eMail Newsletters vs SMS-Style Telegram
October 2019 = the 50th anniversary of net-transmitted eMail. Unconvinced of the current efficacy of eMail Newsletter subscriptions, I researched. Articles confirmed my hunch that the sheer volume of eMail-marketing hype overwhelms common sense. I then created and immersed myself in a project: learn about / implement an eMail newsletter alternative.
In a nutshell, I noticed two things:
- logical inconsistencies between the hype pushing email newsletters as essential, versus reality
- most articles proclaiming eMail marketing thrills source from eMail newsletter software teams, or their affiliates
We’re told repeatedly: “eMail newsletters just work.” Yet Google overflows with articles detailing how to
- prune subscribers
- avoid spam filters
- handle forced missing images
- determine the best time to send the eMail
- figure out your opening rate
and more. Take that last list item.
If eMail works, why the obsession with opening rates (falling under 25% on a good day)? Why the litany of ongoing tedious tasks (described below)? In exchange for a monthly power punch to your wallet, you witness three of four recipients snarl their apathy to your efforts.
Oh yeah, honey, gotta git me summa dat!
So much for it just works. Let’s dig a bit deeper to discern why / how the free yet innovative Telegram app proves a wiser option.
1️⃣ OnGoing/ Saas Fees vs Free
SaaS fees triggered by eMail newsletters torment your wallet. Yes, it may be free for up to xxxx subscribers. But why would I set myself up to reinvent this wheel once I surpass the numerical ceiling? Tell me why I’d commit to a hefty monthly fee when I know—going in—at least 75% of recipients will ignore the eMail? This is considered a worthy return on investment???
Telegram remains free, in all respects, withOUT privacy invasion. No ads. No promo teases. No pruning required. Every feature is mine to exploit, with nothing tying one hand behind my back. Unlimited subscribers. Unlimited messages. Unlimited contacts.
Add: we all know → people treat email and SMS differently. We scan email headers to determine which to open and when. We devour every SMS messages on sight. Further, SMS yields neither subject line concerns nor send-time issues nor spam filters. Speaking of spam …
2️⃣ Crap Zone vs Intended Landing Zone
eMail newsletters adore landing in a Promotions folder, a/k/a The Crap Zone. Spam filters likewise keep the missive away from the actual InBox. At best, an eMail newsletter blends in with other eMail. The only way to make it stand out? Type the subject header in all caps; add emojis. Self-defeating remedies, to say the least.
Messages sent via Telegram land precisely where desired. Each channel or group within the Telegram app is unique, meaning there is no mixture of blog xyz’s messages with blog abc’s messages or Sally Sue’s notes. There are no filters interfering with delivery, nor a crap zone waiting to eat the message.
3️⃣ Info starting on subscription date vs all you can eat.
You sign up for an eMail newsletter. You receive messages from that point forward. You notice the first received message is the third of a four-part blog article series. As a general rule, eMail newsletters present no summary of those previous articles appears within the maiden eMail. You want the other articles? Visit the site, hoping a decent search box or Recent Articles list will greet you. Either way, you get to play a game of seek and ye may find.
In contrast, Telegram mimics Hulu. Want to see other episodes comprising the current TV season of your desired show, maybe even more? No problem; tap a button. Likewise, when you join a Telegram channel, prior postings appear within the channel. Each sports a link, to speed your direct transport to the article of interest at the source blog.
eMail eschews any hint of comprehensiveness. Telegram makes it dirt easy to automate the transmission of both new and updated older content. eMail mechanics tend to discourage anything beyond automated messages; Telegram embraces spontaneity.
4️⃣ Difficult vs Easy
eMail newsletters can be automated. But special eMails, not tied to blog postings, require your appearance at the server. I suspect one will also wrestle with an additional template to send the outlier note. Result: sending a “quick note” likely incurs mechanics-induced irritation.
Telegram likewise plays the automation game. But Telegram also affords the freedom to jot out a quick note to subscribers withOUT grief. Read: like any messaging app, I can tap out the note, then hit send. Link? Copy paste. Image? Insert as with any SMS app. No fuss; no inconvenience. Park bench, downtown restaurant, jogging —regardless of my physical location, if I can txt, I can send my Telegram note.
