Twitter, Blogs, and E-mail — Do You Have To?

“Everyone says I need to be tweeting and blogging — Is this true? Do I have to do both? If I can only do one, which should it be?”

First off, yes, I know this is a column about e-mail marketing. Bear with me — the advice I give will be relevant to the topic.

This was a question posed to me after a panel discussion on interviewing that I participated in at my alma mater, Georgetown University. The questioner was an MBA student, as was the rest of the audience. Conventional wisdom appeared to be that all MBA students should be tweeting and blogging to help them land jobs — much as conventional wisdom in the business world says you should be tweeting and blogging to land new customers.

Fair enough. Not to say that I’m smarter than the conventional wisdom, but my response wasn’t the straightforward answer he wanted. It was a question: “What would you tweet or blog about?”

He seemed perplexed by this question. But tweeting, blogging, and e-mail newsletters (notice he didn’t ask about doing one of those) are forms of publishing. And to be a good publisher, you must have a clearly defined and well-executed content strategy.

I used to listen to Jim Rome, the sports guy, on a regular basis. On his radio show, he used to tell callers to, “Have a take and don’t s*ck.” Strong words, but it’s an apt way to describe a good content strategy. Know what your audience wants and provide it.

Prospective employers are busy — just like prospective customers. What content can you provide that will (a) entice them to follow you on Twitter, (b) get them to sign up for an RSS feed of your blog, and/or (c) convince them that it’s worthwhile to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter? Going a step further, can you continue to deliver on that content strategy promise to keep them reading past the first few weeks?

Content is king, no matter what the channel — Twitter, a blog, or e-mail.

As an MBA student, ask yourself what you could tweet or blog about that would make prospective employers dedicated readers. As a marketing person, ask yourself what content you could provide current or prospective clients that engage them and build the relationship over time.

I developed my first e-mail newsletter in the mid-2000s. I was working for a publishing company, so we had paying customers that were thirsty for more information from us (the e-mail newsletter and companion Web site were free add-ons to a paid print publication). The print publication was delivered each morning; the e-mail newsletter each afternoon. In the e-mail, we provided updates on items featured earlier and initial information on stories that would be better fleshed out in the next day’s morning edition.

We started with a strong content strategy; the Web site and e-mail were the perfect vehicles to implement it in a cost-effective manner.

It’s all about the content. If the content isn’t of interest to your target audience, it won’t matter whether you use e-mail, Twitter, a blog, or print — people won’t engage and you won’t be successful.

After thinking a bit, the MBA student responded to my query about what he would tweet or blog about. He said he would highlight articles he read on industry issues. This isn’t a bad idea, but you have to ask yourself: Is this content the readers can get elsewhere? And if so, what type of value-add do you bring to the equation?

There can be value in aggregating data — but doing it right is a tall order. You have to read pretty much everything published having to do with the industry and then hone it down to the most relevant content. It takes time — you may only use one out of every five or ten articles you review. To make it really relevant, you want to provide some original editorial around each item. Even better is to juxtapose two or more articles against each other to create a world view others may not have thought of doing. Can it be done? Yes. Is it time consuming and difficult to do it well? Yes.

Which brings us to not-so-good tweets, blogs, and e-mail newsletters. Just don’t do it. There’s nothing more discouraging than signing up to follow a brand on Twitter, visiting a brand’s blog, or getting an e-mail newsletter — and then finding out that it s*cks. It can negatively impact your brand — and your sales.

Until next time,


Join Jeanne Jennings at the ClickZ E-mail Marketing Workshop, in conjunction with the 2010 Email Evolution Conference, February 1, 2010, in Miami, Florida.

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