My brother is in the hospital with severe burns. I don’t have a post this week, so I thought I’d share a conversation I had with Hannah. I’ve been wrestling with email marketing and trying to wade through all the advice. I’ve come to the conclusion that it just doesn’t make sense for me spend a ton of time and energy building an email list.
Rose: Oh, I didn’t tell you this. Conversation from the other night about email newsletters in a blogging group:
“Me–I don’t see much point in building a big list. My audience is younger, and I don’t know anybody under thirty who reads email newsletters except bloggers.
My blog isn’t about blogging. I skim them for whatever I’ve been offered and then unsubscribe. Younger people perceive them as spammy if they’re aware of them at all.
Bloggers–*long explanation of how you can use them to foster relationships with readers and/or provide extra content*
Me–My readers don’t DO THAT on email. They do it on social media and IM.
The whole point of it was like, “What happens when you build a social media following and the site changes or the next thing comes along. Everybody has email.”
And I’m like “Yes, everybody has email they’re not checking because they don’t want to read your long-ass sales pitch disguised as a helpful anecdote or your life story in letter form. Especially not if you have to email me repeatedly for a week before you GET to the damn sales pitch because you think that will make me trust you more. It’s actually the opposite.”
Hannah: *facepalm* Indeed.
Rose: I set one up on the new site because I figure it can’t hurt, but like ALL the marketing advice out there is geared toward marketing to people in their late 30s, 40s and 50s. .”
Hannah: Yeah. I don’t even know how an email list is supposed to be social.
Rose: The better ones do chatty things like Diana’s coffee posts and then link to extra resources, which they seem to perceive as “relational” because they’re giving stuff away, telling personal anecdotes, and “being vulnerable.”
But internet culture isn’t about forming a private club where you get to be the center of your readers’ attention.
If I’m going to do that I’m going to put it ON THE BLOG, and if I want to make personal connections with readers who aren’t bloggers, I comment on their social feeds. Obviously you can’t do that with thousands of people, but your comments show up in your followers’ feeds, and if you post regularly, people who are actually interested see you. Young people generally don’t perceive things as “personal” when they know you’re talking to a bunch of people. It’s “personal” when you genuinely take the time to talk to one person.
I think maybe the difference is that people my age (old) don’t think of commenting on social media post as “real” interaction.
Hannah: Quite possibly.
Rose: I don’t know what’s supposed to make a bulk email more personal though. Just because you’re telling some personal anecdote? I still know that you’re not talking to ME. Your goal is to get me on your blog or to buy your product. Otherwise you’d put the content ON the blog where it could do more good.
Hannah: I guess the idea is that’s “reaching out,” and they just don’t realize the huge tonal difference between that and social media because they don’t give social media that value as being real or serious. It’s for silly shallow kid things, not Personal Vulnerability.
Email is purely business and notifications for me.
Rose: Yeah. I have a few people that I communicate with via email but it’s like what having a pen pal would’ve been in the old days. I don’t want that from a blogger. If I want to know what’s up with a blogger, or see if they can help me with a problem, my first instinct is to go to their blog and/or Facebook feed.
Rose: My “email newsletter” would consist of “Hey, here’s some free stuff, buy my book.”
Hannah: *nod* Mine would just be “Here’s another blog post,” which is what the automatic notification email signup thing does anyway.
Hannah: I do have a few emails I actually check, but it’s all big sites’ “here’s the posts from this week” and it’s quicker to skim to the headlines and click on one or two than to check the site on a regular basis.
It’s less social/personal, not more.
Rose: Yeah. A lot of the smaller bloggers do that, but the advice is to use it to offer additional content or products. The whole rationale is supposed to be that the notifications are impersonal and an email from the blogger fosters connections, but it only works if you know your demographic is going to read your epistle.
Rose: So basically what’s going to happen is in another ten years, these people with huge email lists are going to panic because Millennials have all the money to buy their stuff and Millennials aren’t reading the emails. (Things you only realize if you’re a scifi author.)
