Everything we do here at Zoku is infused with our “Always Beta” philosophy. That means we’re shaping, refining, and improving things every single day. This week marks the 50th edition of the Living Zoku newsletter — so what have we learned on the journey so far?
We’re incredibly proud of the community we’ve built here at Zoku. Our residents tell us that being surrounded by thoughtful, inspiring design and a passionate, global community focuses their minds and makes them feel like they belong. We love hearing feedback like this, and it prompted us to start thinking about how we could keep the feeling going even after people have checked out.
After much discussion, we settled on the idea of launching a weekly newsletter. A year later, and with “Always Beta” in mind, we thought it was time for us to share some thoughts and insights on the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Content curation is as powerful as content creation
From the start, we wanted to create a tailored, intimate, and meaningful email experience; something that could serve as a weekly reminder of the Zoku spirit for residents or community members, wherever in the world they find themselves. As we started drafting and testing, we realized that we wanted to co-create the newsletters with our target audience — much like we did with our award-winning Zoku Loft design.
There’s so much content available online, but a lot of it is just noise. The last thing we wanted to do was clog up people’s inboxes with the same kind of low-value content they’d happily scroll past on social media. The pressure was on to come up with something smart, original, and useful.
Then it hit us: Our Sidekicks, Residents, Co-working members, and friends are always telling us about the brilliant articles they’ve been reading, the fantastic podcasts they’ve been listening to, and the thought-provoking videos they’ve been watching.
So we began the process of curating our Living Zoku newsletter content with their help — co-curating, if you will. This shared approach felt much more authentic and in line with our goal of furthering the Zoku community spirit that our residents love. But the co-curation didn’t stop there.
Pay attention to reader data and feedback
Our original strategy of co-curating with our immediate network was a great start. Still, as soon as we pressed send, it was clear that our digital readers would be teaching and guiding us — and co-curating with us — as soon as the first edition of Living Zoku hit their inboxes.
What people clicked and what they skipped past gave us crucial information that we could act on straight away, improving each newsletter we published based on the data from the last. A surprising result for us was people’s relentless interest in productivity. It turns out that everybody wants to know how they can be more productive.
Articles like “How to beat jet lag like a CIA agent” initially seemed like a stretch, but proved incredibly popular in terms of engagement. Statistically, our best-performing articles were almost all short-burst “how-to” articles offering simple but effective tips that were easy for people to implement in their daily lives.
Focus only on what’s relevant to your audience
More importantly than the data, though, our readers were more than happy to hit “reply” tell us about what they wanted to see in the newsletters and what we should skip. Their honesty was refreshing and helpful, and it encouraged us to keep learning and keep iterating.
For example, there are always lots of awesome events happening at Zoku and in our home city of Amsterdam. We know events are a valuable part of nurturing our community, so it felt natural for us to include some in the newsletters. But a handful of readers told us they found the event part a bit pointless. Why? Because unless you live in Amsterdam or were staying at Zoku that week, you probably couldn’t go. Dangling the opportunity like that was actually pretty frustrating.
We listened to feedback and stopped including events in our newsletters. This gave us more space to get to know the people who make up our community. Each week, we include a brief Q&A with a Zoku resident, partner or member, a slot we expanded, and which our readers say that they love. It serves two purposes: extending the sense of community that we feel every day in our social spaces and making people feel more connected with the exciting work happening around them when they stay with us.
We also listened to readers when they told us that sometimes the “thing” was more important than the article. What exactly do we mean by that? Well, in the early days, we sometimes shared articles recommending an app, book, or a sustainable product — but people told us that they trusted Zoku enough (*blush, blush*) that they wanted us to recommend the “thing” itself rather than an article about it. So, “Thing of the Week” was born, and it’s been with us ever since.
The most important overall lesson here was to feature only things that are directly relevant and genuinely interesting to our audience — and, of course, to respect our readers enough to listen to them. By paying attention to these things above all else, it soon became much easier to know what to include when we emailed people.
Today, our readers tell us we’re sending them stuff they really look forward to reading, which is the best feedback we could hope for. The first 50 editions of Living Zoku have been a wild ride, but we’re only just getting started. We have so many exciting plans for the year ahead — stay tuned to find out more.
Our focus right now is on encouraging even more people to hit “reply” and share their thoughts and recommendations with us. Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org anytime to start a conversation! If you’re not already subscribed to the Living Zoku newsletter, you can sign up on our website right now.