Here's a very lengthy, opinionated and, I believe, absolutely correct piece by Patrick McKenzie admonishing startup-starting geeks to send more emails to their customers:
A long time ago, I used to be an anti-spam researcher. I was very, passionately committed to getting 95% less email in people's inboxes. This lead me to have an enormous psychological block against collecting and sending emails for my businesses. My perceptions were that:
- users bucket email into "tolerably annoying" and "hated with passion unmatched by a thousand burning suns"
- email marketing is universally kind of seedy
- asking for email addresses would damage customer confidence
- other methods of communication made email obsolete
- ethical use of email is economically marginal for the business
These perceptions were catastrophically wrong. If you are currently where I was six years ago, let's have an intervention. You should start collecting emails from people interested in your topic of expertise and periodically dusting off their inboxes, too.
My quick calculations about engagement yielded a typical engagement rate of about 0.5% on Twitter, 5% on RSS, and close to 50% on email. One way to look at it is that each email subscriber is worth 100 Twitter followers in terms of engagement. So really, going by the subscriber count for swombat.com, I have the engagement equivalent of 63,000 Twitter followers right now... and it was a lot easier to achieve than getting 63,000 followers.
My not-so-carefully-controlled-tests showed that whether I display "You should follow me on twitter here" or "You should follow my RSS feed here" or "You should subscribe to my email list here" at the bottom of posts, I get the same action rate, give or take. This is why I took off the low-engagement Twitter follow message and replaced it with email.
In short, use email. It works, bitches.
If you read this far, you should follow me on twitter here.