Talking email: Social gets the headlines, email gets the eyeballs

facebook_aashtoTwitter and Facebook mostly likely get most of you team’s attention, while Instagram’s massive growth — especially with younger drivers and commuters — should probably push its way into your communication strategy.

But when was the last time you really thought about how well you are managing your email lists? Do you know your typical open rate on email newsletters or other email campaigns?

In last year’s annual survey of state DOT social media usage, many of the survey respondents expressed a growing interest in measuring their social media activity. After all, with more resources — primarily staff time — going toward social media outreach it stands to reason that there would be greater interest in measuring the effectiveness of those efforts.

Before jumping into the measurement discussion, let’s establish some context for the conversation. Facebook boasts more than 1.35 billion active users. Instagram in December 2014 announced it had surpassed more than 300 million active users. And, Twitter announced this week it had 288 million users.

If we believe the old communication adage that we should take the message to where the people are, social media sites are certainly reasonable places to pitch our stories.

And, how does email fare against the social media crowd? Pretty well. Experts estimate there are more than 2.5 billion email users worldwide, almost twice the number of Facebook users.

It’s fairly easy to count Twitter followers and, perhaps retweets. Since last year, Twitter has offered an online tool to measure your Twitter activity. It shows “impressions,” “engagements,” and “engagement rates” for every tweet sent from an account.

Instagram users can try a free tool from Iconosquare to help measure followers and engagement rates.

Facebook also has analytics to help evaluate the reach for a Facebook post, how many people visit your timeline and how much reach per visit your posts receive.

Most email newsletter tools — AASHTO uses GovDelivery — offer some measurements. Most important to email newsletters tends to be its “open rate” and “unique clicks,” which will tell you the percentage of your email subscribers that is opening your message and, in turn, the number of clicks that show someone actually engaged with the newsletter copy.

According to Constant Contact, an email marketing and list management service, the average open rate for “government agency/government services” sector newsletters is 26.55 percent. That means more than 1-in-4 people who receive your email messages are opening that email, and according to Constant Contact nearly 9 percent are clicking through to additional content.

That is very likely a much higher engagement rate than you get on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The moral? The size and social significance of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram demand that your transportation agency is active in those spaces. But, email still matters and it matters a lot.

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Author: Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.

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