Written by: Wendy on September 30, 2010 @ 2:07 pm
In the first two posts of this series, “The Four Pillars of a Robust Internet Presence for Small Businesses,” we talked about the changeable content on your website (usually in the form of a blog) being the ground zero for crafting the business message you wish to share. In the second post, we reviewed the strategy for putting this message out into the world within a different context by sharing links out via social media channels.
In this third pillar, I’d like to talk a bit about how using an eNews program can reinforce the ourtreach from the first two pillars, but add a level of permission-based and direct messaging into the mix. In a way, it can be the most powerful channel, if done with a few important strategies in mind.
Not everyone reads your blog, and not everyone subscribes to social media
The first thing business must accept, is that no matter how much effort you put into blog posts and conversing with your audience on social media, much of what you have to say will slip through the cracks, and not many people are going to read it as a compelling narrative. People hunt and peck around the web for information they want, and you are lucky if they manage to discover your site, whether it be from a google hit to your optimized website and blog, social media or even a recommendation site such as yelp. A good eNews program, however, has the ability to turn all this effort into a narrative so that nothing really slips between the cracks, and on top of that, is MEASURABLE.
So how does this work?
Once you decide how often it makes sense to send out an eNews, the best plan is to populate it with content (articles and posts) you have already created on your blog. Thus, your eNews becomes a kind of aggregated email that highlights everything you wish to share since you sent out the last eNews. All the links are there in the eNews, so even if you wrote the blog post or had a conversation about a topic on Facebook a month ago, the link is presented again, for people to read it and catch up with what you have to say, even if they missed it the first time. On top of that, everyone who receives your eNews has REQUESTED to receive it, which is a great reason to make sure you are sharing something they are going to be delighted to get in their inbox. I use Constant Contact for most of my clients, and the metrics in the back end are great. You can see how many people clicked on which links, how many people “opt out” and don’t wish to hear from you anymore (this can be an important clue that you need to think about the eNews using the perspective of your audience a bit more), and even how many people forwarded the eNews or shared it via social media. Great stuff.
In most eNews programs, such as Constant Contact, there is also an option to attach a URL containing your newsletter in the eNews. You DEFINITELY want to use this option, as you can then copy the url into a site such as bit.ly (which also utilizes tracking information) and put this optimized link into a twitter post, and on FB for sharing. This way, you may catch a few people who are not subscribers but can use this as access to read your eNews, and maybe even decide to subscribe, if your eNews is compelling enough. One of my clients only has 200 subscribers or so, but we get over 350 page views of each eNews because of the sharing on Twitter and Facebook. Recently Constant Contact has figured out a way to automate the process for sharing your eNews via social media, but I still use the old fashioned method, as I can stagger the timing and not just take a cookie cutter approach in having all these links available at the same, exact time.
When I visualize social media, I think of it as casting for fish from a large boat…every now and then you get a nibble. With a good eNews program, that little fishing pole morphs into a drag net behind the boat, catching everything that managed to escape before.
How often should a company send out an eNews?
This is an interesting question to consider. If you send it out too often, without something compelling at its core, your eNews can quickly be regarded as “junk.” The rule of thumb would be to send an eNews out as often as you have something important to say (from your customer’s perspective, not yours). For many businesses, I think it is safe to say that quarterly will work well. For a business that has a lot of scheduled events, perhaps monthly would work better. I do an eNews for a Fish Market, and it seems like overkill that we send the eNews for this tiny business out EVERY Friday, but it works—because the primary mission of the eNews for this particular business is listing what perishable items are available each weekend. However, we also add links to recent blog posts and recipes to give the eNews and internet presence some personality, and this strategy works great for him…only 3 opt-outs in 9 months or so. People tell him all the time how much they enjoy the writing, the dependability and the recipes. In any case, this is a question you should think long and hard about before just launching into an eNews program.
The Four Pillars of a Robust Internet Presence work because they all reinforce one-another. Thus, your website has an eNews sign-up. Your eNews has links back to the site, and also out to your social media profiles. Social media amplifies the message you wish to put out into the world by making it shareable and recommended between friends. Twitter is great for prospecting, discovery, and even for positioning yourself in printed media (since so many journalists follow twitter, particularly niche categories). In the Fourth Pillar of a Robust Internet Presence, I’ll tell you how to tie it all together.