Last year, the tech world took significant strides toward becoming more competitive with publishers. Apple launched Apple News and Facebook introduced Instant Pages, both in the name of a better user experience. While Instant Articles have proven to have higher engagement, they’re not great for monetization. But if you’re a publisher relying heavily on social traffic, then you’re relying heavily on Facebook. And whatever Facebook wants Facebook gets.
This is just one way to look at sourcing traffic, of course. There are three main types in total: earned, paid, and owned. Within owned, there’s the social route — but down this path, it’s becoming increasingly more important to “play ball.” Email, on the other hand, is fully owned and in our control.
Here are three important tips to consider.
- Strike the right balance for the right audience.
Using only completely owned media is a publisher’s dream. Our roundtable agreed that it’s a smart bet to invest in owned media. However, when you take a look at the publishing landscape at the moment, it’s pretty difficult to spin off and just do your own thing with an email campaign. People don’t want to see your content on Facebook and then see it again in their inbox. You need to keep an eye on the social conversation. This is especially important if your audience is younger. Email is definitely not the preferred method of communication for teenagers (according to statistics, only 7 percent check their inbox daily).
So it’s almost impossible to abandon one for the other. Emails will never go viral like social media content. And yet your email audience will always be more valuable, as they tend to spend more time on websites and are more likely to have opted into your content. Strike a balance by thinking about the type of content and audience, and adjust accordingly.
At the end of the day, it helps to be in as many relevant places as possible. If you want to reach someone, you have to be there first.
- Play around with personalization.
There are many ways to create more personalization with emails. You can alter the subject line (based on what a user has opened or engaged with in the past). And then there’s the content itself, personalized based on a user’s interests. Think of yourself as a curator of the best, most relevant content out there.
When it comes to email, the more specific you can be in terms of what’s driving people’s passions, the better. The key is matching content to user segments. As an example, for many years, the NFL had talked to people the same way across the board. Once the organization started segmenting its email list, it began seeing higher conversion. All it takes is something as simple as using an image of a Jets uniform when talking to a Jets fan. Personalization is simple but powerful. It’s all about finding a better way to maintain that consumer relationship.
- Tinker with timing.
Facebook and Google have shifted the way we produce content. We’ve begun looking at what’s trending in the news and writing to that. There’s been this major push toward news-centric rather than evergreen content. We’re seeing a similar trend arise with email as well, with some moving toward a triggered system. News sites in particular are sending break news emails (Mashable has done a particularly good job of this). And to help, Marketo and HubSpot have easy-to-use trigger platforms.
Frequency plays a huge role in timing as well. Obviously it first depends on what users have opted into. From there, you have to think about how to maximize results without becoming white noise. Think of CNN: If everything is “breaking news,” then why even bother, right? We’re seeing a sweet spot at 2-4 times per week.
And what about if someone does hit that unsubscribe button? Many of our experts argue for adding the option to downgrade frequency as a last-ditch attempt to stay in a user’s inbox. Even better: send a specialized email to people who haven’t opened your emails in a while with a special offer. It’s a clever way to hook them again and stop them from leaving in the future.
I’ll leave you with one last thought from our discussion: If you see no difference between people reading content via your website and in an email, then how can you make email feel more like your website experience?