Brands and individuals alike have dedicated immeasurable time and effort over the last several years to amassing a social audience, collecting followers, subscribers, and engaged fans across multiple platforms, from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Snapchat. But as social networks increasingly show your content to just a fraction of your followers, email has come back in vogue; it offers a direct line to your audience, unhindered by algorithms, making it an incredibly powerful tool for building a deeply engaged fan-base.
Perhaps nobody knows this better than Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, founders of theSkimm, a daily news briefing email written by and for millennial women. With more than 6 million subscribers--most of them millennial women--and a passionate batch of outspoken advocates in the tens of thousands, theSkimm has grown from a two-person email blast in 2012, to a 60-employee venture with a most recent found of funding that placed its value at more than $50M. With that kind of growth and audience engagement, recent rumors of a sale or acquisition are unsurprising.
So what can other companies with a millennial audience learn from the email juggernaut? I spoke to the founders, and a few outside experts, to get their take.
Meet The Audience Where They Are
"From the earliest days theSkimm has always been focused on creating products that fit into the routines of female millennials," say Carly Zakin & Danielle Weisberg, Co-founders and Co-CEOs of theSkimm. "We know our audience wakes up, grabs their phones, and checks email from friends and family. With the Daily Skimm, we recognized that email could be a powerful marketing tool to reach this demographic within an existing routine"
The simple and predictable format allows busy millennials to get up to speed quickly, in an uncluttered environment that easily fits into their regular routine of checking their inbox in the morning.
"TheSkimm's newsletter format also works because it's easy to read," says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. "We have such low attention spans and have a distrust in traditional media sources, so we turn to theSkimm because it's almost like we're having a conversation with a peer about the news when reading it."
Speak Their Language
TheSkimm is known for its conversational tone, offering news updates in plain English that makes it feel familiar. Sarcastic asides, pop culture references, and a casual tone help make the newsletter feel more personal and relatable.
"Millennials are looking for authenticity when they interact with brands," Zakin & Weisberg say. "It has to be a voice that they trust."
And while a casual approach to serious subjects earns its fair share of critics, its undoubtedly engaging an audience of consumers who might not be finding news they can relate to elsewhere.
"Conversational tone is attractive, down-to-earth and way less intimidating than articles you'd find in a newspaper, which is probably why you see more baby boomers reading the newspaper and more millennials reading theSkimm and BuzzFeed," says Eve Mayer, CMO of Splash Media.
Other millennial products and services have tapped into this insight, like fashion resale app Poshmark, which uses relatable push notifications to draw in a millennial female audience.
"You should be polished in presenting yourself," Mayer says, "but don't take yourself too seriously if you are trying to appeal to an audience of people who don't take themselves too seriously. "
Engage Your Superfans
TheSkimm has also created an entire program to formalize the way they reward and engage their superfans, and the founders have repeatedly said that this army of supporters has been key to their tremendous growth.
TheSkimm describes their 27,000+ Skimmbassadors as "people who Skimm and love it and want to get more involved," and these passionate fans are furnished with swag like shirts, totes and more to help spread the word about theSkimm. They're also asked for feedback, invited to special events, and honored with shout-outs at the end of the newsletter sent out on their birthday.
"That personal touch makes millennials, and all humans, feel special," says Mayer.
While you don't have to go to the lengths of sending branded t-shirts to everyone who loves your brand, acknowledging their fandom with a tweet, a personal note or something else small is a great way to transform regular fans into advocates and help maximize your word of mouth.