May 5, 2013

How I Use My Email List

One of the hardest challenges in building an audience blogging, is retaining and engaging with readers.

Blogging often feels ephemeral. After publishing a piece, I often share it on Twitter, Quibb, and occasionally HackerNews if the topic’s appropriate. Sometimes it catches on. Sometimes it doesn’t. But in either case, the majority of those readers never engage return to my blog. That’s right, I have a leaky bucket problem.

So I started pushing my email list, teasing upcoming blog posts and a free copy of a book I’m working on. It’s only been a few weeks but here’s how I’ve approached it.

Personally Welcome

Each time a new subscriber signs up, Mailchimp sends me a lovely email notification. Within 24 hours, I send a personal email to each and every person, thanking them for subscribing and attempting to engage them in conversation.

Hey Dale,

Thanks for subscribing! Btw, any blog posts you’re most interested in reading about?

It’s short, succinct. About 70% reply, some of which prefix their response with, “this is probably just an automated message but…” which always amuses me.

This isn’t the most scalable or efficient but these interactions have formed new relationships and extended existing ones. I enjoy it and it’s a great way to get feedback.

F*ck Automation

Most bloggers have a script that simply rebroadcasts their blog posts to their email list. This is lazy and uninteresting.

IMHO, email lists shouldn’t just be a rehash of your blog. We already receive enough “newsletters” (how many of them do you actually read?).

Instead I “talk” to subscribers. Here’s what I sent out last week:

The Results

I only just started so my sample size is small but thus far my emails have a reported ~60% open rate and ~30% click-through rate. Not bad.

If nothing else, I enjoy chatting with my followers and will be experimenting and testing different approaches in the coming weeks. Subscribe to my email list and I’ll let you know how it goes!

So let me ask you:

Bloggers: how are you engaging and retaining readers?

Readers: what creative uses of email lists have you seen?

Let me know on Twitter (@rrhoover) or via email (of course).

P.S. Andrew Chen has a great essay on the death of RSS and benefits of building an email list. Check it out.

Photo credit: Sean Loyless

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