E-mail Marketing Losing - RSS Feeds Winning
Over the past 30 years I've been involved with electronic mail (email or e-mail) I've watched it evolve from a strictly internal system for business and "BBS" (bulletin board systems) to then becoming first THE standard method of connecting people on the internet and now becoming the bane of many people's existence due to the amount and content of spam.
Email spam (spelled with all lower case letters - SPAM is a meat product) has become the bulk (95% is recent estimate) of the email traffic in recent years. More sophisticated anti-spam filters are required, tuned daily and even hourly to catch and discard (or at least mark) the incredible numbers - and allow email customers to see the real traffic they expect.
The problem is that the spammers are getting so good at looking legitimate that the filters are discarding more and more real email (false positives) along with the spam - to the point where doing legitimate email newsletters and using email for other legitimate purposes is all but impossible. I know, We both run an email service and help other companies with their email services, some of which are commercial (re-sellers of email services) in nature.
I'm not just talking about email newsletters either. The spam filtering is affecting things like authorization email from social sites and web 2.0 active sites that solicit membership and do things like inform members when a reply to their post has been posted. These active sites generate email that in many cases gets blocked by some of the major ISPs and no small number of the smaller ISPs - blocked because the site owner either does not know how or does not have the authority to put in place the "white-list" deals that ISPs require if your site sends more than a very minimal amount of such email. We deal with this problem in several ways but today I'm talking about general marketing email - opt-in lists and direct customer relations mail.
There are a couple of facilities that are helping businesses deal with this problem and this article is about one - RSS, or Really Simple Syndication.
Email is one of the oldest and most primitive of the internet services. It has evolved to carry HTML, video, audio and other attachments through special encoding, but at heart it is a text-only communications service that lacks much of other services security and authentication infrastructure.
It is possible to fool an email server into thinking that you are sending with someone else's name - and have the bounce messages go back to that poor individual even though they didn't send the original. This "Joe Job" process results in over 10,000 messages per day trying to go to one of my customer's domains - to an account that has never existed! This has been going on for over 3 years that we can track back via logs - unnoticed for the first year just due to the volume of other mail that flowed through the system.
It is possible to attach nasty programs to email and, with the above trivial method of making them appear to come from someone else, have the recipient open the nasty program because they thought it came from on of their friends - or their bank or other entity they trade email with; maybe your business!
No wonder email is becoming less and less useful for many people. It is by far the number one cause of broken computer systems - systems that themselves end up spewing out torrents of email spam in some cases.
The RSS facility of the web has come along just in time to take the load off your email newsletter and support email facilities.
In essence, RSS takes a look at what you post to your web site - possibly only a small section of it, or the whole site, and creates a specially formatted page that lists the new content. A RSS Reader is a special client software package (more and more email packages include RSS readers and there are web facilities too) that your viewers use that periodically looks for these RSS pages and shows the contents much as they might see their email inbox. New items are highlighted and old items that have been read are there but not highlighted. Hmmm... looks like email - but the process does not use the email system and is not something that spammers can interfere with - hooray!!!
One of the services we here at P-Zip marketing provide is creating the systems and traffic flow in your organization to take best advantage of this move away from email marketing and toward other, more effective methods such as RSS. This involves analyzing your email use, and forumlating changes that will move the bulk of the content to web facilities and in many cases either eliminate or drastically reduce the number and size of email sends - which has the effect of lessening the problems of non-delivery and non reading, providing a much more stable and useful customer experience.
If you are having problems with large numbers of your newsletter sends generating bounces due to ISP filtering, or you are not getting the click-throughs you expect because your sends are getting ignored, you should give us a call and let us help you evolve to the new way of doing things. It will be more than worth it - and the sooner you start, the better it will be. Give us a call.
By the way, the other marketing method that is replacing email marketing is a return to snail-mail - but that's a story for another time.