Transforming Social Dispatches into Email Content

By Feb 17, 2011

When most organizations think about integrating social media and email, they focus primarily on including links to their social pages within the email and encouraging recipients to share the email with their friends and colleagues. A third, often overlooked way to leverage the social element within your email marketing is what Matt Caldwell, senior creative director of Yesmail, calls “dispatches”: incorporating content from social media into your email messages.

Not counting excerpts from your own corporate blogs, there are several types of social media you can tap for this sort of content. Contributions from fans and followers of your own social platforms, such as your Facebook brand page or your Twitter, help create a sense of inclusion and engagement with your audience, and featuring them shows that you listen to and value your customers.

Including quotes from customer product reviews does the same, as well as reinforces the credibility of your offering. When Yesmail client HP began to include excerpts from product reviews in its emails, it saw a slight but measurable increase in conversion, Caldwell told attendees of a session at the 2011 Email Evolution Conference in Miami.

Contents from outside your networks—for instance, snippets from third-party blogs that mentioned your brands or one of your products—also provides an impartial imprimatur and reinforces your credibility. For instance, HP includes excerpts from tech blogs in some of its emails, Caldwell said, as a way of showing that the company is a “thought leader” in its sector.

When featuring social dispatches in your emails, Caldwell advised using “social graphical cues” so that recipients know the opinions aren’t those of your brand but rather from users and customers just like them. Encasing the quotes in speech bubbles; surrounding them with oversize quotation marks; accompanying them with avatars, author photos, or icons from the network sources; or setting them in “big, chunky type” are effective ways of setting off the social content from your brand messaging.

What if you don’t have much in the way of social content to draw from? Ask for contributions. Prior to Mother’s Day last year, Overstock.com asked its Twitter followers to tweet the best advice their mother had ever given them. To encourage response, it offered a 10% discount code to everyone who participated. Not only did the online discounter manage to generate fun content for a subsequent email campaign, but by stoking the conversation on Twitter, it generated buzz among its followers and their networks as well.

You don’t, however, want to include stale content, Caldwell said. Ideally your dispatches should have been posted within the past month or so. And he recommended not only citing the author of the content but if the dispatch is from a third-party blog, linking to it within your email. While some marketers may fret that including an outside link could direct subscribers away from the brand website, “editorial authority comes from linking not just to your site but also the source of the content,” Caldwell said.