Social Media's Secret Weapon - Email
The theme in board meeting after board meeting in recent months is driving repeat usage and retention. Whether the product is a mobile app, a social app, a mobile social app, a marketplace, an ecommerce business, or something else, everyone is looking at montly actives/total registered users and saying "let's push that number up and to the right." And I'm nodding my head in violent agreement.
I asked one of the best product centric entrepreneurs I know why he thinks that Facebook does so well on that metric (monthly actives/total registered users) and he said to me "when I get an email from Facebook that a friend has tagged me in a photo, I click on it and go check it out every time."
I've always thought that photo tagging was the killer feature and that photo sharing is Facebook's primary utility. I've said that on more than a few occasions. But there's another piece to this that you cannot leave out. That is the email you get that tells you that someone has tagged you and brings you back to Facebook.
I remember four or five years ago, people, myself included, were asking if social media was going to lead to the end of email as we know it. In an ironic twist of fate, it turns out that email is social media's secret weapon. And more and more social applications are leveraging the power of email to drive repeat usage and retention.
Our portfolio company Return Path is the category creator and market leader in email deliverability. I asked Matt Blumberg, Return Path's founder and CEO, yesterday if they are seeing an increase in the usage of email among their social media and mobile clients. He told me that they are seeing very strong growth across the board in that part of their client base. I'm not the least bit surprised. If you are going to start sending a lot more email, you need to make sure you do it right so that you don't just send all the mail into junk folders.
I do think the rise of alternative notification channels; sms, mobile push notifications, direct messages on twitter, facebook messaging, etc are going to move some of this kind of thing off of email over time. But today, if you want to drive retention and repeat usage, there isn't a better way to do it than email.
Good points.Email usage has changed over the past year. Less spam (regulation, better filters), generic updates now go via social media, and people get better at writing shorter messages, not copying the world.More signal less noise, so you can bring on more (useful) mails.
Excellent point.Twitter does the same when somebody follows/DMs you and that always drives me back to the site instantly.
Incidentally, kudos on ReturnPath’s work. We work with them and they’ve helped us massively.
that is great to hear. i really enjoy working with them as well. i’ve beeninvolved with that team for more than a decade and the relationship is stillgoing strong.
People have finally come to their senses and stopped trying to kill email.Xerox/Doc Management thought it would kill paper. HP’s printers only increased its use.Same for ‘Social Media’ – how else would you have a unique login that you can remember and use everywhere? Where would you send notiications to log into the service? SMS costs users. Too expensive. Email free. It (address) can be disposable too.Ergo sum: use email to tell people about a social post. Next: Monetize the alerts instead of waiting for the next click to get to the site….
Absolutely agree with you, Dave … and Fred. I’ll say it now: I will always use email for a variety of reasons, from professional to personal. Have more of my interactions happened over the social media outlets lately? Of course. But, I still have a steady inflow of message that keep my attention and generate opportunities to work, play, collaborate, share and learn … as well as spurring shopping-related activities.New innovations impact the precedents, some more than others. While few people fax on a daily basis (for those old enough, you might remember getting faxed daily newsletters as opposed to email-based ones), it still exists and won’t be gone for a while. New generations are much more focused on the emerging communications, but I find it hard to believe that email will disappear from the corporate environment anytime soon … and it also is a great way to both acquire and retain customers (surpassing many metrics with display ads, search, social media, etc).I’m a huge proponent of social media and mobile — and what it represents for the future, but even Facebook devoted time and money to their messaging platform and I’m sure we all get emails on our mobile devices today. Sometimes we just need to realize that these technologies can play in the same innovative sandbox.Best,@IanGertler:twitter
Interesting and often overlooked point. Alternatively, SMS still has a broader reach for immediate interaction considering how many people (with low income) do not receive email on their mobile phone (although that should change over time).
How very interesting.-XC
Agree email is the best notification tool right now. However, it is a terrible tool for business communication, documentation and task/project management which unfortunately the majority of people use it for.
Any channel which tries to replace email ends up becoming email: as soon as you get traction, spam becomes the #1 problem.
and the spam business is a big and growing business, both on the filteringand getting through sides
PS – Twitter should figure this out like Facebook and LinkedIn have done…I’d prefer to get DM alerts via email than by SMS.Throw a link in there to go back to Twitter.com so that gets the primary site traffic. Throw an ad into the email so they can make some money. Just because Twitter is an SMS service doesn’t mean that it should do everything using that protocol….very limiting.
i’m sure they will figure it out
+1 for patient investors who are confident in their teams’ ability to execute.
i’ve learned that patient support with constructive criticism is preferable
They’ve already figured out, but maybe for some reason they don’t let users pick a preferred notification channel. In the markets where we can’t use Twitter with SMS we receive notifications via email (common in many European countries, I’m in Spain, but it’s the same in France or Germany). (common in many European countries, I’m in Spain, but it’s the same in France or Germany).
I get my dm alerts via email
I think email plays an essential role, but from my generation forward, it’s going to be moot. I never check emails from FB (in fact they go to a dummy account) – I just get push updates on my phone.Also, I use email almost 100% for business or close friends / family. Everything else gets pulled into Twitter, Facebook or Blogs.Increasingly, I’ve found large groups of friend with specific interests interacting digitally only through Tumblr. Email won’t go away, but I think the big disruptor in Social will be focused elsewhere in the future.
Email is never going to go away, but the way we use it will change. Another useful feature on mobile, which is obvious, are push notifications–makes it easy for the user to see what new content that is relevant to them (similar response pattern as email notification).
i wrote a post about that a few months agohttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…
Thanks, another great post. I definitely think the iPhones notification system needs a lot of improvement. I want a feed where I can see all the notifications from my apps and then choose which ones I want to act on.
