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5 lessons newsletters can take from social media

By Mikela Dennison, Senior Account Exec @ The Clarity Business

Newsletters.

Love them or hate them, newsletters are a highly useful way to ensure that your business or organisation is in regular contact with your target audience.

However, newsletters often have a bad rep for being a thing of the past, an inbox clutterer - and often the cheap piece of paper that gets thrown out with the rest of the junk mail.

But done well, newsletters can be interesting, visual, easy to cast an eye over and most importantly - something that your audience wants to share.

When you think about it, the ideal newsletter would be well-placed to adopt a few elements of social media - which pulls people in to learn more about your business, rather than pushing your product or service out to a disengaged and largely faceless audience.

Here at The Clarity Business, we create newsletters for several of our clients each month. For some we'll use set formats for consistency and others develop over time as organisations or businesses change. Whatever the format, industry, or frequency of your newsletter, making sure the content connects with your audience is imperative.

1. Describe your audience's world

The most effective newsletters don't focus on you as the business or individual. Let me repeat that: the most effective newsletters don't focus on you.

An interesting newsletter should describe the world of your audience: what they're interested in, what they'll enjoy hearing about and most importantly - how you can help them achieve what they need.

The sales angle or pitch should only be a small portion of your newsletter, because over time your audience will appreciate your brand and be more likely to do business with you because they learned something interesting from you - as opposed to you ramming your product or service down their throat.

Newsletters can have subtle messages about your product or service, but the less overt these are, the better your audience will be able to see your bulletin as something of interest to them - rather than yet another sales pitch.

2. A picture tells a thousand words

Stats don't lie - and research has shown that social media posts with images or video receive far more clicks than those without. Did you know that social media posts with images get twice as many likes as those with just text?

Using high quality images throughout your newsletter gives your reader an added reason to spend time with it. For visual people, often a great image or graphic can be the reason you will start and keep reading – for example, I'm currently reading Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and the illustrations throughout the book make the text so much more interesting and engaging for me.

We always try to include imagery, graphics, or illustrations in the newsletters we help our clients create. From photography, through to custom design layouts and branding, when you see a juicy newsletter packed with pictures, you are that much more compelled to read on (and enjoy it).

3. Frequency matters, impulse helps

A good newsletter will be published consistently; monthly, bimonthly, quarterly and even annually, it's important to create an expectation among your audience that they will get your newsletter at a similar time when you publish each issue.

Again, newsletters can take heed from social media in this area - bloggers often have a good level of consistency in the time and day they publish, which means their audience is prepped, ready and expecting their post.

In saying that, if you have some exciting company news or a time sensitive announcement that just can't wait until the next edition, you always have the option and flexibility of doing a special issue.

Social media is much the same – you will often have a plan and strategy for your social media activity, but if there is something you want to share or post, there's no harm in straying from the norm every now and then.

4. Love the numbers

For many professionals using social media analytics and tracking reveal insight about your efforts and results: you might use analytics to see which platforms drive the most traffic to your website, to find out how long people stay on your site or to find out where your audience members are accessing it from.

Good news for business people making use of newsletters - the level of data you can already garner from social media is increasingly applicable to newsletters.

Online marketing and newsletter platforms such as Mail Chimp provide really useful information on open rates, the time of day people read your newsletter, new subscribers, forwards, and data on social sharing. For the super-savvy online marketer and newsletter aficionado, you can get the Mail Chimp app for iPad and get customers and clients to sign up while you are on the go.

Think like social media - love your numbers and use them to make your newsletter more effective and sharable.

5. Be helpful

Social media has made it simple to be helpful. From restaurant recommendations, to product reviews, live-tweeting and breaking news, social media thrives on connecting ideas, people and tips.

A great newsletter can and should be helpful too.

You can highlight industry or sector news and add extra insight, provide local knowledge, offer interesting statistics and fun facts - the range of options you have to add value and be helpful to your audience in a newsletter are endless. Being helpful is great for attracting new business and ensuring your existing clients, customers and stakeholders feel like you are looking after them - newsletters are the perfect channel for it.

Try to keep in mind that it's not all about you - it's about sharing information and insight that will be of interest to your audience. Of course you should showcase examples of your business or team doing well, but it's important to balance that out with other info that isn't about your product or service.

Wrapping up

So it's clear that there are some lessons to be learned from social media for newsletters:

  • Use newsletters as an opportunity to describe the world of your audience and pull them in, rather than pushing your product or service out
  • Make use of imagery whenever possible to increase engagement and heighten interest
  • Publish your newsletter regularly - but don't be afraid to make special announcements if it's appropriate
  • Utilise tracking and analytics so you can make your newsletter more readable and sharable
  • Try to be helpful and add value for your readers: they'll thank you for it.
What's the best newsletter you've ever read or produced? And what made you like it so much? Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions below.