Using Social Media to Decrease E-Mail Unsubscribe Rates

The direct marketing agency Epsilon just released a new study by ROI Research revealing reasons why people most often unsubscribe from email lists, and the rates at which they unsubscribe. Not surprisingly, the most often-cited reason (67%) is irrelevancy of emails. The second highest reason (64%) was high frequency of emails, and the third most-cited reason (50%) was fear that their email addresses were being sold or shared. Conducted by ROI Research, the study is based on an April 2009 survey of over 4000 consumers in 13 countries.


Image courtesy of emarketer


Image courtesy of Online Media Daily

In essence, the reasons most email list subscribers unsubscribe boils down to:

  • receiving messaging content that is irrelevant to the reader
  • not understanding the needs of the customer
  • mistrust of the company sending the email

If your company or organization uses email lists, then why not use social media to cut down those unsubscribe rates!

Social media platforms (Facebook, twitter, blogs, MySpace) create conversations, which tell you exactly what the readers want. Use the conversations with your customers/fans/clients/donors to inform the content of your email messaging. Are certain blog posts shared frequently online, while others die the fate of the unseen post? Why is that? Do you receive lots of comments on certain topics or videos? Utilize the information you learn from your social media interactions so that email messaging won’t suffer from irrelevant content.

Social media relies on trust because it is incredibly transparent. Due to the nature of the medium, people search for information about you before following your blog, Facebook page, or joining your company’s social network. They’ll “out” you if your company’s activities are not completely transparent, and become your biggest fans if you are. Remember the controversy over the fact that some Twitter users have “ghost twitterers,” who post to Twitter under the actual user’s name? However, if they find value in the engagement, they will pass that value along and bring their friends to you as well.

Use social media to allay the fear, once and for all, that your organization will never, ever sell or share the names of its email list subscribers. Write a blog post about it. Create a conversation about why that isn’t your organization’s policies and how you value the privacy of all your subscribers. Refer to these conversations in your email messages and ask email subscribers to contact you directly online if they want to ask further questions about privacy.

Remember the “golden rules” of social media: Be Yourself. Be Transparent. Listen. Engage.

You can’t listen and engage in an email blast, but you can take the information from listening and engaging on social networks, and use that to make your email messaging relevant and valuable to your stakeholders.

Do you have other ideas about how social media can decrease email unsubscribe rates? Please share them in the comments!

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at Debra is an occasional contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.