6 Tips for Writing
Eye-Catching Subject Lines
Can weak email
subject lines actually hurt your online community engagement?
By Joshua Paul
your association’s online community is like most others, the majority of your
members probably don’t check it every day. Unlike their public social network
accounts that they check multiple times a day, your branded online member
community is more likely to be a place they visit with intention. They sign in
to ask a question in the discussion forum, read a new blog post, check out a
new how-to video, or follow up on an offer. That’s where the importance of
email comes in.
Email is a big part of creating an online community that
consistently keeps members engaged. Your target audience is full of very busy
people.By sending both manual campaigns and automated emails with updated
information, newsletters, and invitations for specific actions, you can stay
top-of-mind and encourage members to come back to the community to get value.
However, your members likely get dozens of emails a day,
so your email communication needs to stand out from the pack. Emailing
for the sake of emailing your online community isn’t going to get the results
you seek; you still have to follow best practices just like you would for any
other email marketing campaign.
One key strategy is to write better subject lines. Subject
lines are a crucial element for getting recipients to open emails and click
through. A well-crafted subject line can make a big difference in online
community engagement. Here are some ideas to help you create great subject
Tip #1 – Keep It Short
Your subject lines should be brief and to the point so
they can instantly catch your community members’ attention without
overburdening them with information. Email software provider MailChimp found
that the ideal length for an email subject line was less than 50 characters. Keep
it brief, but informative.
Tip #2 – Avoid Certain Words
Depending on the wording of your subject lines, your
members might have an adverse reaction that makes them less likely to open your
email. According to the same MailChimp study, three seemingly innocent words
correlated with lower open rates: "Help,” "Percent Off,” and "Reminder.” Of
course, always avoid the age-old trouble word "Free,” which tends to alert spam
Tip #3 – Balance
Consistency with Changing It Up
This is especially important when it comes to the
subject lines of newsletters. While you want the subject lines of your
newsletters to be recognizable when they arrive in your members’ inboxes, you
still want to engage their interest. Try combining the established branding of
your newsletter with varying subject lines that include enticing information
about what the newsletter contains.
Tip #4 – Balance Promotional with Educational
As a hard-and-fast rule, your members are not going to
be as interested in promotional emails as they are in emails that are useful to
them. Do your best to limit the number of promotional subject lines and instead
draw your members into your community with timely subject lines that speak to
their needs. If you do need to send a few promotional emails, tone down the
splashy language typically used in promotional subject lines and just keep it
straightforward and to the point. People can smell a sales/marketing email from
a mile away.
Tip #5 – Make
Value Specific and Concrete
Along with being very busy, your members aren’t mind
readers. Being deliberately vague about the value behind your email will only
cause them to lose trust and interest. Instead, reference what they’ll get
specifically in your subject line so they’ll know that it’s something relevant
to them that they want to open. Each email’s subject line is a promise to the
recipient as to the value they will find when the open it. If your subject line
is unclear, your members are more likely to ignore or delete the email
altogether than click for clarity.
Tip #6 – Use
Targeted Subject Lines When Possible
MailChimp found that personalized subject lines with
users’ names didn’t significantly affect open rates, but targeting by location
did. This isn’t too surprising considering most recipients are probably used to
spam emails targeting them by name, leading to that level of personalization
losing its effect. However, narrowing by location targets your members in a specific
way that won’t leave them suspicious. Keep in mind that location is only one option
for anchoring an email subject line to something that is familiar to your
target audience. Other options include member/customer type, company size,
product usage, event attendance, and role in the organization.
Consider what goes in the "from" line of your emails.
Having an actual name— rather than an organization’s name—in the sender spot
leads to more opens. Your members are more likely to trust the name of a
specific person as an email worth opening because it seems more personalized.
Keep in mind that these tips aren't hard and fast for
every audience. Test and use what works best for your association’s online
community based on the results you see. Send enough emails to be able to
collect data on your open rates and leverage that data to define the choices
you make moving forward.
You might find that your particular audience responds
really well to longer, more informative subject lines—but you won’t know for
sure unless you test and analyze the data to inform that choice. While these
best practices are certainly a good place to start, don’t be afraid to break
the mold if you find out your community members respond in a different way.
is the director of marketing and strategy for Socious.