E-mail marketing fuels social media

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We do a lot of social networking here at VerticalResponse to reach our desired audience, which is mostly small businesses. The list of resources to choose from is seemingly never-ending: Facebook, Myspace, Squidoo, blogs, communities or forums — never has there been so many alternatives to bring you closer to your customers. Exciting, isn't it?

If your business is active with any of these, then you know that it's not a slam-dunk to drive traffic and spark activity. That's why e-mail can play such an important role in alerting them to activity, therefore potentially driving more traffic. Here's how we've made e-mail fuel our social networking activities:

Blogs
A few years ago, when blogs were still sort of new, we started one full of e-mail marketing best practices. We also wrote a newsletter that went out to our users, which was filled mostly with best practices and information on our product updates. At one point, we took a step back and asked, “Who is going to create all of this content?”

The solution: We continued writing best practices for the blog.

Two times per month we included excerpts from the blog in the newsletter and sent it to our users to drive more traffic.

The result: These days our blog is ranked pretty high in the search engines. We also link from the blog to our site and to other blogs that we like. Over and over again our readers have told us that our blog has really made a difference. We think it's because that's where we are focusing our content, and that's what we're using our e-mail newsletter for.

Social networks
Businesses today are finding themselves taking to the social networks. Yes, they are filled with teens wanting to know what their best friend is doing, but you'll also find a large amount of businesses setting up groups for customer feedback, event invites, etc.

If you do set up your own business's group or network, make sure you announce it in your e-mail newsletter. We recently set up a group and sent an e-mail newsletter about it. In three days we had almost 100 members. We also started discussions there and got some great feedback about our product.

Communities and forums
Businesses are noticing that communities are a great way to listen to their customers. Our community has taken off with people wanting best-practice advice as well as people helping people. Can a community exist without outbound communications? I suppose, but it's sure more active when you drive people to it and tell them about recent topics of discussion.

I'm part of a marketing community that sends out e-mail at least two times a week letting people know what the hot marketing topics are. On my own, I might not have gone into that community, but I was able to pick up a few pointers thanks to the e-mail alerting me.

Social media isn't just for the teenie boppers anymore. Dive in. But don't forget to use e-mail to drive traffic. Since e-mail is a disruptive form of media and an attention grabber, you can leverage your recipients' habits of checking and reading e-mail to drive activity on your presence among social networks.

Janine Popick is CEO of Vertical Response. She can be reached at janine@verticalresponse.com.

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