New Media Prescription 002 – Start/Build Your Email List

Google Groups screenshotImage via Wikipedia

This is the second in a series of articles seeking to break down the overwhelming options and opportunities of New Media into a set of easy-to-implement steps that anyone can apply.

One great way to introduce people to your New Media project is through an email mailing list. In the best cases, you already have a mailing list that you can use to jump start your projects at their onset. This means you won’t have to struggle for every single reader, listener or viewer at the start. You can begin with a close set of friends and contacts that can help to spread the word about your project. Don’t fret if you don’t have a mailing list, just know it’s next on the list of things to do.

Why do you need a mailing list? Even today, with the explosion of audio and video information on the web, many people are still most familiar and most comfortable with email. Most already have an email address and know how to use it. Even better, email simply shows up in their inbox without any action on their part. This makes it an ideal way to spread the word about your project and shouldn’t be ignored for flashier methods.

Even more importantly, when someone gives you an email address, they are giving you permission to talk to them whenever you have something to say. This is a tremendous asset to you, but it also carries with it some responsibility. Once you have this permission, you need to use it wisely. Spamming your mailing list with too many messages or emails of little value will only cause your list to tune you out, if not outright unsubscribe. Treat those on your email list with respect and do not abuse the permission they have given you.

Setting up an email list

There are a variety of ways to setup and manage an email mailing list.

  1. Create a email group in your existing email program

Most email software has the ability to create a group from any of the addresses in your address book and then address a message to the group, rather than to individual people. While this might sound like the simplest method, it has many drawbacks. Chief among these is the fact that your Internet Service Provider probably has some limit on how many people you can add to a single outgoing email. Once you get over this number you will manually have to split up your list, sending multiple emails. These lists are also difficult to manage and require you to add and remove people as they request.

  1. Set up a Google Group

Google Groups (http://groups.google.com) provide a free way to setup and manage a mailing list for 10 people or thousands. You can invite and add people to your list manually and interested people can also add themselves whenever they wish. Google Groups also provides a form that can be embedded in any web page that allows users to subscribe to your mailing list with one click.

One limitation of Google Groups is that you will only be able to personally add 10 people a day to your mailing list. The number of self-subscriptions is unlimited, though i.e. anyone can add themselves at any time. Still, if you regularly collect email addresses at meetings or other events, this might slow down your ability to add people to the list.

In my own experience, I have found Google Groups to be an excellent, free, solution to running a number of email lists.

  1. Use a commercial email list company

If you need a more professional approach to your email list, along with statistics on the number of people reading your emails, you might wish to contract a commercial email list provider. One of the largest and best known is Constant Contact (http://www.constantcontact.com/). If you receive any volume of email, I can almost guarantee you are on at least one Constant Contact email list.

Regardless of how you create or manage your email list, you must do it. Gaining the permission to speak to a wide variety of people on a regular basis is very powerful and gives you an excellent foundation for promoting your New Media project.

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4 thoughts on “New Media Prescription 002 – Start/Build Your Email List

  1. Pingback: Elsewhere Online: New Media Prescription 002 - Start/Build Your Email List « New Media Interchange

  2. Outstanding, Douglas, what a timely article! With your insight in my reader for so many months, here’s a topic I feel confident enough to chime in on.

    Over at Piledriver Creative, we consult on email design, content, deliverability and analysis. Currently, according to Forrester, I paraphrase that the social networks reach about 40-50% of the US, while 90% have email. Now, take into account that a huge chunk of that social media audience are blogging, commenting on sites or twittering as fervent, dedicated, die-hard users. At a conference I just attended, email was treated as a peripheral grey area in social media, but I had to counter that, although email earned the right to be treated as “old-school”, Doug’s right: it’s the perfect bridge to convert the remaining audience – who aren’t even using social media – into your biggest fan.

    Currently, there are dozens of solutions available, each tailored to a specific set of needs. Yep, Constant Contact is still 1/3 of my inbox, as they gobble up sheer volume from small and mid-sized business. Mailchimp is bringing up the rear in market share, and currently trying to blast CC out of the water by foregoing monthly charges with the same features.

    At the same time, my favorite billing and timecard service, Harvest, takes their blog’s RSS feed and sends them as email to subscribers through Feedburner. Free as in beer cheap!

    Whatever your strategy is, I can offer these basic nuggets for down the road:

    1. You list should be Quality over Quantity. Hence the permission – you’d rather send to people expecting and wanting it. Preferably double opt-in. The vulnerability single opt-in signups have for spoofing turn your list into garbage, or worse, signing up people who don’t want it, and hurting your email reputation if they report spam.

    2. Send from a white-listed, Domain Keys authenticated server that scrubs against abuse. All of the services are set up this way. Some of my clients were sending through their desktop email, and once their lists were of any decent size, the flags went up on all the ISPs. Soon, they couldn’t even send personal mail to AOL, because they were blacklisted. Getting your IP accepted again by AOL is a byzantine process I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Oh, and even if you are playing by the rules, there’s nothing to say that some other joker on the shared server your host is on isn’t spamming, and the ISPs err on the side of guilt by association.

    3. Don’t wear out your welcome. Even though traditional advertising holds that a message has to be repeated seven times before someone acts on it, don’t think it’s okay to blast an inbox once a day for a week. Especially if you have nothing new to say or entice with.

    4. Take advantage of the social nature of email. Most of the emails we handle (that aren’t for membership services) employ some sort of Forward To A Friend link or message. On a few occasions, if they felt comfortable about their own traffic, they’d offer link love to partner sites or just relevant friends. Sometimes it’s not just about eyeballs, but hearts and minds as well. You’ll be remembered for being nice.

    We’re fairly platform-agnostic at this point, meaning it doesn’t matter what you choose to create, send or analyze with, we just want to make it suck less for the sender and receiver. But in order to walk our talk, I’d be remiss to not plug that we’re also launching our beta of piledriveit.com on September 30, which aims to simplify the process offering custom creative for your brand, while letting you drive: preview as you update content, schedule to send, manage your lists and get readable reports all in one place.

    I hope that helps, and let me know how your wrestling with the outbox goes in the future!

  3. Pingback: New Media Prescription 003 - Capture your content

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