Email is so 2015

tl;dr Wouldn’t it be nice if in the newfound popularity of email newsletters, the signup form had an option “I regularly consume your content via another means, but would love to win your cool thing”

Back in the dark days of the internet, websites would have simple sign up forms for users to get updates about the site. Unless you used RSS (or Atom) to read the sites. Even then, online marketers and brands would offer specials not advertised on their site to build the engagement via email. The size of your mailing list was a badge of honor for those marketers.

Then came along social media, and email lists were pushed aside for the shiny new thing. In the beginning, there was a glut of social media options, and it was almost impossible for a brand to engage on every outlet. Facebook likes and Twitter followers became the new badge of honor. And while social media is still a great way to engage users, brands and marketers soon discovered they couldn’t always control the message, especially with Facebook. So what did they do? They realized the most common form of communication available to the web is the venerable method of email. Cyber Monday was a perfect example. I couldn’t count the number of comments I read on Twitter about people weeding their email of offers from long ago forgotten sites. But I mostly follow web professionals who know the ins-and-outs of online marketing and get their information from, (well, probably Twitter, but they are an anomalous subset of the Twittersphere.) The point being, millions of people woke to an inbox of offers. Many people clicked those links, some bought stuff. It works.

Sign up form for The WirecutterRSS/Atom syndication in its purest form is not a common method of reading websites today (unless you are part of the aforementioned anomalous subset of Twitter users), but still provides the backbone of many ways content is consumed. But this isn’t about syndication. It is about the rebirth of mailing lists, and more specifically, the forms that sites now deploy to get you in. Those lists sign-ups are generally there year round, but right about the holiday season, sites/brands begin offering “free stuff.” Be it a book, a song or a full suite of electronics, sign up for their mailing list, enter a chance to win. I’m not an expert on this subject, didn’t even play an email marketer on TV. Sign up form for The WirecutterBut my understanding is you can’t force people into subscribing, just like contests have the small disclaimer, “no purchase necessary.” Generally what these forms do is pre-populate the subscribe checkbox, which is still a slippery slope in my opinion of conforming to the spirit of opting in. But hey, a free TV is a free TV?

More to the point, there is never an option (at least one I’ve encountered) that says, “I love your content and regularly read it so I don’t need an email reminder. However, I’d love to win your cool stuff.” Hell, provide a short text box to allow the user to optionally add how they consume it. It very well might be a great insight into your audience and their online consumption habits. Because at some point, inundating your readers/consumers will call into play the law of diminishing returns.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid the new badge of honor is the hydra of social media followers guarding the treasure chest of email subscribers.

Engaging Users Vs. Advertising

I’ve seen the headline bandied about in social media all week, but over on Unapologetic Alex Guyot discusses his disagreement with Facebook making it harder (again) for brands to advertise for free.. His basic argument is that brands most likely already bought the likes and shouldn’t have to pay to advertise again to those same customers. He also uses the argument that small businesses likely can’t afford to advertise.

I couldn’t disagree more with his take. From the Re/code article of the same name 1, the author quotes the Facebook release

The company announced today it will begin limiting the number of “promotional Page posts” in the News Feed starting in January. That means you’ll see fewer posts from brands asking you to buy products or “enter promotions and sweepstakes,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.

I see no issue with that statement. While we all know we are the product on Facebook 2, I still use it to keep up with family and friends, as well as local goings on. I have “liked” very few brands, mostly local businesses. Truthfully, those local businesses don’t use what I would consider “promotions or sweepstakes” or obvious ad-like updates. They are genuinely engaging their followers. Sharing pics of a new dish. Updating on what band or artist is appearing soon. They respond to questions and comments. As you should in social media. So if cutting down on the noise from million plus “fan” businesses in timelines so that the news feed is a truly a “news” feed with targeted ads, and people don’t miss the latest update from the mom & pop shop down the street, I’m all for it. It is well documented that brands and businesses that truly engage their users/followers are the most successful. Perhaps this will push those brands to up their game. Otherwise, it can be a great equalizer for brands and companies looking to gain market share.

Tampa MOSI TweetUp

I’m very excited to be attending the Tampa TweetUp this Saturday night (1/17/09) at the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry. Billed as an unstructured evening for

…other local Tweeple who enjoy Twitter, blogging, and all that is social media for an evening of drinks and great conversation. Enjoy a night out of the office or home, Away from your computer, to dork out with others who share similar passions of social networking and have a few drinks.

Not only is this a chance to socialize in person, MOSI is opening up the top of the IMAX dome, giving us an “exclusive 8-story high, 360 degree view of Tampa” (hopefully I’ll be able to get a few good pics), the museum will be introducing their Virtual Ambassador Program. From what I gather of the details of the event, MOSI is developing a viral marketing program by giving bloggers and social media persons some swag, including:

  • One year free membership to the museum
  • Free ticket to every IMAX film opening from January – June 2009 (excluding special engagements)
  • Free ticket to Body Worlds 3 and the Story of the Heart opening January 22, 2009 – The Original Exhibit of Real Human Bodies.

in exchange for a “6 month commitment in helping raise community awareness online about the museum, Body Worlds exhibit, IMAX, and other MOSI offerings”. I have every intention in participating in the program, as I’d certainly enjoy attending events and exhibits and then blogging/Twittering about them afterward.

tweetup!In regards to the TweetUp itself, ever since attending BarCamp Orlando, I’ve wanted to connect with local bloggers and web geeks like myself. To that end, I’ve failed, as scheduling conflicts prevented me from attending BarCamp Tampa, as well as a few local blogger meetups. However, I swore to myself that this year I would make a concerted effort to be available for these events, as well as actively help foster more of them. I read with envy tweets from people in places like Philadelphia and Orlando who are connecting in real life with other bloggers and developers. I don’t want to wait until I’m in a different city to meet and connect with folks who live down the road.

Though I don’t consider myself a big “social networker”, I do love me some Twitter, and certainly understand their place in today’s web. I am actually taking my first steps in embracing a broader view of social networking by integrating some of the features available in Facebook Connect into a site I’m developing for a client. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s certainly been an enlightening process, and has undeniably changed my attitude towards sites like Facebook in that just because I personally do not participate in a particular network, it doesn’t mean the network has no value. That said, I don’t think I will ever say the same thing about MySpace.