Posted Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 at 2:36 pm by Jo (47 posts)
Have you been keeping up with your email lately? What about the news? Your favorite blogs? Twitter? The internet has vastly improved our ability to learn and share information, but as it expands, it’s getting more and more difficult for us to keep up with our preferred information sources. Information overload is an increasing challenge to technology users: with so much content, how do we find what we want? How do we stay on top of everything when “everything” keeps growing?
And, if you’re a non-profit: how does this affect you ability to reach your supporters?
The problem of information overload can be thought of as a signal-to-noise issue. The signal, like a radio signal, consists of all the content you actually want and need from the internet: travel plans from a visiting friend, an urgent question from your boss, or a blog post from a key thinker in your field. The noise is everything that gets in the way, all the irrelevant or unimportant (to you) content that you need to dig through to find the signal. That includes chain emails from friends and coupons from Amazon.com, but also a lot of content that might be interesting if only there weren’t so much of it.
Sorting out the signal from the noise takes up time. For some people, slogging through the noise in their email becomes such a hopeless task that they declare email bankruptcy: they give up and start fresh with a new email address. Other people find tools to stay organized: group their blogs in a feed reader, tag their emails, and generally use more technology to solve their problems with technology. Some question whether information overload is as much of a problem as the media (and studies funded by software companies) tell us. But whether or not we’re drowning in our email, managing the flow of information in our lives seems to be an increasing challenge.
If you’re a non-profit, there are simple things you can do to help your supporters avoid information overload – be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Your subscribers care about your cause, and they’ll support you when they think of your messages as important. By making sure your messages come through as signal (and not as noise) in the minds of your supporters, you increase the chance they will pay attention, and you also help reduce their inbox clutter. Everyone wins!
Some easy things you can do:
- Watch the frequency of your messages. If you send emails too often, they may start to feel like spam, even if spam filters don’t catch them.
- Have something to say. If your messages are pointed, relevant, and interesting, your supporters will look forward to reading them. Tie your message to a specific action, or tell your supporters about an important new effort. Make your point in the first paragraph of the email. Ask yourself if this message is worth the time they’ll take to read it. If it’s not, give it a bit more thought.
- Know your value to your subscribers. Chances are, they signed up for your list because they want something from it, be that information, involvement in your cause, or entertainment. (I promise they didn’t sign up because they thought “hey, I don’t get enough email”…) Know what your subscribers want, and give it to them.
If these tips sound suspiciously like email best practices, well, there’s a reason they call them “best practices.” But unlike using a clever subject line or checking your spam score before sending, these tips help you strengthen your relationship with your list over time, not just boost your response to one email. By respecting you subscribers’ inbox, you’re building a relationship of trust with them, one where they go out of their way to read your email because they know it’ll be worthwhile.