Last Week's Facebook Outage Proves Why Email Marketing Is Still So Valuable

Ensure your content gets seen -- even when social media is going haywire.

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By Nick Wolny

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Last week saw Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp go down for several hours for millions of users, throwing business owners' content marketing into limbo -- and teens into a near-crisis.

The social media giant Facebook has thrown around impressive growth stats for years, saying, for example, that users still spend an average of 41 minutes a day on the platform. But building your audience on Facebook, Instagram or any private company's channel can be a double-edged sword when its algorithm gets switched up or its systems go down.

So, whether you're a coach, service provider, ecommerce business or local brick and mortar, it may be time to reconsider email marketing: It's one of the best ways to reach customers, build relationships and increase sales, especially if you're on a budget.

Yet, as a content marketer who spends most of his existence trying to captivate readers' attention online, I've seen far too many general "Thanks For sSubscribing!" autoresponders (emails sent automatically to confirm you're on the mailing list) flush opportunity down the drain.

Related: 5 Ways To Keep Your Email Marketing Out Of Gmail's Promotions Tab

So, whether you're passing along a free lead-magnet, a transaction receipt or just a friendly acknowledgement, the real estate of a thank-you email is far too valuable to ignore. And, as social media platforms continue to ride a rollercoaster of data scandals and meltdowns, savvy email marketing stands tall as one of the most cost-effective content strategies.

Here are five tips to up your game with this tried-and-true approach.

Set readers up to binge.

Many email marketing approaches will drip emails or create a nurture sequence. But in an era of Netflix-like bingeability, some consumers want to binge on you the moment they discover you.

In your autoresponder or first-touch point, direct the reader's attention to some of your other winning content and you'll turn seconds of attention into minutes (hopefully longer). When you do this right, your message will be etched into the consumer's memory and ensure future content consumption.

For instance, you could showcase some of your best work -- whether it be your five most popular YouTube videos, or the juiciest podcast interview you've ever recorded. Help readers get more by leading with your best work while you still have their interest.

Another option is to direct people to a social platform that you'll be creating more content on. If your objective is to crush it on a single platform, sell the reader on following you there; if you're a larger operation with multiple platforms, a suite of social icons will let readers choose the channels to gravitate toward in their free time.

If you're an ecommerce business, a receipt email can also be a great opportunity to turn one sale into multiple sales by offering a time-sensitive deal or coupon. While brevity can sometimes be better, creativity is king: A study from Return Path, for instance, showed no correlation between subject-line length and open rate, meaning emails are opened through headline quality alone.

Assert your authority early on.

Email marketing behemoth Mailchimp sees an average open rate of almost 21 percent across its 16 million users' accounts. The exception is your autoresponder email, which commands a blistering 50 percent to 90 percent open rate, making this strategy incredibly valuable real estate.

We know that consumers have to know, like and trust us before they'll buy. So, use your welcome email to show off any credibility markers (including press mentions, appearances and awards) to affirm that you are the indisputable, best-in-class expert or product on the market.

Don't have credibility markers. Testimonials can be a great substitute. Reach out to past clients or customers and ask for a two-to-three sentence summary of their experience or a video. You're still in first-impression mode, so it's important to fully leverage your autoresponder real estate.

Related: How To Boost Deliverability and Win At Email Marketing

Optimize For mobile.

Fifty percent of all emails are now opened on a phone, according to Campaign Monitor. And when users browse on their mobile device, reader attention starts dropping off after just eight seconds. Don't let a slow email upload tank your audience.

Make sure you reduce image size on photos, too. Emails that don't load properly on mobile are deleted after just three seconds, on average. Aim for an image width no larger than 600 pixels, and test your campaign on both mobile and desktop before pulling the trigger.

Also, break up long paragraphs of text for better aesthetics. A few lines on a desktop computer can end up looking like a block of words on mobile, which makes users tune out. Single-sentence paragraphs are not out of the question. (Just don't overdo them.)

Re-send campaigns to contacts who didn't open.

To ratchet up email open rates even higher, consider adding a step in which customers who don't open what you offer are re-sent the same email but with a different subject line and opening sentences. Noah Kagan, the founder of Sumo, which provides free website tools, has written that he uses this strategy to boost his own open rate and build brand awareness. He said he's been able to increase his open rates by over 30 percent using this tactic.

Small tweaks in your open rate can ensure your hard-earned subscribers and buyers are intrigued from day one -- and engagement is ultimately what leads to more conversation, more sales and more business.

Related: This Is Why Email Marketing Still Outperforms Social Media

Embrace the GIF.

Social media provides major visual stimulation through video, live video and nifty filters.

While videos don't autoplay in emails, GIFs -- short for "graphics interchange format" image files -- can provide the motion that keeps our eyeballs glued to our screens. Plus, they keep readers engaged and entertained, which is important. Giphy is a great solution for finding GIFs or making your own.

Again, think about email, not just social media. When your emails delight and engage your audience, you won't need to fret the next time an algorithm changes or social media goes down for hours on end.

Nick Wolny

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Writer, Speaker, and Consultant

Named a "40 Under 40" by Houston Business Journal, Nick Wolny is the founder of Camp Wordsmith, a business and writing membership for entrepreneurs. His weekly longform newsletter on online business, "The Slide Grease," goes out on Sundays. Wolny currently resides in Los Angeles.

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