Oct
15
2010

Are Alumni E-Newsletters Passé?

I frequently hear concerns around the idea that e-newsletters are outdated or even unnecessary due to social media marketing efforts. Nowadays with Facebook, Twitter and blogs we can communicate more often than once a month or every other month, so are e-newsletters really fulfilling the needs for our alumni & friends?

To be upfront I’m all for a multichannel marketing and communications approach as it allows our audience the opportunity to select how they wish to hear about our events, news and other topics of interest to them. That being said “Email is NOT dead!” One should never put all their eggs in one basket as that will eventually lead to a disaster. Diversify and concur!

A recent study by Chadwick Martin Bailey found that Email Still Tops Facebook for Keeping in Touch as 86% of survey respondents said “they used email to share content, while just 49% said they used Facebook”. It shows that only 18 – 24 year olds use social networking sites more than email for sharing information; however email still came in a close second.

E-Communications have changed & we must strive to keep up!

Although e-newsletters will continue to exist the concept of what an e-newsletter is has changed. The idea of the old fashioned “alumni e-newsletter” where you scrolled through it forever to read the content and that was the only place to get it is long since “DEAD”!

In today’s social world where content is created quickly by anyone and shared amongst everyone the idea of hiding content in a restricted area is passé. Although that is not to say some things shouldn’t be supper protected (credit cards, SSN, etc.) but when it comes to “news” & “events” I’m pretty much a share with everyone (in the target market) type person. After all the more people that know about it the better, right?

The style of e-newsletters has become more of a directional tool for our recipients with short excerpts enticing readers to view the full story in an interactive, rich media, online environment. The most important change is that the content can exist anywhere and still be utilized in an e-newsletter. Be it on the Association’s blog/news site, another site maintained by the University, school or a department, a social network or even directly to an alum’s personal blog story. Today owning the content directly is no longer as valuable as it used to be (although still good for SEO & market awareness). Sharing content of others that is of interest to your recipients has become far more important – think about the Facebook Share & Twitter’s ReTweet features.

So you are telling us to “repeat” ourselves? No! I’m telling you to share the information with a different audience; your e-newsletter subscribers. After all, it’s not like your email list will be only 18 – 24 year olds and you’d be surprised to learn the number of people that didn’t see your last Tweet, Facebook post or other social update. With today’s always on communications there is a great amount of noise and the e-newsletter can help you get past it.

How do you Balance the Workload?

The second part to this topic is usually related to “workload” as we all know that alumni professionals (all Higher Ed even) are amazing at doing way to much in one day. Often times we end up victims of our own success. Is there not something we can do to lessen the workload on ourselves? Yes!

Technology today has created several features that can help us shorten the workload and spend less time creating the e-newsletters and focus on that which is more important “the recipients”. Oh wait, you expected me to say content? Sorry, but remember the recipients determine your content now, you are just sharing it, and therefore you must focus on them before the content can be determined.

That is right; the e-newsletter today has become a sharing tool like that of most social networks. Once you think of it that way it’s rather easy to find ways to simplify the workload while still creating an amazing and engaging e-newsletter.

RSS to Email

This is probably the most important tool that will help you save time and energy. This tool has been around for a while as Feedburner has a very simplified version of this tool allow blog subscribers to get email updates when new articles are published on the site.  However, that was only the beginning and this tool has evolved to allow for the creation of blog recaps like this one by eROI.com. Notice how you can have multiple feeds put into one e-newsletter style formatted message. This is a feature that most major email marketing providers are adopting, so I expect it to become more popular and easier to use soon.

Yahoo Pipes

Need to mesh up multiple feeds to get the right RSS for using with the RSS to Email feature? Yahoo Pipes is a tool that will allow you to do just that. Not only can you mesh RSS feeds but you can take other XML feeds and combine them all together to get one pretty RSS feed results.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Flickr

You didn’t think I’d forget about these did you? You’ve got tons of options with these and the content that is already being publishing on them. Did you know you can get RSS feeds for all your updates to any social network? Imagine how you could mesh that in with the other tools.

Do you know of other tools that can help makes e-newsletter great?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

photos/icons credit, Bright Meadow

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