The rise in popularity of social media doesn't mean the demise of email marketing. In fact, social media has the potential to elevate the effectiveness of email when the two are integrated wisely.
Each channel has a valuable role to play. Social is an ideal tool for informal, organic "conversations," lead generation, branding, and content sharing. Email, on the other hand, is well-suited for one-to-one business communications and targeted marketing messaging. Social's value lies in opening the door to new relationships, while email's value lies in nurturing relationships and closing the deal.
Sometimes, 1 + 1 Can Equal 3
Recently there's been wide recognition of the synergies between email and social media. GetResponse's "Email Marketing and Social Sharing Media Integration Report" reported that including a social sharing option in email messages can increase click-through rates as much as 30%. Marketers are taking notice. According to the Lyris 2011 Retail Email Audit, 85% of the retailers surveyed included a Facebook link in their email campaigns, and 72% included a Twitter link.
There's a difference, however, between adding Share with Your Network (SWYN) links to your email and realizing real improvements in your marketing ROI. Whether you can realize the promise of these synergies depends on the nature of your business, your customers, and your marketing organization.
Consider the following questions:
• How do you envision your customers engaging with your brand through social media?
• Have you established a presence on social media platforms to facilitate and inspire those interactions?
• Does your marketing/e-media group have the resources to create relevant content for your social accounts?
• What social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) resonate with your customers? With your brand?
For example, is your main goal lead generation? Customer feedback? Customer engagement? Opt-in email collection? The answer, coupled with the nature of your content, will drive your approach. For example, if customer engagement (rather than acquisition) is your goal and your content is targeted and transaction-focused, SWYN links might not be a good fit. You might consider community links (e.g. follow us, like us) instead. If broadening the reach of your brand is at the top of your agenda, encourage social sharing. This requires compelling, attention-grabbing content and strategic use of social sharing tool bars or buttons.
Do your homework. Social media is a game changer in many ways, but the "old" rules of marketing still apply. Targeted communications with compelling value propositions communicated to the right customers through the appropriate channels will win the day.
Synergies Are Inevitable
There are a host of examples of companies leveraging the inherent strengths of email and social to great effect. For example, as Marketing Sherpa reported, KFC created a successful viral campaign to promote the launch of their "Double Down" sandwich. Their email message sent out 2 weeks prior to the launch date encouraged subscribers to "Give your friends a heads up" by sharing a photo of the sandwich via social media. This simple message generated an open rate of nearly 40% and over 10,000 shares on Facebook, plus 2,000 re-tweets on Twitter. In this case email was the initial communication vehicle, and social media provided the "echo effect" broadcasting the pre-launch buzz to a far wider audience.
The potential synergies extend to other areas as well. A few tips:
• Leverage social media to grow your list: Social sites can be a valuable tool for cultivating your email opt-in list. Company profile pages on Facebook can include email sign-up forms, and Twitter feeds can send followers to your email sign-up form via a web link. Blogs and social media pages are ideal real estate for a newsletter sign-up form.
• Learn more about your customers via their social activity: Social append services can provide snapshots of your opt-in customers' social media presence – and thereby offer you a more complete understanding of where and how they might want to relate to your brand.
• Listen to your customers: From customer complaints to product suggestions to service inquiries, social media platforms hold a wealth of customer knowledge – a virtual focus group on steroids. Marketers can profit from monitoring social media activity to enhance the relevancy and timeliness of marketing campaigns and content. There are numerous tools at your disposal when it comes to social media monitoring, from simple Google alerts to more advanced solutions that track social and web activity to provide an in-depth view of your customers' interactions with social media generally and your brand in particular. You can uncover a host of data including what social networks are they on, whether they are sharing your content with their network, and whether their network is passing along their shared data to their contacts. Email campaigns no longer operate in a bubble – customer feedback and engagement data is ripe for the picking thanks to social media metrics.
• Gather those testimonials: Getting positive feedback via social sites? Testimonials and reviews from actual customers on social sites are the gold standard for email content. Marketers should mine social sites for testimonials and feedback and incorporate them into marketing messaging across email, online, etc. As Amazon's customer reviews have demonstrated, there's nothing more powerful that an endorsement from a real customer to influence buying decisions.
• Utilize social sharing and community links: Extending your campaign through "share this" buttons requires sharable content, whereas gathering "Likes" and "Followers" requires strong brand affinity. Know the nature of your content and your brand, and proceed accordingly.
Eve Bould is the marketing & communications manager of FreshAddress. Jeremy Laverdiere is an account executive with FreshAddress.