Inbound Now #23 - How social media and email work together with Jason Falls

Jason Falls joins us for Episode 23 of Inbound Now!

Jason runs his own consulting agency, Social Media Explorer, and it’s also a very popular social media blog. In fact, it’s number 17 on the Ad Age 150 list. He’s also a very well-known professional speaker in the social media space.

In this episode, we chat about:

  • How social media and email can work together
  • Building a customer base
  • Segmenting email lists
  • Subscribing with Facebook Connect
  • How to manage your Blogger outreach efforts
  • Why Forums and niche communities are still very powerful
  • How to Attract and retain guest authors for your site
  • and some of Jason’s favorite social media resources


David Wells: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Episode Number 22 of Inbound Now. Yes, throw them up 22, that’s not a gang sign, or maybe it is, I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m joined here with a special guest, Mr. Jason Falls. Jason runs his own consulting agency, Social Media Explorer, and it’s also a very popular social media blog. I actually looked it up today and it’s number 15 on the Ad Age 150 list, right above HubSpot. We’re 60, we’re coming for you, man, we’re coming for you.

Jason Falls: Awesome.

David: I just wanted throw that out there. And he’s also a very well known professional speaker in the social media space. I’ve seen a bunch of his presentations. I caught him live a year and a half ago in Raleigh Durham, North Carolina, I thought it was great.

Welcome to the show, Jason.

Jason: Hey, thanks for having me. This is awesome.

David: Yeah, no problem, no problem. So, yeah, I wanted to get you on the show to talk a little bit about how email and social median can play nicely together and how they can kind of leverage each other to make it even more effective. How you leverage your email newsletter because I like how you put that out there in different ways. And also diving into how companies can do effective PR pitches to bloggers and really scale that process. So, sound good to you?

Jason: Yeah, that sounds great. Which one do you want me to tackle first?

David: All at once. No. So really, in a recent talk that you gave at Inno Tech Oregon 2011, you spoke about how social media and email are the wonder twins and when they play together they can really play off of each other and do greats things. So can you dive a little bit more into that and talk a little bit about how social media can play together in a good way?

Jason: Yeah. The Inno Tech talk was really kind of fun. Jim Hitch from MO, which is an email marketing provider, and I gave that talk together and we came up with that Wonder Twins power activate thing, which is kind of cool. What a think a point that Jim really honed in on, and was a really important point of that talk, is a lot of people over the last couple of years, there have been tons of headlines on blogs and websites everywhere that email is dead and social media is killing email and nobody wants email anymore. But the simple fact of the matter is, number one, the vast majority of the free world, they’re not social media geeks. They’re not on Twitter and Facebook all day and so email is still where most people live. Now that might be transitioning a little bit, but it’s transitioning very, very slowly and email is not dead by any stretch of the imagination.

And one of the main reasons that email marketing is not dead, more specifically to the marketing side of things, is it is still one of the most effective ways to not only reach customers, but entice customers into action, get them to do something. And so, the way that we approached and way that I like to attack email marketing and social media marketing together is, you’ve got to compel people with your social media content. Which social media, number one, is almost 100% opt-in. If someone doesn’t want to follow you on Twitter or Facebook, they don’t have to and there’s nothing to click, they just don’t go to your page, no problem. It’s very easy, very low barrier to entry for someone to consume your content, read your messages.

So what you have to do, the challenge becomes for your company, your brand is to provide content that’s compelling enough for them to say, ‘I want to know more about this company, this person, this idea. And, oh look, they’ve got a big fat subscribe button. They’ve got content that they’ll send me in my inbox, that’s bigger, more, greater than what they’re giving me here.’ And so if you think about social media content as the foundation of what you’re doing publically, email content as the first layer of premium content that you can deliver to an audience, it helps you capture that email address, which pulls that nameless, faceless, or 48x48 avatar person from this public realm into your marketing funnel. You have permission now to talk them in their inbox and that’s extremely powerful.

David: Right, right.

Jason: The flip side of that is, that in that email marketing you want to grow that list of people. And so don’t just say, ‘OK. We’re done with the social media communications, now we’re just going to focus on email.’ Within that email marketing newsletter or whatever you, whether it’s a coupon, or it’s content, or whatever you’re sending out, make sure that the people who have raised their hand and love you, have the opportunity to then turn around and share that content with their friends on the different social networks because that just puts you in front of more people.

David: Right, right. So leveraging their social graph, the people in your newsletter, basically leveraging that. And I like what you said, ‘Not everyone out there is a social media geek,’ just yet. And email is kind of the lowest common denominator, everyone has an email address. And basically getting them into your in-house list, I think that’s very, very powerful.

