Email Newsletters as an Underrated Startup Marketing Technique

Startups, especially funded ones, are known for trying tons of flashy marketing ideas to try and draw attention to their idea or product.  Whether it's sponsoring expensive parties or hiring celebrity endorsers or spending lavishly on PR, the idea seems to be to make a big splash and get in front of as many people as possible right away.

I'm not here to argue that these techniques have not worked for some people (Foursquare's SXSW unveiling was certainly a success), but a truly underrated startup marketing technique is the consistent email newsletter.  I'm not just talking about email newsletter strategies for services firms, but also for social startups like Tumblr, Quora, Twitter, etc or product startups like Chubbies, Warby Parker, etc.  It may not be the sexiest startup marketing tactic, but it works.

Many have called email the original social network, and that's because of its effectiveness of tying together large groups of people and how it lends itself to passing around content, and that's why it's so effective for marketing.  Email remains the stickiest app of all: we're all on it, checking often, and are likely to click through on compelling content. 

If you closely watch any successful social startup, they always seem to eventually start incorporating more and more email newsletters into their marketing.  Twitter sends you the best tweets from your network in a given week, Tumblr sends weekly emails with the best posts from around the network, and it seems LinkedIn's online strategy is solely becoming emailing (spamming) posts from thought leaders.  

As an example from my life, email is probably the only way I interact with several startups like Quora; I'm sent content every week, and if I'm intrigued, I'll click through and read it -- by using an email newsletter, Quora converts me from someone who would never use the network to someone who racks up 3-5 pageviews per week.  In addition to the immediate boost of getting me there, it also keeps the network top of mind and makes me more likely to randomly check it in the future or advocate it to others.  Without that newsletter, I would've forgot about Quora years ago rather than being a weekly reader, casual upvoter, and very occasional contributor.

Many startups think their startup may not be the best fit for a newsletter or they don't have the time to write one, but I'd challenge you to think through your options, and you can do it with an easy manual process of just inserting the best content into an email template. Some advice I recently gave to the founder of a website that lets you create and curate lists was to send out the most interesting lists each week to the network - for now, it didn't even need to be based on interest, just choose a nice variety.  If you're a social-management tool like Buffer, blast out new features and also the most shared content.  If you're a messaging app, let users know if other friends signed up this week and update them on new capabilities in the app.  

You're working hard on your company each week and users are interacting with your site or product each week; leverage the work going in on both sides by incorporating it into an email.  It can be once a week or once per month, but I'm sure that any frequency will drive people back to the app. The big social networks and product companies have demonstrated they value email newsletters, and it's smart for startups to start prioritizing them, too. 

Cool Visualization of Twitter and Flickr Usage Around the World

Today, The Atlantic posted some beautiful visualizations of Twitter and Flickr usage around the world.  The images were originally created by Eric Fischer and posted to his Flickr page. The blue dots in the images below represent Twitter and the red are Flickr.  In addition to the pure beauty of these images, there are also some interesting conclusions that can be drawn from them.

Here's the image of the US, followed by some thoughts:

First, I think they serve as a great reminder that the growth that is still available in these channels.  There are vast dark spaces in the US and especially in the world where no one is connected to either service.  I don't think everyone in the world should be tweeting, but it is pretty eye opening that there are pretty wide chasms in usage around the country.

Next, it's a great demonstration of how networks have natural fits.  Flickr is more widely used in places in the west where there are beautiful mountains and scenic trails to hike than it is in my home state of Ohio.  On the world scale, you see Japan brightly lit up in blue due to that nation's deep connection to technology and also likely due to the importance of Twitter being validated to the Japanese during the terrible earthquake and tsunami in March.

Finally, the images really show the connecting between use of new technology and infrastructure.  The networks are the most widely used in areas where there is robust technical infrastructure, typically places like cities.  Just reaffirms the importance infrastructure and cities will play in connecting the whole world.  

Enough talk, enjoy the images.

Quoted in Article on Local Politics and Social Media

It has been awhile since I last posted and I hate for the first post of the new year to be short and self-serving, but I wanted to quickly point out an article that features my company, New Media Campaigns, and quotes from me.  The article appeared a couple weeks ago in Nebraska’s Lincoln Journal Star and is about local candidates embracing online campaigning and social media.

The article used my perspective in comparison with the actions and thoughts of actual candidates.  The gist of what I told the reporter,  JoAnne Young, is that essentially every campaign now understands that they need to use social networks, but the real difference is how they are using them.  The line isn’t whether or not your Tweeting or on Facebook, it’s whether or not you’re using those tools to engage, energize, and educate voters.

It was an honor to be used as an “expert” in the article.  I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about these issues, so I was more than happy to speak with JoAnne.  Perhaps the coolest thing about getting featured is the fact that NMC doesn’t employ a PR Agency and we didn’t contact the Star.  They found us through content we’d created on our blog, called us up for our perspective, and then featured us.

It was nice to know that we didn’t need to pay a big agency to get some exposure and that the reporter was really scouring the Web for the best content out there.  Todd Defren actually supported this theory today by sharing the GWU social media and journalism study that 89% of journalists now turn to blogs for research for stories!  Just reinforces the idea of inbound marketing and creating quality content — both to get found by leads and by influencers, such as media.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the article and thanks again to the Lincoln Journal and JoAnne Young for shedding light on such an interesting topic and for featuring NMC!