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The age of email has arrived.... again

As a business owner I gave up on Facebook a couple of years ago. I was finding that any money we spent on advertising was getting less and less results. I ended up on a call with a Facebook salesperson and his advice was to widen the net to include large urban areas like London and then increase the budget. I argued with him that I didn’t want customers in London and that the budget had been perfectly adequate until recently. I asked him to explain what had changed that my ad spend was getting 10% of the traction it had previously. He had no response, and I knew then, and I know now that the same thing was happening lots of businesses. The secretive and arbitrary goalposts had changed, and they continue to change.

When I start doing websites in 1995 SEO was easy. You got a few links from other websites, added some alt tags to your images, and shoved in a few keywords. Google or Yahoo would send users to your website and keep an eye on how long they stayed there. If you managed to hold the user for more than a few seconds, then the search engine would know it had done a good job in matching the search terms and the result and it would continue to send users to your website. The longer users stayed on your website the higher you ranked. Then the search engines sold out. Now the first 5 results for almost any search are paid adverts, the next five are companies that spend money on Google Ads, and the position of the rest is based on more vague and very fluid goalposts -and lots more advertising.

I started an Instagram account for a food business a couple of years ago. I made a post about something or another and featured an image of a female friend of mine cooking on a barbeque. Someone made a sexist comment, and their spelling and grammar was terrible. I replied and said, “why are all racists and misogynists so badly educated and stupid?”. My account was banned for using bullying language. The account that made the comment lived to be hateful another day. My own personal Facebook was banned for a week because I called a close friend of mine (who is white and Irish) an ape in a friendly comment after he did something apelike. I was banned by their automated algorithms for using racist language. I appealed to supposed actual humans and lost. My account was reinstated but I haven’t used it since.

Just last week Supermac’s was banned from Facebook and lost their 114,000 followers when the GAA did not see the funny side of a very tame April Fool Day joke about “Supermac’s Croke Park”. 15 years of hard work gone in a second. It has been reinstated after a few days but with no explanation or apology from Meta.

Back to 1995 and my first email address was I will never forget it. The web was 6 years old at the time, but email was comparatively ancient. Everyone predicted the end of email. Everyone said email was insecure, unreliable, and would be destroyed by spam. Web 2.0 came along in the early 2000s and again email was predicted to become a dinosaur - a quick web search still brings up lots of articles predicting its demise.

In 2020 I taught a web development course to disadvantaged teenagers in inner city Dublin. I was caught off-guard when I realised out that most of them had never used a PC or a full-sized keyboard. Their confidence was immediately on the floor when they sensed from my panicked pause that they had failed before they had even started. I recovered the situation by blaming my old age and stupidity for forgetting that “kids these days” have their computer in their pocket. I made a joke about Snapchat and Instagram or whatever was supposedly trendy that year. I caught them sneaking side eyes and bemused smirks at each other. I asked them if I was being stupid again? They confirmed that I was and that everyone uses email these days. Apparently, I should try it.

This has been a long email to let you know that after a lot of consideration and lots of research I have concluded that in 2024 and probably in 2044 email is the ONLY show in town when it comes to reaching and communicating with your e-commerce customers. It is the only medium that respects the free and open foundations of the world wide web (despite pre-dating it). It is the only platform that you can’t be removed from and where you own your audience. Email is becoming more and more technically difficult. Security and anti-spam protocols are [finally] taking centre stage and that is making it hard to get an email landed in a person’s inbox. But that is a technical challenge with solid goalposts that are well documented. It is not an arbitrary or financially motivated change by some guy in Silicon Valley who sleeps with his Tesla and has a $40,000 coffee machine and no cooker in his kitchen.

Start building your mailing list. Start using your mailing list. Take back control.