I set up the basic Telegram (automation) template within a minute, tapping to insert the plugin’s given shortcuts for:
- blog post title
- blog excerpt
- publication date
- short or full URL
The settings further include my checkmark in the box for including the featured image.
Nothing else is required, as I’m empowered to piggyback on WordPress features (e.g. excerpt). And when the one-off message lives separate and apart from a blog post, I treat it like an SMS being sent to a friend. No easier software mechanism exists.
5️⃣ Maybe Images vs Images Always Show
Marketing clowns have long invaded privacy to determine open rates, relying upon a hidden 1-pixel image conversing with the sender’s server. As a direct result, many recipients have turned off image display as a default. The number of emailed folks shutting off the lights in this manner was pegged as at least 43% back in 2014.
Telegram has no comparable problem. SMS-style messaging inherently eliminates opening concerns. Folks assign priority to SMS, unlike eMail. The featured image appears, as anticipated, under all circumstances.
6️⃣ Tracking Subscribers vs Telegram’s in Charge
As touched on earlier, it amazes me when people fail to notice the glaring inconsistencies in claims made by eMail newsletter purveyors. Among the extra busy-work chores flowing in the wake of “eMail just works” → the need to manually prune your list from time to time. This, when no one disputes the dismal 25% opening rate.
If eMail works in such a fine marketing manner, why is it necessary to prune subscribers? Hmmm, could it be that the BFF of eMail newsletters—the popup—pulls subscribers who never gave a blip from day one? 🤔 Yet bloggers continue to inflict punch-you-in-the-face popups on visitors. “Because they work.” Works, as in an acknowledged 75% ignore-your-eMail rate. If that connotes success, I’m guessing you’d need to produce a carrier pigeon to spark a discussion ’bout blatantly obvious marketing failures.
And how does one unsubscribe from eMail missives? Tap a link, arrive at a nondescript page, tap another link, and confront a why-did-you-unsubscribe page. “Crap content” never appears in the list of reasons. Maybe this tap-happy unsubscribe maneuver will prompt your immediate removal. Maybe it’ll take upwards of a week to honor your request.
With Telegram, recipients maintain complete and unfettered control, all while remaining within the Telegram app. Want out? Swipe right to left on the channel name, revealing a trash can. Punch it. Channel deleted. Next.
As regards concerns of administrators, Telegram keeps the number of channel subscribers front and center. No personally identifiable info is involved. Nor is pruning needed. Again, respect boomerangs. I provide a sidebar button for blog subscriptions. Because I play no (popup) games, those who sign up do so out of desire, only. They’re interested, period. The content pulled them, as it should be.
7️⃣ Ongoing chores vs set it and forget it
Research suggests best times to send an email newsletter. Research teaches the language to use to avoid spam filters. Research reveals the phraseology likely to get your eMail opened, etc.
By choosing to subscribe via Telegram, folks effectively assign priority treatment to the blog messages. No hunting mission through an email client to find blog-related newsletters, then drilling down again for the precise blog message desired. In Telegram World, all blog-xyz messages live within the single xyz channel.
eMail ushers administrators into a rabbit hole of ongoing maintenance issues. You set up your blog’s Telegram channel, and get on with your life. Period.
Telegram delights both sides of the blog subscription equation. I publish a new article or update an older post, checkmarking a send-to-Telegram box within the Editor. I’m done. Recipients check the writesquire channel when desired. They’re done. Read: set it; forget it. If a question mushrooms from blog post, Telegram subscribers can message me from within the app. eMail subscribers? LoL
8️⃣ Monopolized communication vs two-way communication.
Few eMail newsletters include a reply-to mechanism. If someone has a question, they’ll suffer the inconvenience of searching for the required email addy, then starting a new eMail; or, they’ll visit the sending site to get a message to the blog’s home base via a contact form or post comment.
- My Telegram handle reflects the name of this blog: Writesquire.
