Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Pinterest. Reddit. Every day there seems to be some new social network to use and cultivate an audience. But sometimes I think people forget about the simplest social media network available: e-mail.
I frequently tell people that e-mail is the first social media network. And I’m sure there are plenty of people thinking “I hate my inbox for it to be a social media network.” But e-mail really is an important social media network that should be cultivated and maintained.
Think about how you use e-mail and connect with people. Sure you may post photos on Facebook for your friends and family, but sometimes you send the long e-mail with photos to a friend or family member too, right? Plus how do you connect with other members of your local community on a project or an interest you share? Through e-mail, correct?
And connecting with your audience on e-mail is important too.
When I was at Millburn-Short Hills Patch, I’d use Facebook and Twitter to connect with my audience. But, by far, people were much more comfortable to share information with me, send photos and more via e-mail. My inbox was never empty. And even if I got through everything, there would be new e-mails moments away.
Not to mention there were e-mail groups out there too. The infamous Millburn High School hazing story came to light because of an e-mail list of working mothers. During an election cycle, I was forwarded e-mails being sent to an e-mail list about supporting a candidate. I ended up on an e-mail list of an advocacy group that didn’t want hundreds of trees cut down. And back when I covered Westport, I uncovered what the school board was saying about parents and a hot issue because they were e-mailing each other (something that can be requested via the Freedom of Information Act).
Your community isn’t just living on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. They’re also using old tools like e-mail to connect with each other. I always am wary of joining an e-mail discussion list because people may not be as open to talk if they know you’re watching. But if you have a source on that list, they can forward you messages and give you tips of newsworthy things being discussed. That can be the foundation of what you can use for a story or finding people to quote for a story.
Your inbox may be something you find hard to tame and are always trying to find ways to control it. But also consider the power of your e-mail in connecting with others. E-mail is your friend, not your enemy, even if the volume is out of control.