You’ve touched a big nerve here Fred.Social calls to actions drive response. Period.A photo tag or even better, a Disqus comment thread via email drives almost instantaneous action. In email vernacular, social emails have as close to a 100% open rate as you can get.
daniel and jason launched disqus on AVC at Y Combinator demo day in thesummer of 2007. paul graham asked me a few days before demo day if theycould do it. i said yes, gave daniel the login to my typepad account, and heswitched it on. that was about six months before USV invested.after the demo, daniel came up to me and asked what i thought. the firstwords out of my mouth was “if you send me an email every time i get acomment or get a reply to a comment, i’ll leave disqus on AVC”that was a thursday. by sunday they had built the email feature. disqusstayed on AVC, six months later USV invested, and the rest is history
Great story. Smart feedback to Daniel. Happy result for 30M commenters on Disqus.Being invited back via Disqus emails to continue the conversation is a happy blip of attention and call to action for all commenters and bloggers.
I was also gonna mention Disqus. The emails are great to foster discussions.The only thing I’d change is to give the chance to receive fewer emails by grouping them, or unsubscribe only from that thread. I use gmail and android, which thread conversations, but when I had my blackberry, the notification light and a new separate email in the common inbox for every comment would turn me mad in the busiest days.
i can’t think about email that doesn’t group and threadthat would probably give me a heart attack
Would you want to get email updates for other activity, e.g. people liking your comments or hitting certain milestones?
My name isn’t Fernando but I’d like to respond. :)Personally, I would like to get emails that gave me some sort of periodic consolidated report on my Disqus activity or when hitting milestones.Although, I wonder if this is of value to the average commenter (who is the average commenter?) or more for people who are monitoring their online engagement or reputation (brand?) in some way. It seems to me that social media and also the game mechanics employed even if subtly into our online experience have cultivated more of an appetite for feedback and measurement. Part of the value of Disqus is that it does this across our broader online engagement.Personally, while I don’t know that I need to be alerted to every single “like” it would be helpful to know where that feedback is coming from without having to scroll down the Activity column.
The capability to customize those notifications would be great.What’s going on with your mobile app, particularly for iPhone?I can’t find it in the App Store?This thread prompted me to go get the app. 🙂
@donnawhite:disqus your name is not Fernando but you are much nicer than him ;)And I agree with you, maybe an email per like can be too much, specially for the @JLM:disqus s of this world. A periodical report could be nice (number of comments per site, replies, likes… all can be obtained from dashboard, but email is easy), although maybe we would be scared of how much we comment!What I would definetly want is being able to like from email. Maybe replying with something or clicking on a link. I’m pretty sure that in active communities like this one you’d see a spike in liking.
@matt_hughes:disqus iphone app coming soon – http://jarodl.com/post/5060…
Funny. We’re working on a Disqus integration with real-time email right now. Whenever you open the message you’ll get the latest Disqus comments about the content. This is a great way of engaging people and pulling them into the conversation.
Perfect use of your technology and glad to hear you guys are working with Disqus! Can’t wait to play with it once it’s live.
Hey Kevin. I am sending you an email with a question about knowabout.it sparked by this post.
Keep me in the loop on this project Sharma, Thanks for sharing this,
Vivek’s product (http://movableink.com/) works at least as well as advertised. Great team working on uber cool stuff.
Arnold — I’m in NYC for a meeting on Thursday/Friday — quick, quick trip — not even sure I’ll have extra time but just in case… I think you live in the city.Are you in town?If so, email me!
Yup, live downtown. And yes, am in town and fairly flexible,
Really- why is that? What about social emails versus other emails that we are missing
Email marketing is a series of step-wise challenges. Define value intersection with customer and product. Interest intersection list creation. Opt-in. Open and response percentage.All four are resolved by a ‘your tagged’ email from Facebook or a Disqus thread email.You chose to be part of the list. You almost always respond.Find a way to add this social design element to a business problem and you’ve got something.
I agree 100%. We launched Listgeeks (http://listgeeks.com) for open registration two weeks ago (and were luckily covered by Mashable: http://j.mp/lZO4GI), and already it’s obvious that a well-crafted Email to our new user base on a weekly basis creates an essential “loop” of returning users. Our strategy is for these Emails to stimulate our users to think about the product in different ways, which we partially accomplish by featuring a prominent weekly guest/list maker – this week it’s typographer/designer Erik Spiekermann: http://eepurl.com/dLpYAIt doesn’t matter if you don’t have a budget: every startup should be using email to find new ways to keep reaching out to their users.Now only if getting funding were as easy!
One very useful way to measure the quality of your product is to look at “organic traffic %”. That is, the % of your traffic that’s not coming from email, affiliate links, banner ads, etc.Most of my visits to Facebook, for example, are not driven by email. I go there because they have a good product.While I agree that in the short term email is the best way to drive repeat traffic, companies should watch organic traffic % closely — if it’s increasing it means your product guys are doing something right. And email will just be the icing on the cake.
that’s true and that is what pretty much all that we focus on when we investin a companyin particular we don’t like a lot of search trafficbut the thing you realize when you’ve built a meaningful user base is youcan get some much more from users who don’t come every dayi almost never use facebook but i have a very active account there because iam friends with about 60 people, many of whom are very activethe emails drive me back at least once a weekso i am a “monthly active” on facebook
I am a Fb stalker, but I turned email notification off.Too much spam.Not everyone wants to filter or see everything.ps – any idea when Disqus will let me sign in via Twitter on my iPad?
good question on disqusi’ll find out
ah ok now i get why you like email notifications – but for anyone with very active FB accounts (would i would include pretty much anyone under the age of 25), email is irrelevant bc it’s mostly turned off. My teenager rarely uses email and studies i’ve seen show a major decline in email usage in younger generations. Txt, app, within site notifications absolutely, but email? Not happening. I think this is a generational thing.
For sure it’s a generation thing but what happens when they grow up, put up the privacy walls on their facebook account (so that would be employers can’t see what they get up to), get a bank account and need to transact in the real world.I’m not sure sms and facebook cut it for the important stuff. But because I’m not a teenager anymore I could easily be proved wrong!
what i’ve seen with my kids (20, 18, 15) is that they start using email when they get to college. in HS, i agree that its mostly useless to try to communicate with them via email
the question is now that they are in HS and College do they turn their FB notifications on?
It’s been said that email is akin to red wine. If you looked at the future of red wine based on its consumption by 18 year olds, you would come to the conclusion that red wine had no future.obviously a false premise.There are many things that we do at 18 that we don’t do at 30 and vice versa….
Me too- do you know where we could get measurements about email driven traffic versus organic for social sites?