- The channel name: Writesquire WP.
- The bot name: WritesquireWP_bot.
Because folks have immediate access to my Telegram name, it’s crazy easy to message me from within Telegram → use the search bar to pull up my handle, Writesquire. Duh! Bonus: because the communication mimics SMS, I respond much faster than with traditional eMail, regardless of my physical location when your message arrives. Cuz. It’s. Easy.
Wait, there’s more! A soon-to-be-unveiled companion Chat feature at the writesquire site will also rely exclusively on Telegram. I’m positioning myself to look only in the Telegram app to ascertain blog communications (except comments / contact form missives) relative to the blog.
Me wubs easy. My guess: I ain’t alone in that regard.
9️⃣ Crowd Follower vs Independent Thinker
People sign up for eMail newsletter software because they blindly accept associated hype as fact. Swallowing the “eMail newsletter is critical” mantra, bloggers and site owners miss the forest for the trees. It ain’t the eMail mechanism that’s critical. It’s establishing a reliable method of communication. Guess what? That ain’t eMail!
It’s dang near impossible to beat convenience. SMS personifies convenience, on all fronts. Telegram, at its heart, is an SMS-style client.
I have no interest in bloggers who erect popups. You slap a visitor in the face with a popup, halting the reading process, cuz you want an eMail address. Small wonder you then need to prune the subscriber list to remove don’t-care recipients, etc. But hey, you say, the popups are effective. Really? Checked your bounce rate lately? And how’s that periodic pruning ritual working out for ya?
Some also believe the crowd’s insistence that clickbait subject lines will get your eMail opened. I’ve received eMail subject lines declaring:
- You MUST read this
- Why you ABSOLUTELY NEED me
- The 15 Reasons You Want to Work with Me
I dumped each newsletter on sight. Why?
- Few live brain cells operating in the sender.
Take your pick. My reasoning: you disrespect my time with an asinine subject line, I inflict karma. No guilt.
🔟 ROI cent$ and common sense.
Prep your newsletter. Phrase the message with care. Time the send. Play the role of broom to remove disinterested subscribers.
All this and more constitutes the gift of sending eMail newsletters, the Energizer Bunny of tedious ongoing chores and concerns. Not to mention the monthly fee. The RoI (Return on Investment)? Undisputed: 3 out of 4 recipients will ignore your eMail newsletter.
Or → prep your article title, featured image, excerpt, and tags as usual for WordPress publication. Draft and proof your article, then tap publish / schedule / update. Done. Telegram inflicts no need for additional massaging nor clean-up maneuvers.
The traditional eMail method eats both time and money. Telegram does not.
I rush to add: other messaging clients, like WhatsApp, are also available. I loathe FaceBook. I have faith in parent Facebook to inundate messages with ads, even blasphemous algorithms. Telegram lives center stage as a what cha see is what ya get software privacy gem. No crap ads. No algorithm to juggle message ordering. Bluntly, no crap.
How To: the GroundWork for Arranging a Telegram Blog Subscription
These essentials must be in place before following the detailed walk-through steps provided.
Grab the Telegram app
No Telegram account? Start with your favorite device. Visit its associated App Store to download the free Telegram app. Create an account.
Grab the WordPress PlugIn
You need plugin capability. Read: a self-hosted WordPress.org style site, or a top tier WordPress.com Business-level site.
Several (free) marry-Wordpress-to-Telegram plugins are available at WordPress.org. I chose WP Telegram for these reasons:
- uniform glowing ratings
- longevity of the plugin
- consistently excellent maintenance history
- YouTube tutorials
SetUp in a NutShell
Telegram is available, without cost, for every platform. It’s main claim to fame, privacy, works so well the app is banned in several countries, e.g. Iran and Russia.
A hater will hit the comments with a “Telegram ain’t perfect, Pam” proclamation. Thank you, Captain Obvious. My claim is not perfection. My claim is it fares better, much better, than the competition in the aspects spread out in this post, and more.