Hannah: *amused sigh*
Rose: People are always saying stuff like, “We have no idea how all this technology is going to affect culture…” and I’m over here like, “Yes, I do.”
Hannah: If they’d spend more time participating and less time handwringing they’d know anyway.
Rose: I doubt it. They still have no context for things like “the phone is a tool, not an obstruction.” Despite the fact that they have phones and use them.
Rose: I like how Luther does soft marketing. He’s always got interesting stuff going on on the blog, he’s funny, and he talks about what he’s writing or doing to sell the books, but there’s never a sales pitch that feels like a sales pitch. (Or a sales pitch that feels slimy because it’s disguised as someone being “friendly and helpful.”)
If the whole reason I sign up for someone’s newsletter is because I want their free worksheet or something, then the relationship -isn’t- personal, and trying to make it personal by sending me a chatty email is the exact opposite of how to get me to visit your site again or buy your book or your over-priced ecourse on how to manage my time or how to use Canva.
Hannah: Yeah. I told them this at work all the time before I totally gave up. The more you sound like you want the actionable thing, the more people think you’re desperate and not legit. At work they insist on putting “Please” on everything because they say it sounds more personal and polite, but it just makes them sound like they’re begging for people to “Please click here” blah blah blah.
Rose: With the emails they tell you to like not put a sales pitch in every one and spend most of them going “Hey, here’s some extra tips I haven’t shared with my blog readers!” or something, but that’s MORE annoying to me because it tells me you’re more interested in capturing a sale next month than helping your blog audience for free right now.
Hannah: Yeah. There is one I like if I can remember who it’s from, but it comes a few times a year, and it’s kind of a cross between “upcoming on the blog,” occasional freebie, and personal update since she doesn’t have a personal blog (and only insofar as “here’s the actual fiction I’m working on” or “I’ve done this and this and am thinking of doing a post about it” type stuff).
But I still don’t consider it personal, I consider it personal when I pin something to a writing board and she comments that she’s glad to see me because I’ve been gone six months.
Rose: Yeah. If I actually -know- someone I’m more interested in their newsletters, but even there it gets annoying because they either do the “extra value” nonsense or they feel the need to write a long essay explaining why they wrote the blog posts they’re linking to at the end.
If it’s relevant, put it in the blog post, or make another post because I go to your blog if I want to hear what you have to say.
I can bookmark a blog link or share it to my social feeds if I want to find it again. Things in my email box get deleted after a week. I rarely ever look at saved email folders. Those are for receipts and transactions, or emails from clients/my old boss.
My email inbox is for quick communications with business contacts and social media notifications, not reading longform content. It’s even worse if you’re on a phone and you’ve got this long stupid email to scroll through.
Rose: Some of them say they get people emailing them back through the newsletter and forming relationships that way. I can see that, but I wouldn’t do it. I’d comment on the blog or PM them someplace.
Hannah: Yeah. About half because that’s TOO personal of a connection and the other half because I’d feel like a middle-aged housewife if I did it.
Rose: Maybe I should just start writing up a collection of posts about Internet culture and how to connect with younger people NOW, then sell it for $500 when huge numbers of people realize they don’t know what they’re doing anymore.
For the record:
What happens when social media platforms shift is, you go to the next site. You announce it on your website, because that’s where younger readers GO to find out what’s going on with you/your business/whatever they’re interested in that you do. You give your new info on the website AND all your current social media feeds, and if you’ve done your job right, you’ll see most of your current followers picking up your new feed, or you can find them and pick up theirs. The ones who are really interested in you will follow back. That’s how it works when you have actual relationships with people on the internet. It’s a pain in the neck and it’s possible that you’d lose some business for a while, but you’re going to have to adapt to social media changes anyway. Obviously if you have thousands of people on an email list, you want to use it. And I’m not saying don’t bother with email at all. But if you already know that the people you’re trying to reach don’t use email in social/personal ways, then you want to use the email list to communicate in a brief, businesslike manner and focus your soft marketing on the formats your readers actually like to use.