I don’t know of a good place to get benchmarks for social sites — though it’d be interesting to see. I look at it from the commerce side and measure it against ourselves over time. Seeing the % fluctuate can give you great insights into what’s working/not with product, email and other marketing.
I’ve been writing a weekly e-mail newsletter to our customers at TheLadders for almost 8 years now (400th week-a-versary was two weeks ago: http://www.cenedella.com/jo… ).My subscribers have gone from a grand total of three in August 2003 to over 4,500,000 in that time, and it’s been a critical part of how we build our business. So I couldn’t agree with you more on the power of e-mail.The secret weapon of the secret weapon is the Subject Line: “If it don’t get open, it don’t get read.” You really need to realize that with everything else competing for attention in the Inbox, you need to have a way to stand out.Some of my top-performing subject lines over the years have been:“Man, I Hate American Airlines”“Bye-bye” [much more effective to announce a new product by saying “bye bye” to the old one than saying “Our new product announcement”]“May I have a word with you about your reputation?”, and“A favor to ask”I think a lot of social media companies miss out on the power of subject lines when they use dry, boring, utilitarian stuff. “Cindy Jones shared a photo of you” was novel, exciting, and titillating a few years ago, but will soon be a yawner.As always, the more things change, the more you need to change faster.
wow4.5mmthat’s incredible marc
thanks. lemme tell you, it is also nerve-racking when you hit “send” each week!
Marc – your subject lines are outstanding. They’re catchy and they achieve their goal. Drive traffic. The number one reason for sending an email.
thanks Dave! the funny thing is that all you have to do to write great subject lines is imagine what you might say out loud to a friend about your story. all of those examples are perfectly normal things you might say in an ordinary day.thanks again.
I once received a farewell email from someone in the company in which I was working at that time. I did’t know him very well and maybe I would not have opened it. But the subject line was “Finally, I’m not leaving”. He then made jokes on the email about tricking us to open it. BTW, he was in marketing.he was in marketing.
The joy of good copy
The ‘you have X amount of time to get my attention’ window keeps getting smaller.Meeting – 5 minsElevator pitch – 1 minCommercial – 5 secsEmail subject line – 1 secs
How long for blog comments? 😉
I was on that list for a long time. I must admit I don’t think I read a single one. But I opened a ton of them because it was my weekly reminder that hey, you guys had new jobs posted, and in fact, there’d be 5 at the top. That said, I think if you sent me 5 loosely targeted job opening search week, I’d not have stayed on the list for as long as I did. The effort to write the essay meant you were thinking about how jobs/hiring works constantly, and that was important — you weren’t like CareerBuilder which basically emailed me a bazillion unrelated jobs every n days. And after a while, I recognized your name, to the point where I saw your comment here and knew exactly what you were talking about, 18+ months later.
Thanks, Dan, I’ll take credit for the subject lines, but, I will have to admit, I did not personally pick the 5 jobs we sent you each week 😉 ;)But I think your comments are exactly illustrative of the type of ongoing relationship that can be created when you work at it.Thanks for being a reader!
@mcenedella ..great comment. The ‘bye-bye’ and airline hating are so clever!
Great points Mark, love how you wer profiled in the book “The Intelligent Entrepreneur”
Wow, I’m just impressed with the commitment to the emails. 400 weeks. It would be interesting to see how things have developed through those emails over the years. 400 weeks ago smaller amount of users but also technology and changes weren’t made on such an expedient manner. Congrats and keep them coming.
Yep, been receiving your emails for quite some time. I take myself off most lists – I have been consulting full-time for 6 years and have no need for your services – but your subject lines are often so interesting that I find myself compelled to look at them.Boring never carries the day. Make it interesting, you win. Hats off, Marc.
Mark – I wish every client had your devotion to making email great!
Sounds like a great co-marketing opportunity for the Friends of Fred! 🙂
why can’t I find the section on your cenedella site to sign up to receive your newsletter? 4.5 million other people found it, so what am I missing?
I was chatting with Albert a few weeks ago during your office hours and my big takeaway was to use email as a marketing tool. Startups are afraid of being spammy, but it seems like that fear makes them throw the baby out with the bathwater.
getting a notification that your friend has tagged you in a photo isn’t spamgetting a useless piece of email from a service you logged into once isyou have to be careful to use email correctly
Don’t you think that the key is the cloud service that Fb provides.? All the tools and content that you need to activate the FB concept (share with your friends) is there and works.
“Using email as a marketing tool” is incredibly overbroad. Email is just another communications medium and/or media source, depending on your definitions thereof. Use it like any other and you’ll be fine. (And just because few people do use it that way, well, that’s no reason to follow in their incorrect footsteps.)Fred’s example of Facebook emailing you when a friend tags you in a photo is perfect. Facebook is ostensibly sending the email, but in reality, your friend is. They’re taking an overt action to tell you something (“hey, you’re in this photo I just uploaded”) and the manner in which they tell you is an email from Facebook. The messenger is really distinct from the message. Facebook becomes the equivalent of the mid-1900s telephone operator whose job it is to route your call, and not actually hang out for the conversation.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen an incredible maturation of social networks, from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook/Twitter. But email has also seen a usage maturity which makes it a great medium (and MBA Mondays readers already know I’m a fan).Here are five reasons why email is going to be stronger, not weaker, in the upcoming years.1) It’s increasingly common for people to have separate email addresses — and accounts — for work and personal use. This is especially true for younger users.* Result: the personal inbox is calmer than it was in years past, as it is not cluttered by corporate email banter.2) Spam filtering has gotten much better.3) Spammers have taken to other networks, e.g. Facebook. http://www.allfacebook.com/… * Result: Higher signal to noise ratio in email than before.4) Quick, informal, one-to-many/one-to-any messages (e.g. announcements about engagements, pregnancies, new jobs; event invitations; link sharing) are moving off of email and onto other networks. * Result: Again, a higher signal to noise ratio; but also, the quality of emails from your personal network is more relevant to you.5) No network dependency and near universal adoption across the medium. You can send a one-to-one message from one platform (e.g. Gmail) to another (Hotmail), but not from say Facebook to Twitter (that is, I can’t use Facebook to send you a dm on Twitter). And that’s important because everyone has an email account.* Result: Email is still the best way to share an item with a specific person or a specific group of people.
