Is Email the Cockroach Of Social Media?

Is email the cockroach of the social media worldYou know what they say about cockroaches: After a nuclear war, they’ll be the only things to survive. These ugly bugs are just hard to kill. Some people in the marketing world feel the same way about email. It’s the communication form that just won’t die. And it would seem that a lot of people have about as much fondness for email as they do for cockroaches. But perhaps that distaste is misplaced.

The social media arena may not be a nuclear battleground, but there have certainly been casualties. New technologies come and go as businesses and individuals look for better ways to access the information they want. One of the latest “casualties of social media war” is Google Reader. The masters at Google pulled the plug on this July 1. Nobody seems to know exactly how many people used Google Reader (and the folks at big G aren’t talking). All the same, it was a handy way to get information you wanted without having to go out and look for it all the time. It came to you. Now it’s gone.

And the lowly, despised email bug keeps crawling along.

The folks at Copyblogger recently commented: One communication technology that works brilliantly for a lot of readers is email. It’s familiar and it’s already integrated into their daily habits. Email subscribers also tend to be just plain more responsive than those who read you in an RSS reader. They read more, interact more, and — if your content is supporting a business — they buy more. If you’re a content publisher but you personally can’t stand email — get over it. Email works You may love RSS (lots of web writers do), but a good chunk of your readers don’t.

Like so many things in the marketing world, what’s really important is not the tool, but the content. Marketing professionals sometimes get hung up on what’s shiny and new and hip. Much of the time their audience really doesn’t care. They just want the info. If you have really good, helpful, valuable information that empowers your clients (and potential clients) to make good decisions, you could send smoke signals and they’d still read your messages.

That doesn’t mean you ignore technology or that you should deliberately make it hard for people to access your information. We all need to keep our eyes and ears open for new ways to reach people, and if we find better ways (for them and us) we should explore them.

Here’s the thing: it’s not email that’s the cockroach. It’s the way email was used for years. There were people and businesses that used it inappropriately because it was cheap and easy. And when people shined a light on what they were doing, they scurried away. If you develop a reputation for delivering quality information that people really want, you won’t have to worry about being perceived as a cockroach. People don’t hate email—they hate email that wastes their time.

We agree with our friends over at Copyblogger who claim that email works—with one caveat: you have to do it right. Click here for some help in avoiding some of the common email mistakes that can make people ignore your email—or even resent you sending it in the first place.

How can you keep your emails from being treated like cockroaches?  Here are three quick tips:

1. Design your emails to look interesting, classy and professional. You’ve got about three seconds to win a reader’s attention. Make your email look like it’s worth someone’s time.

2. Think about your headlines/subject lines. Ho-hum headlines give readers no reason to look further. Look at your headlines and ask yourself: “Would I read that if I had 25 emails in my inbox?”

3. Lead with content that makes readers want to find out more. Ask a provocative question. Promise a helpful answer. Solve a mystery.  Whatever you do, you have to capture your reader’s interest early and provide a reason to keep reading.

Email for business is a survivor. But it’s up to you to make it something your customers won’t want to scrape off the bottom of their shoes.