What happens when you change your email address?

Winding up usage of my old work email address in the last few weeks, after using it for nearly a decade, has given me far more experience than I’ve ever wanted about the idiosyncracies of trying to change your email address on different lists and for different organisations and firms.

(Double black marks to the people running some of the Barack Obama email lists who (a) don’t tell you how to change your address, (b) don’t tell you have to join the list from your new address and (c) don’t reply if you contact them. But then, as you may have heard me say before, failing to deal with email correspondence is the dark secret at the heart of many American political internet campaigns. The Obama campaign was better than many, but still not that good.)

What it’s highlighted to me are some lessons on running email lists.

Don’t just make it clear how someone can leave your email list. Also make it clear how they can change their email address too, or that they can’t – and so have to unsubscribe from one address and re-subscribe from the other. If the latter is true, then make it clear how/where you can join the list again.

And don’t assume that everyone will think, “I want to change my email address. So what should I do? Ah, leave the list of course, and then join it again from a different address.” For some people that’s an obvious train of thought, but perhaps so obvious that it’s easy to overlook that it isn’t the train of through all people follow. That’s another of the reasons why reading all replies sent in from list members is so important as chances are you’ll end up with some people emailing in asking for their addresses to be changed.

GetUp! (an Australian version of MoveOn) didn’t make it quite as easy as it should for me to change my email address, but it had the best “Sorry you’re leaving” system: easy to find out how to leave, then a simple online survey asking me why I’m leaving and then a follow up offering me less frequent emails instead. But all also easy to skip if you just want to leave.

Does all this matter? My previous estimates are that around 1% of UK voters change their email address each month. That quickly builds up to a very noticable number of people on your lists. So making it easy for people to change their email addresses is well worth the effort.

Next step: remember to apply these lessons to my own future work…

P.S. I’ve not found any other sources of information about how many people change their email address in the UK each month. If you’ve spotted any such research, please do let me know.

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One Comment

  • I think in total I’ve had about 20 email addresses in my life. Some of those I barely used, and only three are currently active – a work address and two private ones. The rest were either previous work addresses or attached to now-defunct personally-owned websites.

    One thing I’ve never done though is worry about mailing list subscriptions when I abandon an address. On the contrary, I quite like it as an effortless way to unsubscribe to a load of stuff I most likely lost interest in two days after subscribing anyway.

    Still, at least it finally looks like the West Midlands Lib Dems have stopped sending me updates, six months and at least nineteen ‘unsubscribe’ emails after leaving the West Midlands and even longer and more emails after ceasing to be a member of the party.

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