Really good points and summation, Dan. I found myself resonating strongly based on my own use of email and what I observe. A year ago I thought my email usage was going to begin waning and I find I am using it more than ever — at least for business. However, my work also involves a significant amount of email marketing. Although, just as you stated, my personal email has waned due to social media and texting — but on the other hand, it has also become more meaningful and I don’t dread checking my gmail account (which is where much of my personal email goes).And while apps on my mobile take the place of some of the emails I’d ordinarily receive from social media (e.g., Twitter notifications), I still ensure that some of the more important notifications also go directly to email — which is why I am steamed when I receive a spammy DM notification.
Whoever says email is dead, or “I don’t use email anymore” is out of sync with reality. Properly used, it’s the most efficient mode of electronic communications.
i reject your reality and substitute my own.okay, i dont completely reject it but i hate to miss a chance to quote Adam Savage from myth busters : http://www.youtube.com/watc…:) 🙂 🙂
nope disagree. kids mostly don’t use it. doesn’t synch with pinging the hive. corporations still use it to death bc they are not building social organizations and have trouble dealing with changing their processes and how they do business. still use it to death bc they are not building social organizations and have trouble dealing with changing their processes and how they do business.
Leigh- nice to meet a fellow Torontonian. I checked your profile, and would like to meet you. Shall I send you an email 🙂 ? Let’s not confuse email with email marketing. Kids like to be engaged on Facebook or social networks, which is fine. And brands are meeting them there with engagement methods. But have companies that are building social organizations obliterated email? No. The uses change, and so does some behavior, but one doesn’t completely replace the other. Fred was eluding to the synergy between social triggers and email as a notification method. My point was that email must be properly used given the other alternatives, social being one of them. But social does not replace email, although it does offer an alternative method to email marketing.
i don’t think email will be obliterated – but i do think the younger generation uses it will. Companies are beginning to relook at themselves and how they communicate – their processes – etc. and email is a huge area of inefficiency that is long due for a complete overhaul. I don’t disagree that notifications are important, but i don’t agree that email is a secret weapon. Not if you have a huge network of weak ties. In that case it becomes an A-bomb.As for email, sure. Always like to connect with smart people.
I find email to be the most effective gateway to introducing readers to corporate blogs—I’ve also had the same success with my own blog [http://andyjacobson.com]. More significantly the commitment factor seems to be stronger than introductions using sms, mobile push, dm, and fb messaging. Perhaps this has to do with email being perceived as an extension of “letter writing”, ie; a more personal form of communication.
This is true to some degree, but there are those of us trying to make email more relevant to work. I can speak for my wife and I, who both use gmail filters and priority inbox to focus on what is important. On my android phone I have a few apps notify me (ie. On twitter, I turn on notifications for mentions and DM’s). It’s not so important to know someone started following me by email. Thats one less thing I need to be checking on during my busy day.
I guess the expected comment from me is, wouldn’t it be nice for everyone to have their own assistant?
Plus ca change?(Content, Community, Commerce.)
plus c’est la même chose
After reading your post, the first thing that sprang to mind is the fantastic position Google is in even if they never fully figure out how to compete in the social space. For all the criticism it received early on, gmail may end up being their most important product.
This is dead on, but like all weapons, email is only as effective as the one who wields it. At the end of the day, the effectiveness, open rate, etc all comes down to the application level. If someone is passionate and excited about the core product then he will likely care about the emails that are sent. In the Facebook example, I care about what’s happening with my friends so by extension I care about the emails being sent to me. In your Disqus example, I’m tied to the conversation I’m participating in so I care about those emails as well.Where the line becomes even more blurry is when email is the product itself (a la Groupon)…
Couldn’t agree more. It’s the in your face combinedwith narcissistic appeal that works so well. Every morning, I wake up to a slewof Facebook, Groupon, and more recently thanks to my wife and kids,Anthropologie emails (and others). It works.
The other missed opportunity, particularly for publishers, is to not think of one’s email newsletter(s) as a media property in its own right. I wrote a 2-part piece years ago for a marketing publication “Your other homepage” that is still very applicable (see http://www.imediaconnection…. It applies companies large and small. While I was at a behemoth (Microsoft) and when running a bootstrapped hyperlocal site, we drove more than half our traffic (60% in the case of SunValleyOnline) and much of our ad revenue from email. SunValleyOnline’s newsletter reaches 1/4 of the population it serves and is more appealing for some traditional advertisers. Unlike ads that rotate (hard for a Main Street biz owner to understand), we can tell them when their ad will run and they can see it for themselves. That has been surprisingly important to get traditional small business to move budgets from newspapers to online.
so true. but you have to get them delivered and opened
Yes- OTOH, knowing open rates means you give SMB a tool to understand how this kind of advertising works. Compared to a newspaper, it also means that a SMB can really measure the value of that ad (which is something they probably need more than big businesses)
I just wrote an add-on to this post titled Implementing Social Media’s Secret Weapon where I talk about Return Path, SendGrid, and Urban Airship. While these are all companies we have invested in, it’s a critically important layer of the social media (and – more broadly – web app infrastructure) that we think “makes it all work.” Instead of just calling it “email” – we call it “comm channels” as we expect the actual comm channels will continue to evolve, although email will continue to be at the heart of it.
no link?i assume feld.comi’ll head over there now
Ah – the irony. The link was in the original comment that I left – and is http://www.feld.com/wp/arch… – I used an href in the disqus box. Apparently, when disqus sends out emails of the comments, they don’t include the links. They should consider using SendGrid (www.sendgrid.com)!
irony all around
Good read and ‘Comm Channels’ is a good term. Love it when someone is speaking as they are outside the box looking at the little boxes.
it’s called “BACN” [sic].it’s spam that’s good and it’s amazingly effective, so long as said email proves some sort of actual value to the user…and if you do it right, Twitter bacn works well, too.
