Last year, Peggy Sweeney, founder of The Sweeney Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping people deal with grief, decided that she wanted to better spread the word about the nonprofit’s workshops and programs.
For most of 2011, she had been sending print newsletters entitled “Journeys Through Grief” and maintaining a blog. Beyond that, she hadn’t considered any other kinds of outreach until a colleague recommended that she try Constant Contact.
Peggy’s internet marketing efforts snowballed from there – today, she has over 750 contacts in her email list and just under 400 Facebook fans.
I recently talked with her to learn about her experience getting started with email marketing and social media:
Tell us a little bit about your newsletters.
I have a background as a bereavement educator. I wanted to get information out to the public in general, so I started a newsletter about a year ago. I found Constant Contact, because the man who was hosting my website at the time recommended you guys.
I thought, well, okay, I’ll give it a shot. I’m a nonprofit and all of that, so I got a really good deal.
When I first got into the email editor, it was a bit daunting. But then I slowly started working on the newsletter. There were so many templates to choose from, and it’s all been a progression.
I didn’t do a lot of it until this past December when I retired. But as soon as I did, I realized that print newsletters just weren’t as cost-effective as email ones.
Constant Contact is also just very helpful, because I can always get a quick answer from somebody in support or just watch a webinar.
How has your email marketing strategy grown since you started?
I segmented my list so I could expand my first newsletter to four different ones that all go out to different audiences. I schedule them for different times of the month, so I’m not overwhelmed.
I like to set up the template so there are some standard things, then I can just copy and put in different content.
After just a little while, people started to share their stories after I send out newsletters. For example, I just sent out my newsletter today and I got an email from a secretary to a police chaplain who told me, ‘This is terrific.’
I also started looking deeper into Constant Contact’s other tools. I didn’t even look at what Autoresponder was all about until April. It just really pulled me in after that.
I set up four different emails to tell new subscribers about different things. The first message is basically a welcome, then the second one is about the four distinct newsletters giving a synopsis. The third one is about a free, online grief course. The fourth one comes after 65 days and it’s a very simple survey about the newsletters’ content.
I’ve also improved more on how to work with actual email templates. I like the changes that you made over the last couple months and the ease in using them. I also started going into areas I’m not sure of – like the Autoresponder – and that’s where I found the survey and polls tool.
You use Online Survey, too?
Yes, and I really like that. I sent a survey out a couple of months ago and I probably got about 30-some responses. It was asking how people found us, if they were interested in sharing their stories for the newsletter, and what they’re interested in learning about.
I think the survey is a really unique tool. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known how to find it. Now, I look at it as a valuable way to find out what people want.
I also really liked the webinar between Constant Contact and Facebook, because I got to see how I can benefit from both of them.
And what was your initial experience with Facebook like?
My Page is very new, but on your website I saw all of these things about Facebook, so I wanted to try it out.
First, I was thinking that you guys were talking about personal profiles , but I just kept researching and found out about the Pages and set one up. Now, I’m getting a lot of hits on Facebook – and actually on Pinterest, too – because I post my newsletters there. It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill and picking up more speed and more snow.
How did you start getting traffic to your Facebook Page?
After the webinar that you guys did, I did some Facebook Ads and it really brought a lot of people in. So I spent a little bit of money and now I’m still getting hits because of what I’m posting on my Facebook Page.
And I learned that Facebook posts don’t always have to be articles, they can just be a picture with some words or just asking people to comment.
Now, I keep a list of what I do every day on Facebook, so I don’t duplicate anything.
And I know you used a Social Campaign, too – did that help with traffic?
You know, it took me a little bit to figure out. I had to look at examples of what other people are doing with it. But then I saw that I should put my Social Campaign in a tab on my timeline, and when I pinned it, too, I got quite a few hits.
I offered a free grief program through my campaign and had 50 people sign up for it – that really just blew me away. Across the board, a lot more people are interested in the program, because of the campaign. I’m really pleased with that.
What have you learned about Facebook and social media marketing since starting off?
I just think you have to be versatile. You can’t just post the same thing. For example, one of the people who has a fan Page that I know just keeps posting the same thing all the time and I just think she could do a lot more. If it were me, I would post either other people’s articles or really just try something new.
I recently started a new thing called Daily Updates, because I want to come up with clever things that will keep people interested. I’m always suggesting to people that they share, too. Just this morning, a fellow emailed me to say that he forwarded the newsletter to two friends from Facebook.
One of the things I noticed in my Facebook Ads is that some people won’t Like the Page. I might say that they should Like it, but I think a lot of people don’t know that if they just like a post, they don’t actually Like the Page. I’m not sure if the wording needs to be changed on it, but it’s confusing to some people.
I really hope Facebook does something that makes the Like button more visible. I have to direct people to that button specifically, and I think a lot of Pages probably lose Likes because of that.
How do you combine email and social media?
Well, when I do the newsletter, if you’re signed up, you’ll get the newsletter. But how many thousands of people haven’t signed up for the newsletter yet? A lot of people on Facebook aren’t signed up for my newsletter.
So I usually wait a week, then I take each individual articles from the newsletter and post them one at a time on Facebook. I don’t want people to say, ‘A-ha! I don’t have to sign up for her newsletter.’
I’ll also post older articles on Facebook and say, ‘Hey, I’m sending out a newsletter on Tuesday, so you better sign up today if you want to receive the newest things!’”
That’s a big thing, too – people forget that they can use past examples to promote something that’s happening in the future.
So you provide an incentive to sign up for your newsletters?
Exactly. If I had a business and I was selling hats and I had offered a discount through an email, I would post on Facebook and say, ‘Hey, we had a sale this week and all our customers got great bargains.’”
Because I’m about the articles in my newsletters. I’ll say, ‘We had some great content last month in our newsletter,’ then share one story from it or something.
So you’ve come a long way since signing up for email in June.
Right, and that’s what I wanted. Today, I have over 750 subscribers and that’s in less than a year. The majority of them started signing on in December or after. In late April, I had 130 fans and now I have almost 400.
I’m really happy with that progress, because I just want to make sure that everyone knows about the programs I offer and that makes me feel good, because I know people are going to get help.
How was your initial experience with email or social media? Let us know below!