When Twitter wanted to build engagement with its users or bring back inactives, did it launch a 140-character message? Nope. It turned to email.
If you use Twitter, you might have gotten a curious little email message earlier this year with the subject line "Get the most out of Twitter in 2011," sent on behalf of Twitter's trinity, co-founders Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey. (See screenshot of email below. Note: This is with images off.)
The email – sent to the address Twitter has on file for you – starts off wishing recipients "Happy New Year," although it came on Feb. 1. Maybe it took a month to get all three guys to sign off on it?
More puzzling from a marketing viewpoint is why Twitter sent the email. "Our resolution is to help you get more out of Twitter this year," it said. "To start, we thought we'd send this note with some simple suggestions. Come by our web site to try these out anytime!"
Now, I'm no Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) or Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), both prolific and popular Tweeters. But my Twitter stats show that I'm a reasonably active user with a decent Klout score. So, I don't need to be sold on Twitter's value.
Instead, Twitter could have used this email to tell me about its Promoted Tweets advertising program or suggest advanced uses, such as integrating with other technologies I might use.
Lessons from Twitter's Email Adventure
It's good to see Twitter using email to encourage more stickiness among its users. So much for the claim that social media is making email obsolete.
But Twitter's email also is an object lesson in what experienced email marketers know: Good email doesn't just happen. This one, while not horrible, missed an opportunity to exploit all of the benefits that email offers over a Tweet.
Twitter gets a few things right and several things wrong.
Here's what Twitter did right:
1. Twitter is using email as a marketing and retention tool, not just a notification vehicle. It clearly realizes email conveys a more compelling message without a 140-character limit, such as trying to drive increased user engagement.
2. The message has a simple, clean design. While Twitter could have gone hog (bird?) wild with a busy design, it used basically a rich-text format plus logo. While I would have liked to see a better design, this simple approach was probably right for an initial email.
3. Content is short, bulleted and to the point. The copy discusses four simple ways to get more out of Twitter.
4. It is personal. The email is signed by the three co-founders of the company, using their Twitter handles, of course.
5. The message includes an unsubscribe link and a link to an email preference page.
Here's what would be a #FAIL in the Twitter lexicon:
1. Doesn't comply with CAN-SPAM. Ouch! Take a look at the screenshot. What's missing? Yep, the mailing address. Now Twitter and email experts may argue that this is a "transactional or relationship" email and is therefore not subject to CAN-SPAM. I might be wrong, but my interpretation of the email is that it is promotional in nature. Regardless, what would it have hurt to put in the Twitter mailing address?
2. Indistinct sender name. The message was hard to find in my inbox because the sender name, or "from" name, was the same as the one used on new-follower emails. Twitter needs to use a different from name to distinguish follower notifications from relationship and marketing-oriented emails.
3. No navigational links. Twitter missed an opportunity to include key navigation links, such as Help > Blog > Resources > Contact > Search.
4. No Web version link. I viewed the message on my iPad in the Mail client with images turned off by default. I wanted to view the email with images but can't easily because it lacks a "View Web Version" link.
Also, including a "View Mobile Version" would earn bonus points because so many of users are on mobile devices.
5. Weak content. The four suggested ways to use Twitter added zero value. For example, the "Follow Your Interests" suggestion doesn't tell you how to do it, like using lists or Twitter search.
6. No personality. Especially since the message is "from" the founders, how about using some flavor of the Twitter culture, humor and language? Each point could have been limited to 140 characters and used common Twitter abbreviations.
7. Lack of personalization. Twitter is sitting on an immense storehouse of data, which it apparently did not leverage in order to create segments and relevant targeted messages.
Twitter could have shown that it knows who I am by addressing me by my Twitter handle and acknowledging my number of followers. It could also have tailored suggestions based on my follower number, Klout score or lists.
It does appear that inactive users might have been excluded because an account I haven't used in months did not receive this email from Twitter. If this is in fact the case, why not target those users with an educational series instead of someone like me with nearly 5,800 tweets?
8. Sharing not encouraged. Twitter is built on sharing information and links. Not this email, though. It had no "Share on Twitter" or "Follow Twitter" functionality. On the other hand, the content wasn't really worth Tweeting.
9. "Crickets chirping." A month later, I have not received another email. Was that first one it? Will I hear from Twitter in maybe another year? How about some triggered emails based on my Twitter anniversary, reaching Tweet or follower milestones? Maybe some Twitter tips, new-feature announcements or a survey?
Hey, guys! I've got more great segmentation and content ideas for your email program. Feel free to DM me at @LorenMcDonald, and I'll send you my email address.
What do you think of Twitter's email? Agree, disagree with my take? What did I miss in the positive or negative? Please share your thoughts below - and then of course Tweet them too.