Great points. I think key is mail hits the big 3: platform independent + app independent + has some auto curation and signal to noise mgmt. Therefore most efficient and effective for user, e.g. one email scan instead of (n) checks of (n) apps, and gmail’s features make that single check low pain. Do think mobile push is first real potential email disrupter but will need hit those big 3 items in order to do so?
At the same time I find it’s best to send a message via FB to certain people because I know they are engaged all the time. And FB is one of the killer products of the mobile space.It’s strange that I only use FB for that…. and some photos for the family/friends.
Receiving an e-mail may legitimize the activity for many people since mail is usually a crucial aspect of our business life.
email communication is so critical to a consumer web service. We have an advisor to the company from one of the big Email marketing companies who’s sole purpose is to guide and refine our email strategy. I really felt early on that it was that important – and i still do.We even built a parallel bidding system using email. We talked to merchants – asked them how they would like to be notified of and respond to potential business – we assumed it was text or push notifications – WRONG – a whole load of them wanted email. So we built the system so that they can simply respond to the gesture of interest by responding to an email – this is then pushed through the business logic of our bidding system on the web service. Simple. (we hope!)I can happily predict that email will be one of the key reasons we get traction. We know the product is not perfect. But we must continue to engage and invite back as we go through the evolution – the relevance and importance of our email communication will do this.
I’ve found the same thing, Mark. In business, people want email communication.However, social media has helped to discipline and refine our email communication and strategy.I love how the two dovetail. Some other commenters have touched on this.
Could not agree more Fred. In fact, with real-time email we are starting to see social media creep into email. Tweets, Facebook stream updates, Likes, etc. can now make marketing emails so much more engaging. Nothing beats email for loyalty and getting your best customer lifetime value. If you’re curious what a socially-augmented email looks like I have a demo you can send to yourself here: http://movableink.com
Great points Fred. From a user perspective, this is great too. Also from the user perspective, if someone can come up with an approach to being able to interact within the e-mail I get (without needing to go back to the social media site), I would be even happier…
A “social network” is an e-mail, on-site notifications, and mobile notifications marketing machine masquerading as a social network. When content is about you (i.e. tagged in a photo, commented on your status, network effects of “friends”, etc.), your lifetime value on that service is limited only by the quality of software used to serve your “ego”. Hence it’s where Friendster failed, MySpace never really executed against, and Facebook absolutely nailed. Key is to mix “me” content with commercial content through the signal and boom, you have the next great media company.
i heard the other day that google is the ego of the web, facebook is the super ego of the web, and 4chan is the id of the web
I can’t compute…What’s the commercial value of the signal coming from a 4chan ID? Do adverts really want to brand against that? Seems more like the militia of the net, albeit a large one, than anything.
i’m not sure there is direct commercial value of being the id of the web
Subliminal ad messages…?
Thoughts on the idea of verified online ID scaling commercially offline? So online2offline bridge.
Fred doesn’t mean ID as in identification. He means id as in:http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…
Haha! Got it. Thanks for the heads up.
It’s not just social media’s secret weapon. Used properly it’s every web app’s secret weapon. The thing about other channels like sms and push notifications is that they need to be used more sparingly because the threshold at which they become perceived as spam is much lower.Also I wrote a post on why I thought foursquare needed to communicate via email back in January http://www.startupboyo.com/…
I literally tweeted about this topic just last night ( http://twitter.com/#!/falic… ) and I woke up to find one of my top recommendations from knowabout.it was a link about http://mailgun.net (looks awesome btw).I basically pass everything through my email…if something is sitting in my inbox it’s either because A. I’ve got to act on it or B. I havent’ seen it yet…and this system works amazingly for me (especially as someone that often needs to time-shift the world to my reality)…it’s also one of the reasons I built my pu.ly service (so I could get email alerts when people needed my attention via twitter).
I routed my Facebook emails to the trash and I’ve stopped going to Facebook so much. It’s a feature every social application has to get right and honestly every app should have a social component.
Email is very powerful for mobile apps. At Pontiflex, our AppLeads product helps mobile developers to build their email marketing database. With this tool, developers are building lists of 10,000+ registration each daily. They are seeing 30% open rates on the emails sent to their lists, and 15% CTR (as presented by some of our developers at App Nation a couple weeks ago).http://www.marketwire.com/p…Notifications are great too, but I find them to be a bit like SMS advertising – a bit invasive when pushed. This post by a top android developer tells that interesting story too. http://www.martinadamek.com…
I wonder how true this is for users under 18 years old. I’m always amazed when my sister tells me she never checks her email. She communicates with her friends exclusively through facebook, as do all of her friends. So there is definitely a limited lifespan to this effect.
i bet you it doesn’t work for users under 18 years old. but facebook is a great example of a service that used to be for young people but isn’t anymore
Social Media: Listening Tools Are The Next Frontier http://goo.gl/fb/kbp87 And ongoing https://twitter.com/#!/sear…
GroupOn proves the email point further.
Paramendra, I think you are spot on here and glad you brought this up. I saw Fred’s post this morning but could not immediately comment as I was getting ready to leave for a charity event for which I had volunteered. Many folks might think (wrongfully) that I am totally anti Daily Deal industry because of the Coupon CPA model I offer small biz owners and the related new micro book I wrote on up-front Daily Deal analysis, etc. The fact of the matter is I actually applaud the industry in a couple of areas. While I do think Daily Deals can be lacking in certain areas, I applaud the Daily Deal industry for reinvigorating email as a BOOM tool. While it is the quality of the ‘deal’ that gets people to read and act, the tech used is older tech that leverages newer social sharing components. In my mind: Daily Deal offer = small biz owner willing to almost give away product + super sexy ad copy + email (plain, old, simple email)It is amazing how effectively the Daily Deal industry was able to remake email marketing. In my opinion, the biggest factor to Daily Deal industry success is not properly recognized; it is the small business owners willingness to offer steep discounts. But the email delivery players (Daily Deal companies) are the ones who get all the press.I hope small business owners utilizing Daily Deals realize this and do everything in their power to grab contact information (e.g. email addresses) from every single customer that walks through their doors.Thanks again Paramendra for bringing this up so I could reply to your post rather than starting a whole new thread.The picture is just my way of saying happy weekend from KC to the AVC community in general (it is BBQ, or course).
