As an intergalactically famous E-Newsletter expert, one of the three questions I get asked most often is, “How do we know if our E-Newsletter is working?”(The other two questions are, “How often should we publish?” and, “Can I buy you a drink?”)
My standard answer to the first question is that there are many measures for gauging success — both quantitative and qualitative — and no one metric tells the entire story. Always high on the list however, is “degree of interactivity.” The more often readers do things like send you feedback, forward your newsletter to others, or click on the links you provide, the more likely that you’re connecting with them in some way.
I think you’ll agree with the logic in this, and I used to think that the relationship between interactivity and interest worked in that very simple way: Interested people interact more. The more interaction you see therefore, the higher the level of interest you can assume among your readers.
What I’ve come to realize more recently however, is that cause and effect work in both directions. In other words, interactivity is not simply a measure of reader engagement; it’s a cause as well. People who interact more become more interested.
Those of you who are experienced facilitators or public speakers are probably already aware of this. In a live setting, it’s well known that the more you can get your audience to participate, the more likely they are to stay with you and ultimately internalize what you’ve got to say. Whether by putting questions out to the audience; asking them to take a few minutes to introduce themselves to each other; or demanding that they stand up and take a stretch break, if you can get their bodies to move with you in some way, their brains will follow. Interactivity causes interest.
It’s the same with your E-Newsletter, and it’s the reason I strongly recommend that you take deliberate steps to get your readers’ fingers moving! Two suggestions for making that happen:
1. Invite Them. Some people don’t need any encouragement, and will tell you what they think with or without an explicit invitation (you know who you are). Others of us are less confident however, and need some prodding before we step forward. Take a look around this newsletter, and notice how many times I invite you to “click reply,” “forward this newsletter to a friend,” “tell us what you think,” “print this newsletter,” “follow this link for more information,” etc. It’s not an accident. As one reader wrote recently, “you keep insisting that I tell you what I think so I’m finally doing it!”
2. Make Your Links Enticing. Our last newsletter had within it the usual mix of about 10 clickable links. Some statistics to chew on:
• 11 people clicked on the link that said, “Tell a friend”
• 23 people clicked on the link that said, “Send us your own dumb joke”
• 66 people clicked on the link that said, “Click here to see a picture of me that makes it look like I’m wearing a suit and tie while standing on the planet Krypton.”
It’s no accident that the most interesting, intriguing, curiosity invoking words cause the most clicking (notice as well that the “business value” of the link doesn’t seem to correlate with how much people click). Write your links as if you’re writing headlines for the newspaper, and you’ll see a big jump in clicks.
Bottom Line: Without question, subscriber activity is a good measure of reader interest (and therefore, newsletter value). But don’t underestimate your ability to impact that interest, by finding ways to physically engage your readers! Click here if you agree (see what I mean?).