Our new guest blogger Helen Cammack is one of the small team behind interests.me – a new email newsletter tool specially designed for community groups.
Helen worked in telecommunications for 15 years, most recently for Virgin Media, and has always been involved in running community groups – currently a voluntary group, a residents’ group and her local Scouts. She developed interests.me after becoming frustrated by the fact that most communication tools have not been designed with local communities in mind.
If you run a community group, voluntary organisation, club or society, social media can certainly be a fantastic way of shouting about what you’re up to, and reaching out to a wider audience. But as Lorna’s recent post on The Problem with Facebook Pages beautifully illustrated, it’s not always the most reliable and effective way of communicating important messages to those who already know about and support you.
Email is one communication tool that community groups and non-profits would be well-advised to master first – and the good news is it will probably take less time than social media, and may even be much more effective.
Businesses that engage in digital marketing consistently rank email as the number one method in terms of ‘return on investment’. Time and time again in surveys, email marketing tops the charts, and local groups can get in on the act too.
Here are 6 reasons to learn to love email:
1. Nearly everyone uses email.
Although social media can seem ubiquitous, it’s still only a little over 20% of UK adults who use Twitter on a weekly basis, and a little over 50% using Facebook weekly. But over 80% of UK adults use email at least weekly.
It’s easy to think that because email’s been around for ages, it’s on its way out. In fact email newsletters from businesses and charities are enjoying a resurgence as our social media feeds get busier (and sometimes less relevant). And email open rates (the percentage of emails received which are opened) are actually growing, as we increasingly access our emails on smartphones, giving us more opportunities to read emails in every spare moment.
2. Emails usually get seen.
So-called ‘organic reach’ on Facebook (the visibility of what you post to your followers and supporters) has declined dramatically. You can’t guarantee that if you post something it will be seen by even half of your supporters. Emails tend to have much higher open rates, and even when they’re not opened, the subject line is generally seen, reminding the recipient that you exist, even if they don’t read the whole message.
3. You own your email list.
Collecting a growing email address list of people who want to hear from you is a great idea, because you have permission to contact them directly. Collecting ‘likes’ on your Facebook page, or ‘followers’ on Twitter, only allows you to reach those people on those particular social media platforms which are owned by companies – whereas there’s no CEO of email! You’re in control.
4. Getting email addresses is surprisingly easy.
Just ask. If your group meets up face-to-face, just take along a clipboard and a pen to the next meeting, and ask for email addresses, so you can keep everyone updated. You’ll quickly find you have a long list. In contrast, asking people to like your Facebook page is likely to be less successful.
5. Email can complement social media.
Social media is still great for getting the word out. But if your social media skills are not the greatest (yet) and your following is tiny, you can use emails to directly ask your supporters to tweet or post on your behalf. And with interests.me, we’re building email newsletters that can work a bit like social media to help you promote your group as well as speaking just to the members.
6. Email is personal.
Even if you send out lots of emails, each email is a one-to-one communication, and the recipient can reply just to you. Using interests.me, you can segment your mailing list into a few different ones so that your emails are as relevant as they can be to the different types of people you communicate with – trustees, volunteers, supporters, members, etc. And because email is a one-to-one communication, there’s no risk of getting into a public conversation on social media which you might regret.
At interests.me we’ve built an email newsletter tool specially designed for community groups, after speaking to over 50 groups about what they need. Our aim is to make it super easy to create beautiful emails, manage mailing lists, and collaborate with other members of a team to share the load on individual volunteers.
Unlike other email newsletter tools, interests.me allows you to share your stories, news items and events (if you choose) more widely with other local groups for inclusion in their emails. We’re also developing special community webpages which gather together all the news and events from local groups in a given area.
This promotes collaboration between groups, and the spreading of your messages far and wide across your community, without needing to venture on social media, if you don’t want to.
Our tool is free to use and I invite all groups to give it a go by signing up at interests.me. I’d love to hear feedback from groups using our tool for the first time. It only takes a few minutes to get started, and I’m available to help you if you need it – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2016 I’m really looking forward to working with Lorna at Dudley CVS to make Dudley one of our first local communities for email newsletters. If you run, or help run, a Dudley based group, get in touch at email@example.com to find out more about being part of it.