Mailing lists – the ignored social media

I have 946 friends on facebook. A large number of them (about 300-400) are marketers, salespersons, social media "gurus", web site developers or search engine optimization experts. But only 3 of them have some sort of mailing list. And only one of them, a social media expert, has a correctly setup, permission based, mailing list.

There are few reasons why, compared to social media, there is very little or no emphasis on mailing lists:

  1. It takes more effort to setup a mailing list system than creating a facebook account or page. You either need to have technical knowledge yourself, hire someone to setup it up for you or buy an online subscription.
  2. Populating and maintaining a relevant and targeted mailing list requires time and effort investment.
  3. People will not signup your mailing list as easily as they can become your friend (or follower) on social media. So the instant satisfaction element is missing.
  4. An incorrectly setup mailing list or one without a genuine / single click un-subscription link can send all your email newsletters in spam folder or get marked as spam by users. This is another discouraging factor.
  5. Unlike the ‘like’ button (pun not intended) count, judging the effectiveness of your newsletter is not quite straight forward.
  6. The inbox noise demands special care to write a minimalist and value driven news letter which is actually read. Who has the time to do this?

Why take the trouble to setup a mailing list? Take the case of facebook, the most popular social media website: With the increassing amount of noise on facebook like multiple status updates per day by friends, photos, videos, unwanted invitations, forced groups, event invitations, page joining requests etc. it is hard to focus on relevent and interesting things even from focused fan pages and groups.

On the other hand with a mailing list you can create a targeted and focused audience with only a few monthly updates.

Social media is excellent but not enough.

If you have some IT knowledge (or have access to) and want to setup your own mailing list software then you can select either ‘mailman’ or ‘phplist‘. Both of these are free and my personal favorite for all occasions.

Otherwise you should go for the hosted solutions. phplist is also available as hosted solution for a small price (free for a small list). Other solutions like mailchimp offer free service up to 2000 subscribers with 12,000/- email messages per month. This should be enough to start with or for small groups.

The best guidelines on setting up and creating an email newsletter have been written by Jakob Nielson, the web usability guru. Visit this page ( and search for newsletter to see all his past columns on this subject. Also signup to his newsletter to see his own advice in practice.

If you already have a customer database or friends list, you can import it into your mailing list software. Your first email to your new mailing list should inform the user about your new maling list and allow them to get off the list as easily as possibly, preferably with a single click and without asking for a reason.

Start your mailing list today because it is going to take time to be populated and effective. Feel free to add me to your list.

A mailing list about mailing lists

This new mailing list is intended to help you start your own mailing list. You can join this list in two ways:

Feel free to subscribe, unsubscribe and tell others about it. I shall begin posting to this email list from January 1, 2012.


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