Jason: Yeah, it is. And what I like to try to tell people when they’re thinking of their customer base or building community, that’s a term that gets thrown out a lot, is let’s say, unless you’re a brand new product, a brand new business, you have customers, you have employees, you have family members of employees, so on and so forth. So you have a community already around your brand. You may not officially see the wall between you and the rest of the world, it may not be an official building or an official website that’s a place for that, but you’ve got a community around your brand and your customers. My guess is that most people who have 1,000 customers, just won 1,000 more just like them. That’s email and using social media through email is so powerful because you’re talking to people who see the content and go, ‘Man, I know three people who would love to know this. I’m going to forward that to them, or I’m going to share this on Facebook because I know more will see it.’ That’s where that power comes in. You’re multiplying the audience that you have.

David: Right, right. And again, it’s as easy as possible, right? It’s where they don’t have to jump through hoops to share it. You’re making it right in the email and share it right directly through there.

Jason: Absolutely. I mean, the more sophisticated email marketing providers out there have gotten wise to that and when you clicked on ‘Share’ on Twitter it doesn’t just take you to Twitter it’s takes you to Twitter and the tweet boxes populated with, ‘I just read this eNewletter from Jason Falls. Here’s the link.’

David: Right, right, nice, nice. So talking about your email newsletter, while prepping for the interview I saw you have four different lists that people can subscribe to, kind of like a preference center, if you will. So how has that been working for?

Jason: Well it’s new. Up until this past month, I had the monthly newsletter called the ‘Navigator’ and it’s where I share kind of a big idea of, here’s what you need to be thinking about in terms of digital marketing this month. And sometimes I’m waxing poetic on a subject, sometimes I’m sharing information that I learned from a interview somewhere, but I try to go a little bit deeper into a topic or two. I also have the opportunity to share discounts and things like that with people in the newsletter,so a few interesting things to share with folks.

My learning community, ‘Exploring Social Media’, which is subscription based learning community. I do a weekly, every two weeks kind of email with them that basically say, ‘Here’s the new content that we but in the community for you to consume. Here are the latest questions that people are asking of the digital marketing experts there.’ And so it’s kind of a digest of what’s going on in that community, but there’s also some really good nuggets of information that you can look at and go, ‘Oh, wow. I need to go take that lesson, ‘or , ‘I need to go look at the answers to that question because that question would help me too.’ And so, that’s a second newsletter. It’s really intended for the members of Exploring Social Media who pay a monthly subscription fee of $25 a month to be in that community. But the email list is open to anybody because we figure, ‘Hey, if you get a reminder every week of the lessons that are in there, you’ll be more willing to subscribe to the content if you know over time it’s going to be good. So we let anybody subscribe to that if you want.

The other two are new products that I have and am developing that I think are going to be useful to people. Number one, is the Exploring Social Media business summits, which are traveling events that I do around the country, kind of one day intensive strategy workshops. The first one that we did was just this past week in Toledo, Ohio. We have about 100 people there and they’re still singing the praises of it. They love the content. Several great national speakers all came to Toledo and spent a day just helping people understand social media strategy and content strategy. So we’re going to take show on the road to a few more places. So if you want to know when the events are coming to your town, who the speakers are, we’ve got a special list just so you can know about the events. That way if you don’t want the monthly newsletter, you don’t want the community thing every week or every two weeks, but you really want to know more about the events, you can just subscribe to that too.

David: Right, right. And that’s what I liked about your subscription page. You lay out what each one is about. Right?

Jason: Yeah.

David: A lot of companies they’ll just have, ‘Subscribe to our newsletter,’ not say what we’re send you just like, ‘Fill out an email signup, ’ and it doesn’t work, right?

Jason: Exactly. If you segment your list, for whatever reason, and you say, ‘OK, we’re going to send this group of people this type of email and this group of people that type of email.’ Give your audience the opportunity to opt-into or out of those things because while it multiplies the work load a little bit for you, you have to come up with different content for different audiences. The more relevant the message, the more catered the message is to that audience, the more effective the email’s going to be. The people who subscribe to the monthly newsletter, but aren’t interested in subscribing to don’t care about news. So I needed to separate those two and make sure that I was talking to this audience with message and this one with that message.

And so the fourth product is market research reports, which we haven’t started doing yet, but we’re going to crank those out at some point. So you can subscribe to that too.

If you got to you’ll see what David’s talking about, those four options and the descriptions of what they are.

David: I think laying out exactly what’s in each is definitely good to boost even subscription and giving them that choice, so cool.

Jason: Yeah, absolutely. And the critical thing there, and I sort of touched on it a minute ago, the critical thing is relevance. If you can deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time, and to a certain degree in the right location, thinking retail and whatnot, those four things, if you can nail them you’re going to sell a lot more successfully than you would if you’re just sending out there to a broad list.

David: Nice, nice. I also saw that you can subscribe via Facebook too. I think that’s a new trend coming up with email services out there, where you can just connect directly through Facebook and that feeds in the emails. So I interested to see where that goes moving to the future.

Jason: And I think that also allows people to control. Because basically all it really does is it uses Facebook Connect to go, ‘Here’s your name, here’s your email address.’ It populates the form with what you’ve already got on Facebook, so it’s just two clicks. It’s real simple. Facebook, connect, ‘yes’, and you’re done. So you don’t have to type anything. It’s real simple.