The economics of the daily deal still seem to be very steep and need to be worked on. Many businesses can’t afford the discount unless the product is severely over-markedup
Shana…not certain that is correct.The most cost-critical activity for any business is customer acquisition. It’s that cost in relation to the cost of a Groupon that makes the deal work or not. It doesn’t need to pay for itself by the margin alone, it needs to be cost effective from a customer acquisition perspective. This goes back to the CAC and LTV discussion.
There is some truth in that. That is why the analytics portion is so important because the acquisition costs for these types of promotions can change based on who ends buying the deals (existing customers vs. new customers). Existing customer buying them effectively [update: increase] the acquisition cost per new customer. It also very much depends on the industry. If the industry itself has little to no customer loyalty and is frought with price discounting (or future price discounting) then the notion of the promotion having to pay for itself is much more important.
HI GeoffreyYes, of course, industry to industry, biz type to biz type this is always different.But the general parameters of CAC and LTV in some equation determine whether it is useful or not. This not simply a margin argument.You are right on that services with the lowest customer loyalty quotient are usually the ones that this model works least for.
I agree with @SIXSTRINGcpa:disqus ‘s thoughts Though I think this post is useful http://lightspandigital.com… ‘s thoughts Though I think this post is useful http://lightspandigital.com…
You are spot on. I think GroupOn has proven that the problem was not that people were getting too many emails, but that the emails they were getting were not high value enough. GroupOn added value to your inbox.
While my 16 year old son never checks email but is in constant communication via texting on his iPhone, I have a 52 year old friend who is an uber-successful investor and businessman with no presence whatsoever on social media and who only uses text messaging to communicate with his young adult kids. To reach him (now as a friend, and previously as a client) it’s either email or the phone and the rare text message. And none of these would have worked with him for an initial introduction or for marketing — but that’s another story. I use these two examples because while my son and the people within a decade or so older than him represent a highly visible market segment in the tech world, this friend and many other people that I know with similar perspectives (both friends and clients) still represent a large and significantly influential segment of the overall business population that will ensure that email has at least another decade of shelf life. These are people who use very few if any apps and are wary of social media in general for any type of important communication. In circles like AVC, it is easy to forget that these people are still out there. (I wonder how many of these represent the LPs in the investment world.) I realize that today’s post wasn’t about email in general but rather email in relation to social media. However, as long as email is a primary communication tool for many power-wielders it will continue to thrive, sexy or not.And as highly sensitized and committed as I am to social media — and heavily dependent upon it — I find that email is still the primary tool that I use in business communication and in disseminating information from a marketing standpoint. As an aside: We often use our mothers as examples of the technological illiterate, but I was just remembering that my mother, who to this day is still on dial-up and AOL and whose email communication consists mostly of those infamous “forwards”, discovered the social media phenomenon long before I did. Years ago, after discovering “chat rooms” I received an email from her informing me that she was “raising hell on the internet!”
Just my opinion but you offer a great example and commentary.
Why, thank you.
i agree geoffrey. donna is a “pillar of this community”
Thank you, Fred. That means a lot.(sniff, sniff)
I’m finding that in my age group people switch back and forth very very fluidly. I’ve gotten business messages through facebook, as odd as that sounds
If I’m trying to reach out to someone during recruiting, I will message them on FB if I don’t have another way to reach them. I’m curious what type of business messages you’ve received — if you are able to share that — and how you felt about being contacted on FB in that way.
There has someone who once asked me what i know of seo, out of the blue. Igot an email address for volunteering at General Assembly….I once was pitching these party guys who get crowds to go to club to let mehelp them put metrics in places for tracking who is coming (they suck atthese sorts of things, apparently)
Agreed. We’ve been sending a weekly email newsletter for almost 2 years now and it definitely drives a significant amount of traffic back to our site. We’ve been playing with format and content, but in the end, the headlines are key to an open.Lots of people continue to shout how email is dead . . . after reading through the comments here it is clear to me that I’m not alone in believe that is simply not the case.
Couldn’t agree more; social is about discovery, email is still the king of engagement.
Oh how I detest email, but it is one step short of a phone call in the process.
Agreed, Facebook is great at driving engagement with their emails. There are some fascinating product subtleties worth exploring here: in the early days of Facebook, before photos even existed, when someone posted on your wall or sent you a message, you’d get an email alert — but it *wouldn’t* include the contents of the message/wall post. To see that, you’d have to click the link and go back to the site…and of course you’d get distracted and stay on the site for hours.In 2004, Facebook was neck-to-neck with a competitor at Columbia called CuCommunity (which was later known nationally as CampusNetwork — http://www.slate.com/id/226… ). Among the key product differences was that CuCommunity would deliver *entire* messages right to your inbox. Although that’s a better user experience, CuCommunity missed out on a key opportunity to bring you back onto to the site. It’s an interesting case where user-experience and business-objectives are at direct odds with each other. But I firmly believe that feature is one of the reasons Facebook beat out CuCommunity.(also it’s worth mentioning that OkCupid and Badoo are the kings of engagement via email. They literally have email stickyness down to a science.)
Email kinda serves as a makeshift Growl for socmed apps dealing with a distributed, mobile user base. How many things will any one person be willing to tap on to check a notification of some kind? There seems to be a much smaller upper bound to that then to the actual number of apps that that same person may be willing to use. Based purely on friend circle anecdotal evidence.
Matt Keiser, co-founder of Datran Media, and founder of LiveIntent, used to say “Email is the first social network” and “Social networking wouldn’t work as well as it does without email.”
A Moment Of Appreciating Disqus http://goo.gl/fb/SpEtC
I totally agree with your Fred. One thing I have found is that most web app startups are botching this by providing to many notification options and opting users into all of them.When I signed up for Quora and spent some time poking around, I woke up the next day with 75+ emails from Quora. I had to go uncheck about 40 boxes in my account to stop the madness.Social sites/web apps should really think about what the best notification options are and ditch the non-value options or make them specifically opt-in so they don’t risk losing the channel altogether with a user.
such a great point. less options is better
what were google thinking when they made google wave?*shakes head*
So, ever had a discussion about immediate email notifications with Jeff Atwood?
i have not
I’ve always been hesitant using email as a tool to attrack customers (readers) to my site. I, for instance, always experienced these facebook emails as spam (although I could turn them off) and I’m under the impression my readers would get the same image about my site.
