In 2011, newsletters have to be social, mobile-optimized, searchable and accessible. Email-only newsletter generally have high open rates, but their content is not available via the web. PDF-based newsletters can be visually captivating, but they are often not optimized for accessibility. Several of us send out PDF newsletters via email subscription lists. A major element that is lacking with this distribution system is that it is one-way. Comments and social sharing are limited. Recently, I was asked about my thoughts on how to create a more modern newsletter solution. The question took place during my strategic student affairs communications webinar and I didn't have enough time to go over it in detail. Having thought about it for a couple of days, here is a simple solution to create a mobile-friendly, highly accessible, social-ready, and search engine optimized newsletter. Whether you work in a student affairs department or a student affairs association, here's an easy to follow recipe for newsletter success:
- Create a WordPress blog: If you use WordPress.com, your blog will be automatically mobile-ready due to the WordPress.com backend. If you create your blog using WordPress.org, check out my post on using the WPtouch plugin to make your blog mobile-friendly. The new Twenty Eleven Theme from WordPress looks great and doesn't require a lot of technical knowledge to get up and running. The nice thing about WordPress is that it quite accessible "out of the box." This also means that it is highly optimized for search engines. In terms of making your blog "newsletter ready," simply decide on how many posts you want on the homepage as your publication number. If your newsletter has 10 stories, then have 10 posts show up on your homepage.
- Utilize an RSS distribution system: I've long been a proponent of using Feedburner to distribute blog posts via RSS to email lists. Feedburner lets you take your blog's RSS feed and distribute new posts to readers via email subscription. Another great service for using RSS from a blog for reader distribution is the free service from MailChimp. Publish all of your newsletter blog entries on the same day and they will all go out in a single email to your subscribers. Lastly, use RSS to send out Tweets from your Twitter account as well as to post your newsletter on your Facebook page via dlvr.it.
- Make your newsletter social:Disqus is a terrific comment system for WordPress and it integrates well with tracking social mentions. There are also quite a few social plugins for WordPress that let you add like, tweet, and +1 buttons.
- Track your stats: Feedburner and MailChimp let you track your readers via email. Google Analytics will give you accurate tracking of your overall traffic. Newsletter stats are quite easy to track using these services.
If you still want to create email-only newsletters either via text or PDF, that's okay, but in 2011, there are far better ways to increase the overall reach and functionality of your newsletter. Create captivating content and then disseminate it using a WordPress blog as your publishing platform.
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