E-mail is dead. Long live e-mail!

With the rise of text messaging, social networks such as Facebook, and instant messaging, teens and college students are using e-mail much less than their parents, becoming the “text generation.” Even people who rely more on e-mail get overwhelmed by the inundation of messages and start to tune it out or, like me, opt out. Since getting a Yahoo! Web-based e-mail account in the late 90s, I have signed up for so many e-mail newsletters or lists (either because I was truly interested in the store, cause, or news provider or because I was bribed to do so by free stuff), I just today went on an “unsubscribe binge” and removed myself from at least 20 lists.

Does this mean e-mail is obsolete? No. In fact, there is the possibility that our Web-based e-mail accounts will become our data hubs for our complete online identity, according to a recent article in The Economist.

Although diversifying your communication to include online social networks, text messaging, and other spaces where appropriate is a good idea, having a good e-mail newsletter is still an essential element to your communications strategy. There are e-mail management vendors out there, but remember, content is key, just as it is on your Web site. And writing and designing an effective e-newsletter is becoming crucial. Some basics:

1. Keep it simple. But not too simple. If you give too much information, not many people will take the time to read it. If you provide too little information, you may not motivate people to learn more.

2. Pay the most attention to the Subject line. You would be wise to find someone who is really good at writing succinct, catchy, and informative headlines. The subject line of most people’s in-boxes is pretty long, so don’t waste that opportunity!

3. Put as much information at the top as you can, in a list or somehow grouped together. Like Subject lines, the information in these lines needs to be succinct, informative, and motivating enough to move the reader either down further in the newsletter or to click on a link to your Web site.

4. Try out different styles and formats. If your broadcast e-mail vendor provides data on click-through, you can send out different versions of the same newsletter and see which ones work to get the most traffic to your site, etc.

The Nielsen Norman Group, the usability experts, in their most recent study, say that publishers need “to pay attention to their newsletters’ usability and to design for scannability and fast access. ” It’s an important resource that is most likely being underutilized (see the NNG study again), so you owe it to yourself and your organization to put it at or near the top of your communication list of to-do items.

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