With plugin installed, several steps will alert Telegram to your blog’s existence, a requisite to adding a Blog Subscription feature to your site. This is Geek Land, meaning new terms of art abound. You create a bot and a channel. Don’t freak. We weren’t born knowing how to drive a car either.
English version: the bot transports your message to subscribers. The dedicated (your blog only) channel serves as home for those messages.
Your How-to CheatSheet
Because this particular YouTube tutorial evaporated my fear of this unknown, I pass it on.
Despite the excellent walk-through, SherlockReena here managed to futz it. How? I used a ChromeBook, i.e. the Telegram web-based client. Turns out, certain needed commands are not visible in that client. I refer to creating a channel and add an administrator. Lesson learned: set up with both a true app installed on a mobile device, PC, or Mac; and, keep the web-based view accessible (e.g. ChromeBook). Some commands appear in one spot, but not the other.
Oddly, both the create-channel and add-administrator commands are available on the iPad Telegram client, a fact discovered only after playing pattycake with every available inch of space on the iPad screen. In other words, I played tap-happy queen til I found what I needed. 😂 No shame in my game, y’all. 😂
If you attempt this setup and encounter hassles, contact me through Telegram (@writesquire).
I’ll help as best I can. Just search on Writesquire and tap out your note. You won’t be greeted with a voicemail jungle, for the same reason I refuse to put one person on hold to answer another call: rude / disrespectful. I don’t think so; Homie don’t play dat!
Steps for Creating a Blog Subscription Using Telegram
The given YouTube video covers these initial steps beautifully. Within the Settings screen of the WP Telegram plugin:
- Create a bot
- Send /newbot command to @BotFather within Telegram
- Name your bot, e.g. Writesquire WP Bot
- Set your bot username, e.g. writesquireWP_bot
- The bot system assigns a visible bot key. Select and copy it.
- Paste the token into the designated field within the plugin’s setup screen.
- After the paste, click the TEST TOKEN button. You’ll know you’re ok when the bot’s username auto-appears in the Bot UserName field
I missed a step, sparking grrr’s → tap SAVE CHANGES. Doing so causes the Post to Telegram module, within the plugin’s settings page, to gain life. (Its SETTINGS link becomes clickable.)
- Under Post to Telegram, open SETTINGS in a new tab.
- In that new Settings tab, enter your bot’s name in the search field
- Select your bot when it appears
- To CREATE CHANNEL (iPad), tap the middle of the top right screen (where the name appears), opening a new drop-down menu. Select Create Channel.
- Enter a name for your channel, e.g. Writesquire WP Channel.
- Set the channel to PUBLIC.
- Assign a UserName for the channel, e.g. writesquireWP
- Copy the UserName you just created.
- Return to the plugin Settings page
- Paste the Channel UserName into the Channel UserName field.
- Tap SEND TEST.
- Return to your Telegram client to check, under your new channel section. You should see the test message.
Almost done. We need to introduce your newly created bot to your just created channel. We’re back in the Telegram client for these steps.
- Click the new channel, e.g. Writesquire WP Channel
- On the right side, middle top, click on the space (where the channel name appears). This re-opens the drop-down menu. Select MANAGE.
- MANAGE → ADMINISTRATORS → ADD ADMINISTRATOR
- Use the search bar to enter the name of your bot, e.g. Writesquire WP Bot
- Choose and save.
- Return to the plugin settings page.
- Tap the SEND CHANNEL TEST MESSAGE button
- Confirmation appears
- Save changes again.
Now you can set up the intuitive rules presented for the plugin’s interplay with your site.
I can offer no assistance if you’re using Gutenberg rather than the Classic Editor. Once I learned some shortcodes and metaboxes dislike WordPress version 5 / Gutenberg, I took steps to keep the Classic Editor.
Testing Your Customized Plugin Configuration
You can create a new post, or update a pre-existing post. Toggle the override button as needed, housed within the new metabox.
You are free to delete content in the channel. Tap an item, hold, then release. A little popup appears, with a DELETE option.
