Don't call it a comeback, mailing lists never left
30 DEC 20150
Mailing lists are a bit old fashion aren't they? In our social media dominated landscape, the idea of collecting emails and socking them away for some future newsletter or point of contact seems stodgy, slow, even a little quaint in a "aww, that's what grandpa used to do on the internet!” sort of way. But don't count them out. Mailing lists are still a powerful and useful tool for any business, creative, or network minded individual. Properly maintained and carefully used, a mailing list can become one of the best arrows in your outreach quiver.
Social media sites come and go. While it may be unthinkable to believe that Twitter or Facebook could be going anywhere soon, people thought the same thing about MySpace a decade ago. But for better or worse, email is still email. There could come a day when your carefully cultivated flock of Twitter followers won't be worth the what they used to be, but it is a pretty safe bet that people are going to be using email well into our foreseeable future.
Whether you're launching a new site or have been around for years, it's worth building a mailing list. Put a little sign-up box in a visible place on your site. At Lifeline, we recommend Aweber, a third party solution that can handle your bulk emailing needs (although we are currently working on our own custom platform!) Tell people what to expect from you, be it a regular newsletter, an occasional update, or only when you have something big to share. If you want to encourage people to sign up a little more, you can always hold a contest or give away that requires an email sign up (just be clear about what you are doing).
This is a different beast from general advertising or blasting your message out on social media. People who sign up for your email list actually want to hear from you. Presumably, these people gave you their email because they are interested in what you produce (be that a product, a service, or ideas). Instead of shouting into the wilderness and hoping the right audience will follow your voice back to you, a mailing list is a nice orderly line right in front of your door.
It's more civilized too. Broadcasting too much on social media can make you feel like a carnival barker trying to herd distracted children and dead-eyed, suspicious parents to your booth. It's loud, obnoxious, most people ignore it, and you feel drained at the end of the day. Sure, there are definitely times to go on social media and just try and get the word out as far and wide as it can go, but that isn't everyday. With a good mailing list, you can target your message to the people who will be most receptive to it and save your big advertising pushes for when you really need them.
You need to be a good steward of your mailing list. There is an ethical responsibility at play here. Never share the email addresses of people with a third-party, they're not yours to give or sell. Also, you should never just add addresses you see in the wild to your list. Not only is this a scummy move, it could land you afoul of anti-spam legislation.
Mailing lists may be old fashioned, but they're still an essential part of any website that is hoping to build and keep an audience or clientele. Think about adding this functionality to your site today.