There has been a lot of chatter recently about Twitter (and related micro-blogging services) being a great way to reduce email overload. Few people are able to explain how this will happen but let’s give it a try:
Email overload can be defined not only as that which we must plow through in our various inboxes (you are masochistic if you let everything come into just one inbox without pre-sorting), but all those emails that we feel we have to send out just to get a simple message across to a significant number of targeted people (and thus keep food on the family’s table). If we define email overload as including that which we feel we have to send, we can better understand how to reduce it.
I have often wondered why I’ve had to send out 20,000 emails per year in various positions over the past ten years. The answer I always come up with is simple: the Google search algorithm quickly locks in an almost rock-solid result for various keywords, barely taking into account that the most recent mentions of that keyword might be the most relevant. As Google became everyone’s favorite search engine for 9 years, the world got into the habit of not caring about who made the last mention of a particular keyword combination. Wikipedia articles now appear in the #1 position for most keywords, but with partisans constantly erasing what you may have tried to write there, that is possibly the last place you can rely on to get a message across (I recommend WebCEO to improve your site’s position on Google all the same).
What’s more: You won’t directly get a “following” in Google or from Google. If people find the article you wrote yesterday on page 19 of their Google results, they might visit your site and sign up for your newsletter. Then your new “following” has to be informed via, you guessed it, mass broadcasting of emails.
Google tried to remedy the above situation by letting people subscribe to Google Alerts, but their “followers” end up only subscribing to the key word but not to you. Under this regime, where people were Google Followers and not your followers, we were all still compelled to build huge databases of everyone who might be interested in our messages…and broadcasting the same or varying messages to them, by email, at least once per month.
When I’ve sent out 400 emails in the past, my hope was that I would get 10-20 people to act on the message. That would keep me, as an internationally oriented salesperson, employed under a Google regime where my company’s site was not necessarily ranking well for many foreign keywords and raking in a lot of foreign customers on its own.
Enter Twitter Search. With Twitter and the following you get, you can send a newsletter blurb 20 times per day as long as you remain interesting. If you are interesting, you can be yourself and announce your product benefits while gathering a following of people interested in those products or, more likely, what you have to say about their industry in general that will help them with their careers.
So instead of sending out 400 emails to get 5 people interested, you only have to do one series of 3 or 4 tweets on a compelling subject for about 5 minutes and, voila, you may have 20 new followers. These followers can be extremely high quality because they were looking for information on your subject in real time. You can also grab the attention of targets at an extremely high level simply by following them!
Under such conditions, you may or may not decide to can your email newsletter altogether – if you continue, I recommend that you get accredited by and use an email deliverability service like SuretyMail to make sure your message lands in the inbox. Hot tip: make sure you use authentication when you send emails. New plugins like SenderOK will soon make such email stand out in living color in order to put phishers slowly out of business.
Twitter should have a paid service where customers can download the business cards of their followers if those followers clicked on an Opt-In for that. But, although I would pay for such a service, it generally isn’t hard to identify followers and, using Xing.com, LinkedIn, Ecademy, Viadeo or Google, find out how to email or call them to see if they want to do business.
Have you heard of anyone abandoning email because of Twitter? Well you are about to:
Just this weekend, I retired most of a database of 1000 people who got a few emails from me per year on a non-business issue I wanted to influence (that is 3000 emails I sent per year to a special database on a minor issue with only a 1% opt-out rate). The reason: although the people were obviously interested in getting my email updates, with an extra account on Twitter, I gathered more high quality followers for that subject in a single day than I had over the course of any year previously. Sure, I wish Twitter could allow me to upload a CSV file and invite the old database, but I am otherwise inclined now to just wait until these “old friends” find me via real time Twitter Search and follow me if they want to. It is heartening to know that only those in the old database who were really interested are going to lookup and find me on Twitter when they finally get around to joining that service.
If you extrapolate my experience of retiring a database and ending a broadcast email regime because Twitter gathers more followers more effectively, 2009 might see the end of a lot of broadcast emailing on the part of hundreds of thousands of people like me.
Now I hope it is clear why I wanted to define “Email Overload” as including email we feel we have to send to keep a following interested and informed.
Note: The author works for SenderOK which provides a valuable email plugin (Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) that will also greatly help you reduce email overload. SenderOK sorts email by importance according to a smart algorithm that analyzes how you’ve evaluated and behaved toward particular sender email addresses in the past. Follow Allen on Twitter @allenonblacksea or follow SenderOK @senderok.