Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Uses Twitter and a Mailing List with Its Blog

Social media applications make it easy to publish and share information with an audience. They can be used individually or they can be used in combination with other online resources and applications. By combining applications, their combined usefulness can be greater than the sum of their individual strengths.

One combination uses consists of an automated mailing list, a blog, and Twitter. The mailing list had been developed over several years and had been used to send newsletters and breaking news items. The various blogs are more recent additions, and have been used to provide more details than were possible in a newsletter, and to supplement the main web site.

Twitter is the newest addition to, and initially had the most problems. Twitter is what is called a microblogging service, which acts like a blog it that it allows users to easily publish something online, but is very limited in that you have a 140 character limit, basically enough for a headline and maybe one link to another resource.

For, having only enough space for a headline and a link to another resource isn't a problem since Twitter's main use was to encourage a subscriber to link to other content such as a particular page on a web site. As a relatively new online service, very few current visitors would have had an account, and many may never be convinced to subscribe to the service. Incorporating Twitter into's content wouldn't make sense unless there was a way to include the majority of's audience that doesn't use Twitter.

The key breakthrough was using Twitter in combination with other resources, specifically the site's automated mailing list and the News blog site. The mailing list service, which over the last several years has grown to several thousand subscribers, has a feature that allows it to be linked to a blog so that any new blog item leads to an automatic generation of an email that includes a short message and a link to the blog item. A second feature automatically sends out a Twitter message to followers that includes a link back to the new blog posting.

In short, those two features allowed anyone who was either a subscriber to the mailing list or to the Twitter account would be automatically notified whenever there was an addition to the blog. Instead of updating three resources, only one had to be updated to reach three distinct audiences.

The mailing list, blog, and the Twitter account are promoted in different ways to different types of visitors. By doing a little bit of behind the scenes work, all three audiences could be easily connected.

One of the unexpected benefits was that Twitter and related technologies opened up additional options for finding useful information that was of interest to the audience with the audience. The most useful was the Twitter search function at It is a great tool for quickly finding useful links to breaking news stories. For example, after a plane crash, it can be used to search through the hundreds, and sometimes thousands of Twitter messages that users send to one another after a crash. At least a few will have links to news media and other resources that have timely information on an unfolding event.

The blog is the main resource that uses for breaking news on plane crashes, so when the blog is updated and subscribers receive a notification of the new blog entry and then visit the blog, they get information from and also benefit from the work that Twitter users did to find relevant online content.

Next Steps
If you want to see how this stuff works or how it can help you, do one of the following:

- Follow on Twitter: If you don't have an account, you can quickly create one for yourself.
- Join the mailing list: Receive breaking news on plane crashes, plus much more information.
Visit the Mailing List Archive: See what you have been missing.
Check out's mailing list provider: If you are thinking of starting a mailing list, or making your current list more capable, this is a good place to start.