Archive for October, 2009

Social Networks Are Fundamentally Changing How We Communicate

Although I sometimes quote or cite research all the time here on my blog, I don’t often include direct links to external content. But I came across this on Twitter and thought I would share.

The title is 5 Ways Social Media is Changing Our Daily Lives, and I think that it speaks to both the things we are doing now at Hat Trick Associates, but also the way that individuals will be communicating for the next 20 years!

One of the things I really liked about this article is that it begins by asking you a question: How is the way you communicate with your social network, connect with business partners; get most of your news; find new employees, entertain yourself; etc. etc. different now as compared to just 5 years ago?

The differences are HUGE for myself personally, and I’m sure for most of you as well. There has been a shift in how we send and receive information. When selecting a company to do business with, I am FAR more interested in the customer service experiences or opinions of friends or colleagues that I see online than more generalized or “generic” ratings…and now I can get them from everyone, quite easily – instantaneously!

We have very quickly gone from simply knowing email or IM addresses of our friends, family and coworkers, to now being completely interconnected with them on services like Facebook or LinkedIn. And we can let the world know exactly what is on our mind the second we think it on our social networks and on microblog sites like Twitter.

So it’s really no surprise that 80% of all Tweets are actually sent from mobile devices. Imagine all that is being said about YOU as your customer, client or member is walking out your door after having a GREAT customer experience.

Or, what do you think happens if they have had a BAD one??

And how can you take advantage of this new opportunity to connect and interact with the people who matter most to the success of your organization? From a business standpoint, those are certainly thoughts that your company should be pondering, and answering, right now…

Here is the article: http://mashable.com/2009/10/16/social-media-changing-lives/

And please comment if you have thoughts on this topic, or any of the other topics that I include in my blog postings.

Top 14 Reasons Email Will Still Be Here For Some Time

So we have all been talking a lot about social networks, and how they are fundamentally changing the way that we communicate. But while it is certainly true that these networks are becoming more and more vital to reaching your customers, clients and members, that doesn’t mean that email marketing has lost its importance too.

In fact, the two communication strategies can co-exist nicely, and address different needs for reaching out to consumers. Here are the Top 14 reasons that email isn’t going away anytime soon:

1. People still send hand-written letters via snail mail, even though they could instead make a phone call, send an email, text message, or status update.

2. Nearly all sites on the web that require registration still require an email address. Some are starting to integrate social media into this process (through things like Facebook Connect), but that is still a small fraction, and they typically still allow for email information as well.

3. Email notifies you of updates from all social networks you are a part of (provided your settings are set up that way).

4. Email is universal, and social networks are not (at least not yet!). Nearly everybody on the web has an email address. Most places of employment give employees email addresses when they begin working there. Meanwhile, some of them are restricting workers from accessing social networks.

5. Email is still improving, and hasn’t suddenly stopped with the rise of social media. There is still innovation going on, and integration with social media. Look at the new Yahoo Mail, and how Google is constantly adding new features to Gmail.

6. Even social networks themselves recognize the importance of email. Never mind that they update users about community-driven happenings via email. MySpace, still one of the biggest social networks, even launched its own email service recently.

7. More social media use means more email use. The people consuming the largest amount of social media are also the people consuming the largest amount of email.

8. Twitter and Facebook are fantastic products and companies; but that’s what they are, companies. Even though email is host to 279 million users vs. 301 million users of social media according to Nielsen, email isn’t going anywhere so on with many companies offering it as a service. Twitter and Facebook are just two companies that likely make up most of the social media users.

9. Your email recipients are still going to use business email for business purposes. They’ll not likely let their boss know that they’ve finished the spreadsheet and are ready for the meeting now by posting to Twitter. If they don’t use their business email address they probably also have a personal email account that they like to receive your email-only specials.

10. You can’t easily segment your friends and followers to do targeted marketing in Twitter & Facebook for the optimal response.

11. You can’t tell who clicked on a link with some social media outlets so that you can follow up with them again because they might be interested in your content. That said, since you also can’t tell who didn’t click on the link so you can follow up with them with a different message trying to get them to take action.

12. You cannot size your graphics or use more than one in Facebook. You can’t use them at all in Twitter. Graphics can help tell a story.

13. You are limited to 140 characters in Twitter, leaving it impossible to put full text or multiple messages in one Tweet.

14. You almost have to have separate social media accounts for your business and your personal life. Some customers might not care about that vacation you took where you…let’s just say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

As far as online marketing is concerned, email is still a great channel of communication, as many companies continue their search to find the right social media strategy to suit their needs.

There have been a significant number of studies released in recent memory, indicating that email marketing is doing quite well. Email open rates are up, having increased for the fourth quarter in a row as of Q2 of 2009. And studies have shown that email marketing is still one of the most popular channels for consumers, expected to reach over $2 billion by 2014.

Is the email landscape changing? Certainly. Social media has become a very large part of the online lives for many Internet users. Earlier this year, social sites were even said to have exceeded email in total usage. But while Facebook has come significantly close to matching Google in terms of unique visitors, that doesn’t make Google any less important, does it? The two can co-exist, and so can email and social media.

So email marketers are facing new challenges with an increasingly social and mobile web, but we are meeting those challenges too, and continually finding effective ways to connect with consumers with email.

Getting Responses With Email Marketing – Part Four

4) Images: Let Pictures Tell The Story

So we’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. What does that mean for your E-Newsletter?

Your graphics can be the difference between someone paying enough attention to your email marketing to click a link or read an opening paragraph, or moving on. Always make sure that whatever you use is directly or obviously connected to your feature, story or promotion. Don’t make people have to “work” or guess what they are viewing and how it relates to the content…unless of course this is part of a well-thought out marketing plan! And simpler is typically better.

Finding good photos or illustrations online certainly isn’t hard these days. (With almost 100% broadband coverage now, video and audio are now a component of some E-Newsletters too, but more on these topics another day.) One of the top and fairly inexpensive options is iStockPhoto.com, although many other libraries exist. And don’t forget the multitude of royalty-free images available on Google, Flickr or Yahoo Images. (But you should always be sure to double check that the images you are using aren’t copyright protected.)

Following our theme of trying different options until you find one that works best for you and your E-Newsletter, maybe you could try removing all images for one issue…and see if a text-only version gets better results? How 90’s of you!

And that brings me to the final point…which is really the one I’ve tried to make with every tip. DO NOT BE AFRAID to experiment! As long as the information you are presenting is factual and relevant, every other aspect of presentation should be up for review and testing. That is really the most important take-away….Test, test and test again, and you can create the type of email newsletter that gets results for YOUR company!

NEXT TIP: Formatting

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