Our sailing club has created a Facebook group, because it is “quicker and easier than emailing, and no danger of people’s email addresses being accidentally missed off”.
And they are not alone. For instance, my previous institution created Facebook groups for students holding offers for their degree. This author I know, created a group for readers of her cooking book. And my friend J’s main motivation to join Facebook, was to keep up with news from his running club.
But not everybody is like my friend J. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, various members of the sailing club have now complained about the move from mailing list to Facebook group because they do not use, and do not want to start using, Facebook.
So, while Facebook groups may be an increasingly popular option for small organisations to stay in touch with their customers or members, they do present some problems. Access is one such problem, but by no means the only one.
Here is a crib sheet that I prepared, comparing mailing lists and Facebook groups, based on the AIMRITE framework.
When using this crib sheet, please bear in mind that:
- I am talking about Facebook groups, not Facebook pages
- I am neither a marketing communications expert nor a legal advisor.
Does the medium reach the desired target audience efficiently?
|Nowadays, most people have e-mails.
Requires permission (i.e., opt in to mailing list), and easy option to unsubscribe.
Possible mistakes when entering e-mail addresses.
May become outdated (e.g., if customer is using school or work e-mail address).
Content isn’t discoverable (by search engines). So, it won’t attract new members.*
|Facebook is becoming increasingly popular across regions, age groups and social classes.
Not everybody can or want to join Facebook.
Even those that have a Facebook account, may not be able to use it, at times – e.g.,
filters in schools or at work; plus, access blocked in some countries.
Does the medium have impact; that is does it ensure the message has a chance of getting through the clutter?
|Message will stay in inbox, marked as unread, until user reads or deletes it.
Message may be caught in spam filters, or end up in junk mail folder (e.g., gmail accounts).
Message may be seen as spam, and deleted without being read.
|Potential for viral campaigns.
Institutional content is downgraded by Facebook’s sorting algorithm, meaning that group members may not see your content in their feed.
Message can get drown in newsfeed (e.g., if group member follows many people and pages, or if member does not check Facebook for a while).
Does the medium help ensure the message is clearly communicated?
|Great flexibility in terms of format (text, links, images, video, pdfs, forms, etc…) and size.
Colour and type setting can be set to match brand image.
May not work well in mobile handsets.
|Some flexibility in terms of format (limited to text, hyperlinks, images and videos) and size.
Optimised for mobile interface.
Limited scope for branding.
Does the medium make responding easy?
|Easy to reply.
Potential for delayed response.
Limited ability to share responses, if contacts in Bcc. Danger of spamming if contacts not in Bcc.
|Easy to reply and comment.
Potential for users to bring others into the discussion (e.g., using tags).
Potential for group members to contribute content.
Replies tend to be public, which may not suit some situations.
No control over what is posted by group members (content and volume).
Can the client and its suppliers capably manage the medium?
Easy to test (e.g. AB testing).
Demanding in terms of inbound.
Some legal requirements in terms of data protection.
Possible privacy issues, if e-mail addresses not in Bcc.
|Ability to monitor message reach and impact.
Significant privacy issues, because members can see each other’s profiles and content.
Requirement to monitor content and conversations, regularly, in case someone posts content that is offensive.
|The End Result
Do the estimated costs per response justify testing this medium?
|Inexpensive and effective communication channel.
Not suitable for community building.
|Inexpensive community platform.
Limitations as communications channel.
* contributed by James Ramsay
[Mailing list vs Facebook group crib sheet in pdf format]
What do you think about this analysis of the pros and cons of mailing lists vs Facebook groups? What is missing or wrong here?
3 thoughts on “Mailing list vs Facebook group crib sheet”
Hey there, AWESOME post. I was trying to find a comparison like that, I’m glad you went through the work to do it!
As a KEY argument in favor of mailing lists, think about this for a second:
You CAN use your mailing list to create a custom audience on facebook and show targeted ads to those people.
HOWEVER, you CANNOT use your facebook likes/members to create an e-mail campaign.
So if you choose go with Mailing Lists, you can still use facebook to reach those people with campaigns (like when launching an online course).
Since the opposite is not true, then you should focus on building your mailing list instead of a facebook following.
Indeed. Thank you for that contribution.