I ran into a problem. I use shortcodes on every post, ensuring a uniform opening and closing sequence. To my dismay, the raw shortcodes appeared at the beginning of the post, when it appeared within the Telegram channel. My bad, as I overlooked a turned-out-to-be-critical setting. Explicitly choosing Excerpt, rather than accepting the default Content setting, cured the snafu.
Show and tell …
Always-Visible Number of Subscribers
Notice the “3 subscribers” declaration at the top?
- My initial Telegram handle, who created all this bot & channel stuff
- Writesquire WP Bot, which interacts with the channel, sending the WordPress post summary to Telegram
Why IFTTT? Experience yields wisdom. This channel aspect of Telegram is new to me. That makes me sufficiently paranoid to fashion a backup. I want a second database—elsewhere—mirroring the contents of this blog-focused Channel. Toward that end, I created an IFTTT recipe:
- if Telegram: when a post is fed to (the Writesquire WP Channel in) Telegram
- then DayOne: copy it to my (iOS only 😒) DayOne app
Tweaks to the Output of Telegram’s Blog Subscription
NeatOh! → We can add a few Markdown or HTML elements to the automation template. I want the post title to stand out, so I’ll add bold facing. But my brain simulates mush at the moment. When I’m refreshed, I’ll teach myself the how-to and add the quickie how-to (code) below.
As promised: if you chose HTML within the Telegram settings page, surround the post title short cut with the opening and closing bold tags. If you chose MarkDown, surround same with asterisks:
<b>(post title shortcut)</b> or
Bonus Option: Instant View
As I closed out this article, I discovered yet another powerful, and free, Telegram feature. You can arrange an inside-Telegram immediate view of your full post, employing Instant View. In essence, once configured:
- an Instant View button automatically appears at the base of each post summary within Telegram; and,
- clicking that button yields a decluttered view of the post—directly within Telegram—for a seamless speedy load.
I don’t yet know the how-to. Soon, I will. I’ll share those details once mastered.
The Actual “Subscribe” Mechanism
A Telegram channel subscription relies upon a link as opposed to a form. That link takes a predictable form:
- https: // t.me/writesquireWP
To my mind, a button looks more “subscription-y” than a raw link. Freebie plugin ShortCodes Ultimate handled the button creation chore, shielding me from most coding requisites. I entered only the codes for changing the button coloring.
Happy with the result, I bowed to logic’s suggested addition: a second button —to reach the contact form. Both now appear in the sidebar’s Communications section. I’m working on a third addition: a live chat feature, using Telegram. (While I did teach myself the basic how to, I’m struggling with one aspect: how to activate the chat from a button within the sidebar.)
Testing the New Blog Subscription Mechanism
During the early days, no one will know of the channel’s existence without an associated link, unless it pops up per a search.
Nonetheless, I wanted a my-eyes-only testing zone. To get a hands-on feel for the look of the channel, I set up a simulation. I created an IFTTT recipe: when I post to Instagram, copy the image and its caption to an IFTTT private chat in Telegram. Result:
I’ve structured the blog subscription to contain the featured image, post title, post excerpt, and link to the full post. Thus, its appearance mimics the output of the Instagram → Telegram IFTTT recipe.
(RePlain = the Telegram-WP chat plugin. Still testing and TRYing to pull it together.)
Now, y’all be nice and someone gimme da thrill of a Telegram sign-up. That’s as close as imma get to a popup. 😏
Instinct lives to please its master. Instinct coerced vetting “eMail is critical for bloggers” claims. The deeper I dug, the louder I laughed. The research led me to alternatives, including Telegram.
You may love your eMail newsletter process. You may believe it’s a privilege to toss serious money at the associated developer. You may find a 75% ignore-email rate tolerable. You may relish all the residual chores triggered by running an email list. Great, I’m happy for you. Enjoy!
- at least 3 out of 4 people ignore their eMail newsletters
- at least 9 out of 10 people read their SMS-style messages— — —
- eMail newsletter SaaS schemes financially penalize growth, while limiting features according to subscription tiers (Source: scrutinize any features page of any major eMail Newsletter software company)
- Telegram bestows all features to all users at all times withOUT fees, ads, or selling / distributing app-data to third parties