07/05/2024 • Marketing

Back to the Future: 1st Party Data and Email Marketing

Social media algorithms are ruining platforms for everyone. We predict a return to good old email.

At Hello Technology, we’re old enough to remember a time before Facebook. Over the past 20 years social media has become ubiquitous. With FOMO fuelling adoption of new platforms, the pace of change has been exhausting and it shows few signs of slowing. A return to 1st party data is inevitable.

Back in the early 2000s business websites were generally small and simple. And if a business wanted to keep in touch with their customers, they really only had 1 choice: email.

As a digital version of the traditional mailing list, email lists soon became a vital part of small business marketing strategy. Between 2000 and 2009, daily email use grew by nearly 2000% (here are some interesting stats from this period).

However, with this growth in email use spam soon became an issue, making it difficult for small business emails to be seen, open and read. This dramatically reduced the value of the email list. At the same time, the number of social media was growing rapidly. Between 2004 and 2009 Facebook grew to 360 million monthly users, and by 2014 this number had reached 1.23 billion. Today this figure is just over 3 billion.

Enter The Algorithm

An algorithm can be defined as “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” As social media platforms became more advanced, algorithms have been used widely to tailor the user’s experience according to the platform’s understanding of their interests.

Whilst algorithms can be helpful, they can also disrupt. In 2016 Instagram removed its chronological feed, opting instead for an algorithm based solution. This dramatically changed how users were able to interract with content on the platform. Almost all social media platforms now use some kind of algorithm based feed. These allow their supercomputer brains to determine what content to display to users. Along with with paid-for advertising which alogorithms have become a mainstay of the modern social media platform. It’s no wonder that users are becoming increasingly discontent.

Businesses Struggling to Be Visible

Advertising revenue has become a key driver of social media platform development in recent years. Of course, platforms like Facebook, Instagram & Tik-Tok all have massive infrastructure costs to cover. They need to make money. But algorithm based feeds have made it more difficult for businesses to be visible on these platforms.

Paid ads have become an attractive option in recent years. These make it easier for businesses to target specific groups of users, based on location, interest, gender, age and so on. Many businesses have been using paid ads and seen a good return on their investment. But is it really a long term strategy for most small businesses?


With both platform users and businesses feeling increasing discontent at this combination of addictive algorithms and ads it’s no wonder that many are looking for alternate options. Social media detoxes are growing in popularity, dumb phones are making a strong comeback and businesses are looking for new ways to connect with their audiences.

Email Improvements

In recent weeks both Google and Yahoo rolled out new requirements for email senders. These are aimed at reducing spam and preventing domain impersonisation. There are a handful of technical requirements, such as:

  • Setting up SPF or DKIM email authentication for your sending domains.

  • Ensure that sending domains or IPs have valid forward and reverse DNS records, also referred to as PTR records.

  • Use a TLS connection for transmitting email.

  • Keep spam rates reported in Postmaster Tools below 0.3%.

  • Format messages according to the Internet Message Format standard, RFC 5322.

  • Don’t impersonate Gmail From: headers.

And there are also some recommendations for email content, including:

  • Don’t mix different types of content in the same message. For example, don’t include promotions in sales receipt messages.

  • Don’t impersonate other domains or senders without permission. This practice is called spoofing, and Gmail might mark these messages as spam.

  • Don’t mark internal messages as spam. This can negatively affect your domain’s reputation, and future messages might be marked as spam.

  • Don’t purchase email addresses from other companies.

  • Don’t send messages to people who didn’t sign up to get messages from you. These recipients might mark your messages as spam, and future messages to these recipients will be marked as spam.

By implementing these requirements, Google and Yahoo have taken positive steps towards a better future for email. And this paves the way for a return to the mailing list.

Some Helpful Definitions

The GDPR legislation made it illegal to harvest personally identifiable information from website visitors. This posed a problem for lots of marketers. Many have been using this approach to target social media advertising at users who had already signalled interest in something by visiting a particular website, for example.

The other problem with sharing data between platforms is they you’ll always been at the mercy of the gatekeepers. You have no direct access to the information yourself. This is where zero and 1st party data becomes important.

Zero Party Data

Forreseter Research define zero party data as:

“Zero-party data is that which a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. It can include preference center data, purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize [them].”

1st Party Data

First-party data is information collected from your customer base, subscribers, and website visitors when they interact with your site. This could include when they make a purchase or complete a contact form, for example.

The Future of Direct Mail

The approach the social platforms have taken has resulted in businesses looking for new ways to connect with their customers. And customers wanting those connections to feel both meaningful and purposeful.

Email platforms have become far more sophisticated in recent years. Many enable automated sorting and filtering of contacts based on all kinds of preferences. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify have this kind of functionality baked-in. Whilst other providers like Mailchimp and Brevo enable businesses to build comprehensive mailing lists using tools like tags to filter and segment their lists.

This granular approach to email means that businesses can interact with increasingly refined groups of customers. Rather than sending a single email to an entire list, businesses can share more relevant information with those who are truly interested. This is better for both businesses and customers, resulting in higher engagement.

Get Building Your List!

If you’ve let your email list go by the wayside in recent years, you might want to think about bringing it back to life. Make email a key part of your marketing strategy in 2024. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting small, or even from scratch, customers want meaningful interaction with businesses they care about.

By collecting zero and 1st party data, repsecting your customers’ privacy and moving away from a dependence on social platforms you’ll be taking back control over your digital marketing.

Get in touch if you’d like help doing this.

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash