewards and incentives for new subscribers.
- You can test different subject lines and calls to action.
And you can do all of this automatically, driven by your blog, for next to no ongoing effort. It’s easy!
Email is Better for Most Subscribers
Most email applications are sophisticated, powerful pieces of software with years – decades in some cases – of investment put into them by their vendors. As such they can do things that most social media apps can barely dream of.
Here’s what I take for granted in my email system as a subscriber.
- Sorting, search and cataloging mechanisms.
- Folders and rules to automate organization.
- Categorization, customized views, archiving.
- Trivial forwarding, replying, attachments and more.
- Available when I’m offline.
- Robust! There’s no fail whale in your email app.
Email Complements, not Competes with, Your Blog and Social Media
Don’t get me wrong here – I’m a huge fan of social media. I blog, tweet and all the rest of it. This isn’t an email vs. social media battle.
It’s this basic: Email is the perfect complement to your blog and other social media channels. You can use your email to link back to your blog of course. But it can also link back to your Twitter account, Facebook page or LinkedIn profile. It can invite people to “like” an article, for example. Or to retweet on Twitter. If you consider your blog as the hub of a “hub and spoke” marketing system, your subscriber emails are mini-hubs. They too can link back to your other content and social media spokes.
Adding Email Subscriptions is Fast, Easy and Won’t Add to your Workload
Here’s the really good news. Setting up email subscriptions for you blog won’t take very long and, if done right, won’t need much work from you once you’re up and running.
In fact, if you’re spending more than five minutes a day on your email list once you have it going successfully, I’d say that something is very wrong.
There are several options to choose from using capabilities that might come with your blogging service, using your own email systems, all the way through to external service providers, like FeedBlitz, who can manage this for you. Some are free, some premium, and we all have different features, pricing approaches and so forth.
There will be a post at the end of the #LBB series on how to choose a provider, but if you’re starting out now, just pick a reputable one (ask your blogging friends, research on Twitter etc.) and make a start. You can always export email subscribers for transfer later on if you wish (importing them elsewhere can be a hassle though – more on that can of worms in a later article).
Next Up on List Building for Bloggers #LBB
List Building 101: Basic email marketing list jargon explained, demystified and a few myths debunked along the way.