Music Marketing

Are Gmail Tabs Undermining Your Music Marketing?

GmailGmail Tabs have been slowly rolling out to users over the last few months. There's been great concern among folks using email for marketing about what the effects of having their newsletters and announcements put under a separate Promotions tab would have. So far it's still a bit unclear how the change is affecting email open rates and related actions. That may be good, since total disaster would be more obvious, but there's still plenty to consider regarding what's happening and what can be done about it to ensure that your music news gets to your fans.

I'm seeing Gmail Tabs for the first time in one of my accounts so the rollout's not yet complete and marketers are still sorting out what's happening. Some believe we won't really be able to fully access how the new Gmail Tabs are affecting open rates and other aspects of email marketing until the end of the year.

Meet Gmail's New Inbox

If you haven't seen the new Gmail Tabs, they're demonstrated in the above video. Basically they separate mail based on Google math into Primary, Social and Promotions categories. If you send out a regular email newsletter marketing your music, that's probably going to end up in Promotions.

There are more options but the above three are apparently the default and it's the Promotions tab about which people are concerned. Sure, you can change things to some degree, even turn off the tabs, or identify emails that you want in a different tab but most people go with the default which means your emailed newsletter or special announcement will likely appear under the Promotions tab.

One issue is that the email marked Promotions is now also competing with Google ads and a:

"wider rollout of Google's new Gmail ads, which appear as emails under Promotions, and effectively compete with other messages categorized in that tab. Those ads get top billing and a slightly different background color, too, not unlike ads that appear in Google search results. "

Another is that machines are still really bad file clerks and Gmail sorting is not always that good.

What makes things more complicated is that some people claim open rates are up and some say they're down. So far the sources I'm finding are either unclear about how they got their data or are working with limited samples which don't give the bigger picture.

However there are three points I'm encountering in coverage, none particularly tied to any writer, that seem to be the focus of response:

Educate Recipients

This is an unlikely solution in my opinion but some are saying that you should go ahead and contact your email recipients, or wait to see if there's a drop in opens and then do so, to tell them how Gmail now works and how they can make sure they get your emails under the Primary tab.

I'm skeptical but I've never seen any real studies of how email users respond to such attempts at education.

Create Engaging Content

Consider whether the emails you're sending are really worth getting. That's hard to do but you need to make every email count so that people are not only more likely to open your emails but might even seek them out.

Note that this is the exact same approach people are suggesting in response to changes in Facebook's newsfeed and in Google search results.

Wait and See

So far observations of what's happening are inconclusive. But more than once I've noticed people talking about how having a Promotions tab shifted their thinking so that when they did go into that section they were more prepared to open and respond to interesting messages. So maybe something good will come of it all.

Yes, it's annoying when big corporations deploy their math and decide for us what messages, posts and other content we can see in between the ads. But if we pay enough attention so that we don't do things that undermine us when facing corporate math, then focusing more of our attention on great content may well be the best way forward in dealing with both humans and machines.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. I like how you look at the Google Tab challenge from different sides, Clyde.
    Perhaps, we should also consider that Google will probably change the game again (in their favor, of course). It might be time to consider a SMS strategy.

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