Don't Forget About Email
In this day and age of social media and an ever expanding set of communication tools (SMS, IM, Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, etc) it is easy to forget about email. But that would be a big mistake.
I was reminded of that this morning when I got my first ever weekly email from the Hype Machine. It's a customized auto generated email that is different for every member. Here's an example posted by Anthony, founder of the Hype Machine.
I go to the Hype Machine regularly. At least a few times a week and many times every morning while I am reading, doing email, and blogging. But even so, getting a weekly email from the service with some stats customized for me, live concert suggestions, and new music recommendations is a wonderful thing and builds my loyalty even more.
Our portfolio company Etsy operates a market for handmade items. Etsy has been operating for over four years. For most of its life, Etsy had little to no email communication with its buyers. In the past six months, they built a number of email services and now email is one of the top traffic drivers to the site, passing popular new traffic sources like social networks, blogs, and communities.
If you are building a web service, you should most certainly build regular email communication with your users/members as one of the key features of your service. There are a few things to be aware of though. First, you may have trouble getting your email delivered. Many new services find that their verification emails, friend notification emails, and regular communication emails end up in spam filters. Our portfolio company Return Path has a number of services you can use to address that problem.
You should also make it very simple for users to unsubscribe from your emails if they don't want to get them. Putting an unsubscribe link in every email you send it is best practice and it should take literally one or two clicks to do an unsubscribe.
We expect to see a number of robust cloud-based e-mail sending solutions appear in the next year, including something from Amazon Web Services. They should make adding email to your web services even simpler than it is today.
The bottom line is that email is the most used form of internet communication today and it is likely to remain so for a long long time. So leverage it to get your web service pushed out to your users, just like Anthony has done with the Hype Machine this week.