Center for Online Evangelism - Amy Prindle
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
Think about your daily morning routine with your inbox or social media feed.
It’s a bunch of scrolling, skimming headlines, and likely hitting “delete” 18 or more times. Noise. Clutter. Overload.
What would it take to get your attention?
Maybe an email’s subject addresses a question you’ve had, a process you’re stuck in, or a new idea you’ve been trying to crank out. Maybe it pushed the envelope a bit, or was just odd enough for you to wonder about. Bottom line: It cut through the clutter because the words in the headline connected with you and your current situation.
We have to expect that those in our audience, on our mailing lists, or following us on social media are in the same noisy, cluttery, overwhelm-y state of content consumption. They’re on your lists for a reason, so you do know there’s a common interest or shared mission. But is your content rising above the noise in their inboxes?
“In today’s world, digital media is so pervasive that it’s no longer considered unique; it’s a way of life,” explains a recent post on SearchEngineLand.com. “Virtually everyone has a smartphone, and most individuals and households have smart devices.”
But we’re on these devices because we’re all looking for something—whether it’s a moment of entertainment, help with a problem, statistics to back up a claim, or just something useful to feed our ravenous yet attention-deficit brains for the time being. So what can we give our audiences that they’re already looking for?
You should already know your audience. (And if you don’t, maybe it’s time for a survey, a study, some A/B testing, etc.). What can you give them that would make their lives easier, help them grow, or do something better or faster? Marketing guru Seth Godin asks, “How will your audience change as a result of your [article/letter/post/video]?”
An effective headline can open the door for further ministry
Your content has to be clicked on before it can have any kind of life-changing effect. So to truly stand out among the noise, your headline has to communicate directly to the reader, “This will make your life easier” or “Here’s a way to do the thing you always do, faster” or “Here’s some insight on that nagging question in your mind.”
Here are some great headline tips, summarized from okdork.com's 1,000,000-headline performance analysis.
List posts perform well
This is a highly shareable form of headline for an article or video. This doesn’t seem to get old—people love that list posts are highly skimmable and offer clear takeaways, such as “5 Ways to Streamline Your Mornings” or “21 Undeniable Facts About Bananas.”
Use “you” and “your” frequently
These words already tell readers’ brains that this is about them—which is who they’re consuming content for in the first place. A simple headline such as “How to Organize Your Inbox” will perform better than “How to Have an Organized Inbox.”
Enable your readers to envision a better life
If readers believe they will learn how to do something amazing, win free stuff, save lots of money, or get the inside scoop on a little-known tip or trick, they are more likely to click on your headline or email subject. “Use promising words to your readers,” which will make them more likely to hit “share.”
Slightly alter headlines for different channels
DIY-ers love Pinterest, while business and tech talkers hang out on Twitter and LinkedIn. Facebook tends toward the light and friendly sharing of ideas and household tips, especially in video form. YouTube has a niche for just about everyone.
Tug at emotions
Descriptively acknowledge what your audience is going through and how this piece of content addresses it. Ask questions, even venture assumptions, such as “Feeling stuck? Try these 5 decision-making tips” or “If you still haven’t decided what to do this weekend, here’s all you need.”
For your swipe file, keep a list of “power words” and phrases that can trigger emotional responses, such as “the truth about,” “breakthrough,” “stress-relieving, “revolutionary,” “exhilarating,” etc. (Just google “power words for headlines” and you’ll find several useful results!)
Keep these tips in mind, but remember to stay real and conversational. If you’re stuck on writing that email subject or post headline, think, “how would I title this if I was sending it to my friend?”
Read the full 1,000,000-headline-analysis article here.
Also incredibly useful: Cheat sheet for writing posts that go viral
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.
Jamie Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
A quick guide to email appending, a.k.a. increasing your email subscriber list ethically and quickly.
Email appending, also known as e-appending, is a marketing practice that involves taking known customer data (first name, last name, and postal address) and matching it against a vendor's database to obtain email addresses (Wikipedia).
This is a surprisingly quick and affordable process. We recommend working with TowerData.com as they have an outstanding reputation and work with large clients like the Smithsonian on a regular basis. Depending on the size of your member list, you can receive your new emails in about two weeks. Their match-rate is around 25% to 30%, which could translate to a significant increase in your email list. The cost is $0.10-$0.12 cents per match.
We strongly encourage all conferences, unions, churches, and ministries to go through this process. And you don’t need us; you can do it on your own, but we are willing to help you as much as you need. Here is how it works, step by step:
Collecting email addresses is not enough to ensure better communication with your members; consider letting us review your eNewsletter for content/design optimization. Click here for tips on how to improve the performance of your emails.
Have questions about email appending? Comment below or send us a message on Facebook.
Heidi Baumgartner, M.S.
Communications Director for the Washington Conference.
Collecting email addresses is not enough to ensure effective email communication with your members. Here are some quick tips to help you optimize the design and functionality of your emails.
1. Subject Lines: Choose your words wisely. People quickly scan subject lines before deciding what messages in their inbox to open. Be direct, not clever. Inboxes are cluttered, and people need to know why they should choose to open and read your email. Most emails are viewed on mobile devices, so most people will only see the first five words of your subject line. Make sure the most vital information is placed at the beginning of the subject line. Example: Volunteers Needed: Medical Clinic (Dec. 25-27) Use all capitalized words in the subject line but avoid ALL CAPS.
2. From Name: Your from name should either be your brand name or the name of a high profile person in your organization such as a conference president. Experiment with subject line A/B testing to see what your list responds to the best.
3. Personalization: Merge tags for email name, subject, or body helps increase open-rate. People like to be identified, acknowledged, and thanked. Example: Start the body of your email with Dear <first name of recipient>,
4. Urgency: People respond to a sense of urgency or importance. Keywords to try in the subject line and email body include: Urgent, Just Announced, Important, Alert. But avoid words that sound too sales-y like: Limited Time Only, Last Chance, or vague references to Sign Up.
5. Structure & Design: Use a one-column format such as: image>headline>paragraph>call-to-action. Pick/adjust a color palette that reflects your brand look. Remember, color attracts, black informs. Select a neutral color for better readability of text. Images should extend the width of the copy area (about 600 pixels), and be of high quality. Use divider lines for white space between featured announcements. Text should be a universal font such as Arial and be at least 14 pixels in size for readability on mobile devices.
6. Tone: Write in a friendly, conversational tone. Share important details. Give teasers, and then refer/link to your website or point of contact.
7. Buttons: Clickable buttons and links allow you to track and see what is important to your reader. Make it easy for them to click and respond (on their phone) by using large buttons. By making it easy to take action when you have their attention, you are more likely to see an increase in results.
8. Build Your List: Offer many opportunities for new members, current members, and friends of your organization to join your email list. Integrate a subscription box into your website or Facebook page. Print sign-up cards to be handed out at events, and conduct an email append.
9. Use Groups: Keep a master list of contacts, and then divide the master list into interest groups (women, children, families, students, committee members, specific ministries, etc.) This allows you to send targeted messages to segmented lists when needed. Overall, segmented lists enjoy a 14% higher email open-rate than non-segmented lists.
We hope this helps! Post your questions and comments below.