Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Social Media Has Not Killed Email - And Don't Let Your Small Nonprofit Do It, Either

Still-Life with a Skull, vanitas painting.
Social media hasn’t killed email.

More than once I’ve read a blog post or seen someone on TV or streaming video saying that social media is putting email in its coffin and every tweet or ping is another nail. Don’t you believe it. Social media and Email are complementary tools that should be used as fully and responsibly as possible.

Email is probably still your most effective tool at reaching your constituents with a specific, tailored message. If it wasn’t, would Constant Contact, MailChimp or iContact still be in business?

Think of social media as a cocktail party or the farmer’s market – the opportunity to interact quickly with others is great. But it’s noisy, topics change quickly, and everyone’s talking at once so you don’t really have anyone’s undivided attention.

Shine On

Email gives your small nonprofit a chance to shine – not in terms of “Gee, aren’t we swell!” but more in terms of “This is what we’re about and we want to know what you’re about, too.” If folks weren’t interested, they wouldn’t have signed up to receive your emails, but you’ve got to make those emails worthwhile or they may opt out. That means the emails can’t be so much about you, as they are about how others are using what you do. It’s about their story.

Use Email:
  • To be transparent – tell them when your board meetings are, introduce them to your board members and tell them about how board members are elected
  • To embrace – tell them about what others in the community are doing and how they’re making a difference and why it matters to your organization
  • To educate – tell them about laws or events that may or already have affected your community and your mission
  • To thank – if someone has done something noteworthy that deserves thanks, don’t wait to put it in the next quarterly newsletter, send out a short note by email; good news should travel fast
Use email to tell people – with feeling – about the why of your small nonprofit and the how and the who more than the what. And don’t forget to tell them how to connect with you using social media – noisy parties can be fun and informative and help maintain and deepen those connections you’re making with your community through email outreach.

Social Media hasn’t killed Email. Don’t you kill it either.


Item: your small nonprofit may be having trouble juggling your various social media accounts. Tools like Ping.fm may help get your posts out to more places while allowing you to make sure the message is consistent. Big caveat, though – it’s not for interacting – communication is strictly one way.  However, if Twitter is your favorite microblogging service, you may be glad to know that Ping has been purchased by Seesmic. (disclosure - no profit made here, folks)

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