Email is the social media’s equivalent to ecommerce’s UPS.
so behind the curve. of course email continues to prevail.bubble-blowers — especially those who have not built products but only used and invested in them — get too wrapped up in the latest this or that.
What, no commenter accusing Fred of writing this important and useful post as a blatant pitch for one of his portfolio companies?I’m getting really disappointed in you, trolls.
I’ve seen further proof of this in a B2B channel for dentists, small business people too busy to sit in front of computers. In a survey, they claimed to HATE email, yet 95% were on mobile phones, Blackberries at that time primarily, so all their communications were email (browser usage was still pretty dormant, and this was just a few years ago).What they loved was updates from Facebook (email), updates from our educational network (email), and updates from friends (email) and last on their list…was getting emails. Even though virtually all communication was email.Social and mobile make email appear not to be email to many average users, and just finding out that they were all on mobile made us refocus our strategy, and emails, to serve them via mobile. Key insight – using the word “Download” on every email, for our audio interviews, radically increased usage and listening. We used to just send them emails with links to a web site, so we changed that to include a mobile download on the top of every email, then links to a web site if they were in front of computers.More proof of what you’ve shared Fred, even on mobile it’s still all about email, the only thing that gets through and converts, so far….
Love this post! Too many companies, Mad Men &self-described social media gurus still treat the email channel likemarketing’s red-headed step-child–an afterthought to be tagged onto the end ofa campaign. The fact, however, is that if Google is the ego of the web,Facebook the super-ego, and 4Chan the id, then email is it’s lifeblood–thechannel that facilitates interaction, awareness, and re-engagement.I’d be interested in your thoughts on whether app developers understand emailas a “secret weapon.” I’ve begun exploring the notion of”apptrophy” (see http://bit.ly/e6wstL), and my initial findings arethat most don’t. They’re over-relying on smart phones/tablets “push”notices and neglecting to get the email opt-in. This is leading to the premature death of apps that need to nurture usagebeyond the initial download. Those who have been around the ‘net since the beginning havelearned this lesson many times, but “Build it, and they will come,” is not astrategy—it’s a recipe for disaster & fleeting interest. Whether you’re a brand, a social network or acool app, you had better have an email strategy or else you’re condemning yourselfto far more expensive/less impactful communication channels.
I was amazed by the number of comments it has generated. Can you imagine if they tried to use e-mail for this discussion? Impossible! I do agree e-mail alerts are still an important part to bring people to discussions, but it’s not used for the discussion itself. That’s what probably happened with this post. People got an alert but immediately jumped into the social capabilities for the exchange of ideas.Since e-mail is a cheap way for the sender to try to engage someone, it will still be used without restrain – unfortunately. Senders don’t account for the negative productivity impacts and related costs they generate in the other end. A distribution list can’t even be used as a gauge for its effectiveness since most e-mails are deleted and there is no way to know who’s actually reading them.At home or office we scan through envelopes and promotional material throwing 95% into the trash, but we no longer – for the most part – exchange letters or office memos using paper. E-mail will be the same. We will receive hundreds of them and delete 95%, either automatically through spam filtering capabilities or manually, but it will be barely used for collaboration, innovation and exchange of ideas. Did you know 99% of the e-mails sent to corporations never reach employees’ inboxes? They are filtered by a anti-spam tool long before they even get to their destination.Mr. Wilson makes a clear statement that e-mail is a secret weapon to bring people to the Social Media space, but he never advocates the use of e-mail for collaboration and discussion. I was disappointed that in many comments people seem to be confused about the message and used it to validate their ever growing e-mail usage.For more on the topic: http://gotsocial.blogspot.c…
So what happens now when the social networks themselves start offering email services? Didn’t you get the note from facebook stating that your fb user id can now be your email…”Receive emails as a part of your Facebook conversations. Your email address will match your public username.”Thus, you will now have the pleasure of having a facebook.com email.
More apps need to have the ‘get an email everytime something happens’ option. It’s so killer for staying connected.
You nailed it right on the head with that one. One thing to add about emails and getting people to sign up for your newsletter is offer incentives on your e-commerce site, through twitter, and even facebook. Everywhere you can drive traffic to your newsletter naturally. Spam is easy to spot, but through Twitter and FB you can get those people you want and get your numbers up. JamesCEO and Founder of http://www.thasource21.com
Thanks for providing some perspective on this issue. Sometimes it’s easier to look at things in hindsight saying “of course email is still relevant” but I am like you at the time we weren’t sure of the future of email with the surge of social media. I think email is certainly relevant. I think where people get frustrated (me included) is when companies over promote or over send. What do you think?
Your comment “”when I get an email from Facebook that a friend has tagged me in a photo, I click on it and go check it out every time.” absolutely strikes a cord. And its one of the pieces that I teach, when speaking with advisors, agents and sales people about why to use social media. “You’ll always deal with the email alerts that you get from social media before you tackle the hundreds of other emails in your inbox” It’s proven correct 99% of the time. It’s because we have a tribal instant – and in joining our tribes in social networks (our connections on LinkedIn, our friends on Facebook, etc etc), because we have that tribal connection, then it has us respond and read that commentary first. Try is next time you open your inbox..
great blog.well IMHO email is still a traditional platform on the internet.Most people use them when they want to access them.Push notification is somehow new.We seem to be getting push notifications when we dont want them to be pushed ( bad mood,driving,sleeping,bathing,meeting etc ).Oh yeah i would quickly responded my push noty when im taking my own sweet time in the restroom cause they are short and precise.Email is so packed with everything – One thing i love about daily emails.Scenario,timing and how they are being displayed to us are three most important things at least to me.
