LISTSERV at Work L-Soft
Issue 2, 2010


Ask the Email List Guru:
Holistic Integration Approaches to Opt-in Email and Social Media

Q. What are some sound strategies for integrating my email list and email marketing communications with social media?

While some tend to make comparisons between email list technology and the newer social media tools, there is little to be gained by taking a divisive, competitive view. Rather, as email list communicators and email marketers, we benefit – and we share those benefits with our subscribers – by taking a holistic and practical view of our efforts and opportunities.

Email List Guru

More and more organizations, perhaps even your own, are taking an active interest in social media marketing and integrating social media technologies with existing email communities and email marketing platforms. Social media marketing generally focuses on creating content that generates online discussions and encourages readers to share the content with their social networks. The main benefit of social media marketing is that it can significantly extend the reach of your message as people share it with their social media connections. As the message spreads from person to person, it is possible to reach a number of people that far surpasses what is possible through traditional email marketing alone. This column explores some approaches to help all of you realize your own optimal social media integration potential and the positive results for your organization – primarily expanding your visibility to new markets – and the benefits to your existing subscribers that will naturally flow from a sound and flexible strategy.

1. Be ever mindful of your core channel, your subscribers and opt-in best practices

First and foremost, it is essential to keep clear that your email lists are your original and most fundamental connection with your customers and stakeholders. They have subscribed to your email lists, so retaining your subscriber base and nurturing your relationships with the people who have opted in to receive your email – perhaps many who have been subscribers for years – is paramount. So, in approaching the new and evolving opportunities to link with your existing and new subscribers, a sound stance is:

  • Maintain your permission-based email communications as the core channel
  • Continue to ask for, listen to and honor subscribers' needs and preferences
  • Keep opt-in best practices squarely in view and in use at all times

Don't expect all of your subscribers to jump into social media opportunities that you present – immediately or even at all. Some will be perfectly content to continue being simply subscribers, their permission for which is a credit to your efforts.

2. Build your social networks parallel to and interconnected with your email-based marketing activities

It's important to keep in mind that social media networks exist in parallel with your email-based marketing activities. So, rather than solely thinking in terms of leveraging social media to drive traffic to your existing email-based content, expand your vision and use your email-based efforts to drive traffic to your social media networks.

Email communities, blogs, Twitter and other social media do not necessarily compete but actually complement one another. Opt-in email communication and marketing are superior and more applicable in certain arenas, while social media is more suitable in others. There is no need to waste time and energy comparing and fretting. Don't be afraid to drive traffic to your social media accounts from your existing email newsletters and email communities. The easiest way to achieve this is by placing icons and links to your social media networks directly into your email newsletters and your email communities' postings and LISTSERV® sites. Achieving as full a reach as possible for your messages and increasing your audience naturally means keeping as many connections open as possible to the outside world.

3. Use social networks to enable more people to connect with your content

Social media – like email list communication and marketing – is about connecting. A large part of email marketing is attracting new readers and expanding your subscriber base. One way to achieve this is by using your own social media networks to drive traffic to your content. Decide which social media that you want to focus on, for example Facebook and Twitter, and create a presence for your organization on those sites. Whenever you have a newsletter or other fresh content available on your website, link to it from your social media accounts. Each social media platform has its own system for members to recommend or share content with their social media connections. In any case, whenever someone shares or recommends your content, you are opening doors, reaching new people and most importantly acquiring potential new subscribers for your email marketing messages.

4. Make it easy for readers to share your content with their social networks

When creating content, try to avoid any barriers that can stand in the way of your readers' sharing it with others. There is no more organic form of marketing than word-of-mouth. There are worldly tools to make it as easy as possible for your readers to share your content with their social networks. These include several free social bookmarking and sharing services, such as AddThis and ShareThis, offering widgets that can easily be integrated with existing websites. The widgets consist of a small snippet of code that can simply be pasted into your HTML code. These social bookmarking services allow your readers to easily share your content with their social media connections through Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious and a whole host of other services. If you are sending email newsletters, create an archived web version of the newsletter containing the sharing widget. For email communities, the widget can be placed, for example, on the list archive pages. Adding the widget to email newsletters themselves is a bit trickier since Javascript is often stripped or disabled by email clients. However, depending on the sharing service that you are using, it is possible to include a static sharing image with a hyperlink to the sharing service's bookmarking page in the actual HTML newsletter. You would then use the URL to the web version of your newsletter as one of the parameters in the sharing URL. By skillfully harmonizing strong relationships with subscribers, the goal of increased visibility and the tools available, the benefits of your subscribers' social networking will be shared.

Ask the Email List Guru is a column in LISTSERV at Work, designed to bring vision and wisdom (with the power of the crystal ball) to everyday challenges of email list communication and email marketing. Post your questions and the guru will respond to the most intriguing topics in each issue.


Subscribe to LISTSERV at Work (American Edition).

© L-Soft 2010. All Rights Reserved.