David: It’s for the lazy people out there.

Jason: Yeah, it’s for the lazy people. But I think it also, if you think about it that way and you want to manage your email and whatnot through Facebook, every Facebook user now has a email address and you can actually set that as default and you can manage your email subscriptions through Facebook. That way you have a little bit more control over your in box.

David: OK. Cool, cool. So switching gears a little bit, you write often on your blog and you’re a PR guy by background, right? You’ve been in PR for a while now. And you write a lot on your blog about how companies should go about pitching your blog and other blogs out there. So how can companies start finding and reaching out to bloggers in a meaningful way where it doesn’t just turn them off and you just put them in the spam bucket?

Jason: Well, we go back to the exact same philosophy that we’re just talking about with the email marketing, you’ve got to pitch relevant stuff to relevant people, at a relevant time. I blog about social media marketing, ditigal marketing, and so on and so forth. I can’t tell you how many emails I get a week, or probably a month is a better time frame, that are technology companies pitching some gadget, a new cell phone or a new GPS device or something of that nature. I don’t write about gadgets. I’m happy if you want to send me a free one, I’ll play with it, but I may not write about it because that’s not what I write about on my blog. And so I have an audience that comes to my blog expecting to see certain types of content. You better pitch me content or idea s the fall into that window, otherwise it’s irrelevant to me and I think that true for ever blogger or journalist, and I consider bloggers and traditional media members in the same ilk, they write to an audience and you want to reach them with your message. You better make sure that what your reaching out has something to do with what they write about in audience. It needs to be high relevant. Even if you do that, even if you completely nail the relevancy, the time, the right audience, the right person, etc., etc.

You also have to understand, too, that bloggers are not trained journalist, they’re not conditioned to get inundated with PR pitches and press releases and so on and so forth. And even though you may pitch them perfectly, they may still say, ‘I don’t give a damn. I’m not writing about your crap on my blog.’ And so you just have to be able to do a lot of homework on the frontend work the relationship, the ‘R’ stands for relations and I think that gets a little lost on a lot of people.

David: Really? OK. Yeah.

Jason: So focus on the relationship with that media member, that blogger and you’ll start to understand a little bit more about what you can do for them that’s useful and what they will respond to that is ultimately beneficial to you, or your client, or your service.

David: Right, right. And then that’s one of the things that you mentioned in the post. Like when you do reach out, that first initial touch point really shouldn’t even need to be the pitch, it should be introducing yourself, seeing of you can help them in any way, right?

Jason: Absolutely.

David: And then after you build that relationship then it’s kind of like, ‘Hey, we have this news. Maybe you want to write about it. It fits your audience.’

Jason: Yeah, and I’ve done that a couple of different ways and that’s one of the really powerful things for PR people about social media is, if you can identify a media member that you want to ultimately cultivate a relationship with first of all. But secondarily, down the road, you also want to pitch them on ideas, if you can find that they’re on social media somehow, they have a Twitter account, they’re on Facebook, they’re on LinkedIn, they have a blog, and maybe they communicate with people on those networks on a pretty informal basis. You can strike up a relationship with someone on Twitter literally in an instant. And a week later say, ‘Hey, how’s it going? I have something that one of my clients has that might be useful to you. Can I email you something?’ And then it’s a very sort of unobtrusive, passive, not at all spammy, if you just saying, ‘Do you mind if I email you something.’ You’ve established some sort of rapport even if it’s just superficially. And that works for me in a lot of cases.

I know I went to Once Upon a Time, back when I was working with a major alcohol, wine and spirits company, there were several established journalists in the space who also had blogs. So they were traditional journalists so we could have easily reached out to them with press releases and the PR that the company was working with did reach out to them with press releases and traditional stuff. But I found these guys on Twitter and I went to their blogs and commented, and back and forth, totally telling who I was, I’m the social media guy for this company. And they really got to know me and like me because I was offering relevant insights and questions and perspective on their blog. And I was having conversations with them both on Twitter and then on a forum message board that real popular in that industry. And after a year or so I was able to pitch the traditional media members better than the PR firm because I knew them better. And so it’s just that process of building a relationship with folks over time, and it’s always better if you start out with, ‘Hey, I’m not asking you for anything. I just did your work. I work for this company and it just makes sense for us to know each other.’

David: Right.

Jason: And unless they are just completely brand marketing and PR averse, a reporters going to go, ‘Oh, OK. That’s cool. Have long have you worked there?’ You know?

David: Yeah, yeah, I know.

Jason: They’re just going to strike up a conversation with you.

David: Cool, cool. So I saw you speak at the social business forum, it was probably two years ago now, I don’t even know when it was. But you used a similar example, the alcohol and spirits company that you worked for and you talked about how you deviated away from the main platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and you actually found a lot of very passionate people in forums out there.

Jason: Absolutely.