Hi Fred, I really like this post and I’m glad that my friend Philip got me to start reading your blog.I don’t have the same level of background, experience and knowledge that you do on these matters. However I’m familiar with the psychology and economic literature from my graduate studies at the University of Michigan’s School of Information – where I focused on Social Computing (si.umich.edu/msi/sc.htm) and Incentive Centered Design (now called Information Economics Management). When you mentioned the conversation with the product centric entrepreneur (i.e., when I get an email from Facebook that a friend has tagged me in a photo, I click on it and go check it out every time) I was hoping that you were going to elaborate on how a news story about the user was the driving motivation for them returning, not the email. And had you gone this way we could then make the case that while email serves a powerful and useful purpose it is not the medium itself that is driving return engagement; rather, in this case, people just like to read about themselves. So while I’m in agreement that there isn’t a better way than email to drive retention and repeat usage I still don’t support the idea that email itself is the primary incentive or motivation for users to return.I do however agree with your thoughts on the rise of alternative notification channels taking these kinds of things away from email – as long as they continue to notify users that they can see something that relates to themselves or benefits them by returning.I look forward to your upcoming blog posts!Best,Nate
For me, Groupon is the one that really figured this out. They built their business on email lists. Before Groupon the amount of email I was receiving from businesses was actually declining. It was like email was given up on. Now I get daily emails from multiple companies encouraging me to participate in some way. To me, Facebook seemed to add email functionality on as an afterthought. It just didn’t feel like they felt it was an important piece of their business. Groupon, on the other hand, is using it as a core component of their business.
I agree, e-mail is a very powerful medium and for some applications that I have signed up to e-mail is the only way they stay on top of my internet things. A really good example is Kickstarter, I never think of wandering along to Kickstarter’s website to see if there are any interesting projects I should donate to. I have however donated on a few occasions because of the e-mail – I read almost every e-mail they send because they are interesting, well written, clear and look good. Then every now and again I click through to their website to donate.An e-mail is a letter addressed to a person – get it right and it’s personal, quaint and direct. Many social media places don’t evoke quite the same feeling as yet.
I think the key is providing content/information that people want in email marketing, much like users want to know who is tagging them in a picture, so they open it. I send thousands of emails a month to our users of http://www.erollover.com and find that the ones that get the most opens and clicks are those which offer information about a subject that users are interested in. By separating email lists based on interests, it is easier to target users preferences, much like social media websites advertise to users, based on their interests.
Sure, send me your resume and our assessment!
Agreed. E.g. smart email personalized notifications that bring you stuff that matters, social intelligence, etc
It drives advertising. The question with email and site interface is does it drive time on site and therefore advertising (in an advertising based business)I’m finding with a lot of web 2.0 – the answer is no. I’m not getting enough value out of the email to drive me to a site….And that is a pity
Your question is as big as human behavior theory Charlie.Is how you look in photo that is tagged for your friends to see unimportant? Yes and no. But actually yes ;)One of the most egregious Facebook spam techniques is when someone uses photo tags to get you to view some product photo. You behavior is tampered with in this model. This is the new personally intrusive interrupt advertising technique.
I have to agree with Arnold and I think it is not only the ‘how’ we look in the photo but the ‘what’ are we doing in the photo too. The curiosity factor can be as important as the vanity factor, I think. The ‘why’ we click is such a huge question and the motivators are different. That is what makes business, in general, and marketing, specifically, so fascinating I think.
Human behaviors are what makes life interesting ;)The magic of the social web is that it surfaces the possibilities of social behavioral design in commercial communities in a rich and new way. At its core that is what the endless social media and social commerce discussions are leading towards.Marketing traditionally bridges the silent and spacial gap between commerce and people, between what you sell and what people believe they bought. While this is still true, that gap is vanishing, and noisier and more personal. Marketing is more than every about understanding behavior in a social commercial settings.
I definitely get that it’s very broad, but specifically when it comes to photos. People click when something is about them for a number of reasons–curiosity, sure, but that’s less of a motivator, I’d guess, than ego, affirmation, etc.
I’ve turned off notifications for a lot of services, and find myself not seeking them out. Not disqus though 🙂
Dunno…depends on the person. Facebook is about ‘me’ and everyone has a different gotcha about that public ‘me’. Regardless, it drives response.A Disqus email drives curiosity and anticipation if its either your blog or a string you are part of.Key to me is that social drives response. Figuring out how to use that in your biz, your service is the golden ring to growth.
@awaldstein:disqus @ShanaC:disqus @SIXSTRINGcpa:disqus @fredwilson:disqus The key is per the discussion between Arnold and Charlie. Not a matter of the driver being a photo or opinion, but doing either/or fluidly. We are so niched that e-mail is leveraged as what Micro has been doing.If your product will sort and deliver to the user in the most fluid way notifications of alert and/or response, then you have a highway to offer the advertising community delivering bigger impact.
@davewbaldwin:disqus Ok so new question, how do we leverage other social motivators (sorry Charlie)
@ShanaC:disqus Sorry for our trespassing Charlie-Mark Suster did a thing back when about your product HAVING to be 10x better than the competitor.Through real AI (proto artificial thought) you can break down barriers that thow us into too many niches.Then the nichers can either cooperate or get left behind.
@davewbaldwin:disqus (charlie, I am so sorry), shouldn’t that sort of motivation be thought about in advance, so that it is baked into the product? Not ai wise, something better, more human…
@ShanaC:disqus and why not Charlie?Shhhhh, be vewy vewy quiet……You are on right track, yet it is a matter of flipping game board. IOW, it is all thought of in advance.The difference between narrow AI and moving up the ladder to Artificial General Intelligence is the Intelligence (artificial).Imagine as you’re sitting there your wanting to know if someone sent something promised, something about a hot current subject and/or if the wedding planner of your friend (you’re bridesmaid) took care of a detail.Which would you rather do? Push, pull and tap? Call however many people on the phone? Or simply (orally) ask your device?Do you need to have some sweat shop picking up your request, translate it and find the answer? Or, can you handle the fact your device understands you and delivers?So instead of having a switchboard of however many employees required to handle numerous requests from a growing base of Users, we can supply an employee per User (in a manner of speaking) that can work in mulitple categories. Hence, Virtual Assistant as per original definition.The above paragraph is NOT meant to say we are after eliminating employment. It is a matter of allowing all people, no matter taste, gender, income, nationality the ability to do more.Now you know what my mission is. For it fits the only logical way to enable a better world for everyone.
as I said, it is not just a me thing- there is a point where bcn is just not tasty.