Newsletter as Social Media

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Get ready, get set. . .

If 2011 is the year for you to jump in to the social media pool, start with an e-mail newsletter.

This may seem like strange advice.  After all, bloggers were already heralding the death of e-mail in 2007.  So why would I suggest that now, in 2011, you wait to build a Facebook presence until after you have a newsletter?

Because the rumors of e-mail death are  vastly overstated.

In fact, unless your supporters are mostly teenagers, e-mail is your best bet for sending messages that actually get read.

E-mail is Personal

If you can’t call each of your supporters personally each month, e-mail is your next best option.  E-mail messages go directly to the person to whom they are addressed, and, if written correctly, reads as a personal message from you to the reader.  What’s even better is by simply clicking reply, supporters can respond directly to you.

E-mail is Everywhere

The same qualities that make e-mail passé to the internet elite, make it a great tool for you.  E-mail easy, free, and well understood.  It’s accessible by almost everyone–94% of people who use the internet use e-mail.  Over 1.4 Billion people world-wide have an e-mail account.  In comparison, Facebook has just over 500 million users.

E-mail is social

If you’ve ever received an e-mail forwarded from your Aunt Sally that she got from her hairdresser’s son, you know e-mail has some of the same viral qualities as Facebook and Twitter.  The difference is people who have never clicked a share button on Facebook have lots of experience forwarding e-mail to everyone in their address book.  If you send your supporters messages they will want to send to their friends, they are as or more likely to do it via e-mail than they are via Facebook.

E-mail (can be) Free

I wrote about this once before.  At that time, I recommended nonprofits use Vertical Response.  Almost exactly a year later, I’m adding Mail Chimp to that recommended* list.  In addition to being free (for up to 1000 subscribers) Mail Chimp is easier to use than Vertical Response, and includes more features, (like auto-responders) so it is better suited to grow with you as you start to reach more people.

The user interface is also pretty simple, so if you’ve got some extra time, you’ll be able to set up your templates and start e-mailing on your own.  If your pressed for time, or just prefer a little extra help, Ask your questions in the comment section, or send me an e-mail to ask for more personal support.

Your Turn

Already have an e-mail newsletter?  Share a link in the comments!

*You might have noticed Constant Contact is not on the recommended list.  While I commend them for great marketing–they are the only e-mail marketing company most people have heard of, that’s pretty much the only advantage they offer.

5 thoughts on “Newsletter as Social Media

  1. Great advice. I think the biggest problem is that, busy non-profit folks find it so much easier to just type a few words into FB and move on. E-mail requires more time and effort, but the payoff is so much larger!

  2. That’s a good point Jordan, and I think, part of the problem. If those “few words” on Facebook consist of posting some variation of “we are awesome, give us money” every other day or so, it’s easy for organizations to feel like they are doing social media without actually getting any benefit. In that case the 5-10 minutes they spend on it are wasted.

    On the other hand, the time it takes to do Facebook and other forms of social media right is about on par with what it takes to write a good monthly newsletter. Then the only difference is who you are trying to reach.

    I’m also not suggesting Facebook is bad for nonprofits–Eventually, most orgs. are best served by having a newsletter and a “traditional” social media presence because they reinforce each other. But if you can’t do both, start with the newsletter.

  3. Yes, I saw you don’t list Costant Contact. That is the current system our organization uses – but, we are at the point of renewing…..how hard is it to move my content, template to another service? We have about 2500 emails and it would be good if I can keep our costs down as we are an all volunteer organization.
    Thanks for your help!
    Terry
    Friends of FSH Research

  4. Pretty easy, Terry. Just copy the HTML of your template(s), and export your list from Constant Contact. Any other system will usually allow you to import a CSV, and then just paste in the HTML of the templates. Just be aware that it might take a few hours to do quality checking and make sure everything works right, so give yourself time for that.

  5. Hi Terry, Thanks for the question. With a list of 2500, the only option (that I know of anyway) that you have for free newsletters is Vertical Response (http://www.verticalresponse.com/non-profits) I haven’t used their system for several years, but was pretty happy with it when I did.

    Any other system you move to, including Mail Chimp prices pretty comparatively to Constant Contact for a list of your size.

    Moving your list to a new system is pretty easy, moving your templates can be tricky–especially if you want to take advantage of the systems most services have where you can update your content each month without having to mess with the HTML. (That having been said, Jordan is right, it is possible)

    In your situation I would consider moving to Vertical Response if the expense of Constant Contact was unsustainable, but otherwise, I’d probably stay with Constant Contact–they aren’t my favorite provider, but if you haven’t had any problems with them, there is value in keeping with the system you are familiar with–especially with an all volunteer organization.

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