The following is a guest post from my colleague, mentor, good friend, and former co-worker (boss), Chris Penn … who also happens to be featured quite a bit in The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing.
Mr. Penn is the Director of Inbound Marketing at WhatCounts, an email marketing company based in Atlanta, as well as co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp New Media Community Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. He is an adjunct professor of Internet marketing and the lead subject matter expert and professor of Advanced Social Media at the University of San Francisco. He’s also the author of Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer.
Here’s a long-cited, long-preached best practice, so commonly accepted that it’s even built into many email service provider platforms:
Share your email socially!
We at WhatCounts did it for the longest time until recently. Our clients have done it, our competitors have done it, and now it’s something of a shock to be saying not to do it.
You read that right: stop sharing your email newsletter in social media.
Why on earth would we recommend that advice? How does that make sense in a world where email+social are the digital marketer’s peanut butter and jelly?
Two words: engagement cannibalization.
In our recent research for our series on engagement and how individual ISPs are measuring engagement, we stumbled across these notes by Hotmail and Gmail: engagement metrics are now being widely used to determine the legitimacy of the sender and the deliverability of the message. Hotmail has publicly stated and outlined that they have four metrics they are paying attention to:
- Messages read, then deleted
- Messages deleted without being read
- Messages replied to
- Frequency of receiving and reading a message from a source
This begs the question: if you share a newsletter socially, meaning that it’s viewable on the web from social media posts, does that then mean that your most engaged fans (who follow you, Like your Facebook page, etc.) will read straight from social and not open the email?
We know from our own data that we started aggressively sharing our newsletter on every social outlet in April of this year, much more so than we’d done in the past. Here’s what we used to post on social media sites:
Here’s the style we’ve since switched to:
How did the new sharing design go? While we’re still collecting longer-term data, our initial results show about a 1% increase in open rate. That doesn’t sound like very much, but when your list is 60,000 people, that’s an extra 600 people opening it up!
Anecdotally, these results match up with the experience many digital natives have: once they read the content in one location, there’s little reason to read it again in another. Sharing it socially would mean not needing to open it in the inbox – and thus dampening inbox engagement.
So what should you do? Test, of course. Try a week or several weeks of letting people know that you’re publishing your newsletter, but don’t give them a link to the actual content. Make them go to their inboxes and drive up your inbox engagement numbers, then see if that impacts your ability to get email delivered to the entirety of your list.
Christopher S. Penn
Director of Inbound Marketing, WhatCounts
Note from DJ Waldow:
This is one of the many reasons I respect Chris Penn. He does not “break the rules” just for the sake of being a rebel. Instead, he tests. Then – and only then – does he have the data to show what works best for his audience. Remember: Best practices are those that are best for your audience.
Speaking of breaking “the rules” and being an email marketing rebel, you do know that my buddy Jason Falls and I just wrote, The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win. In this book, we dedicate an entire section to email marketing + social media. We also feature quote a few case studies from today’s guest poster, Mr. Christopher S. Penn.
Break the rules and grab your copy today. AVAILABLE NOW!