Avoid the social media spam rush through personalised communications
The sudden and unexpected drop in email spam has prompted widespread speculation that the problem will soon spread into social media channels. By Ryan Deutsch.
By Ryan Deutsch
Whether or not this turns out to be true, the issue highlights the increased importance for online marketers to pitch relevant, personalised content in its correspondence across email and social media. Anything else will almost certainly be construed as spam, and not be read.
Companies are already aware of the need to send targeted, personalised communications in order to improve email deliverability. By following good list hygiene practices, such as bounce processing, reporting and personalisation, you can establish a positive sender reputation and begin to take control of your deliverability.
But following the stratospheric rise of social media, a crucial next step is now to integrate email into social channels. Using social channels, companies are able to listen to the conversations customers are having, learn how they are using the web, build a truly unique experience for them and influence them to begin sharing messages and promotions.
As email marketers, we track and leverage data to inform elements of the programmes we run: opens, click-throughs, conversions, opt-outs, and so on and so on. But what about good old customer feedback? Not something you see in a report, but something you hear directly from the source? Not something upon which you base an assumption, but something that can be categorically accepted as fact because it came from the consumer's mouth?
In order to avoid falling into the spam pitfalls that may be awaiting social media, companies should be looking to create unique email programmes that integrate with social channels as much as possible. As part of this, brands should attempt to establish direct conversations with recipients instead of using assumptions from attribute data. In creating such a programme, it would be important to consider the following:
Content: Identify content based on direct customer input. Understand what your customers are passionate about. Participate in conversations on the social Web, and immerse yourself in the topics that your subscribers choose to engage with. Interview consumers in stores or other venues where engagement occurs, and have call centre and customer service team members interview customers on the phone. Not long interviews, not surveys – rather something simple such as: "We are working on new email programmes and want to know what issues are important to you. What do you want to hear from us? How can we help make your life easier, more interesting or entertaining?" Use this input to create content.
Frequency: Frequency of this programme should not be tied to a calendar. It should be dictated by the content that the consumers voice interest in. If no interesting new content is available related to the shared passion you identified in speaking with consumers, then... do not mail! If new content is available daily, build your programme to facilitate a conversation on a more real-time basis.
Tracking: Use conversational engagement to gauge programme success. Monitor the social Web, your Web site and other communities and look for mentions of your programme. If the community of customers shares your content with their networks as part of their social conversation, you are on your way. If they engage directly with the brand in a conversation (providing ratings, reviews or other user generated content), then you are really on to something. After all, this is the ultimate measure of brand loyalty: a consumer's willingness to speak positively about your brand to their family and friends.
Optimisation: Here is another great opportunity. Randomly select a number of customers and create an email focus group. Schedule a conference call or in-person meeting and have them provide direct feedback on your programmes – from subject lines to offers to subscription management to dynamic content components. There's nothing as enlightening as actual consumer feedback on programmes.
While many companies monitor online activity, few use the data they capture to build unique experiences and begin to influence their customers, and the idea of establishing direct conversations with the customer is yet to truly catch on.
I am well aware that no email marketer worth his or her salt (myself included) would give up an ounce of reporting data; the accountability of our channel makes it one of the most reliable in direct response marketing. But businesses must learn to create a more unique bond with customers to build relationships and drive brand advocacy. It is through leveraging the data and insights gained from such activities to build more relevant conversations that spam filters will be avoided, correspondence will be read and results can be achieved.
About the author
Ryan Deutsch is VP Strategic Services at StrongMail.