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Email marketing versus social media marketing and whether businesses should favour one over the other

by on August 14, 2012 in Apps, Events & Awards, FaceBook, Google, iPhone, Latest News, LinkedIn, London & South East, Marketing, Metrics, Mobile Marketing, Nuggets, Pinterest, Retail News, Small Business, Social Media, Startups, Twitter

Via Newbusiness … At this year’s Social Media Week event in London, a panel of marketing and small business experts offered their thoughts on the role of email marketing versus social media marketing and whether businesses should favour one over the other.

Kicking off the discussion, Luke Brynley-Jones, founder and CEO of Our Social Times, noted that it is widely accepted that there are currently three camps when it comes to email:

  • Email is dead.With new social media platforms being launched all the time, email has lost its appeal.People and businesses should look to social media to engage and communicate with their customers.
  • Social media ROI can be difficult to prove.Email marketing has evolved to a state where ROI is easily demonstrated by measuring open rates, click-throughs and conversions, whereas some consider social measurement a bit of a dark art.
  • Why not enjoy the best of both. By combining the skills and success of email with the interactivity and immediacy of social platforms, businesses can make the most of every opportunity to engage with the customer.

Erica Ayotte, social media manager at Constant Contact, believes that it is not only possible to enjoy the best of both – but also asserted that combining the two channels also creates the best results. She explained how social and email each deliver specific and complementary benefits to SMEs.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are fantastic tools that allow businesses to communicate with existing customers while also spreading the net wider to cover prospects. It also catches those simply “browsing” with the aims of connecting and creating an association with the business and brand.

That said, social media on its own may leave you wanting more: the average Facebook post will only be seen by around 16% of a company’s fans due to the “always on”, continuously updated nature of social media – and Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm that defines who sees what. Feeds are updated regularly and posts from friends, groups and brands filter down the timeline, making it difficult for organisations to schedule posts at a time that will mean it is seen by all fans. Additionally, social media platforms are more suited to short, snappy posts that catch the viewer’s attention and encourage interaction of some sort rather than offering lengthy detail on products/services.

On the flip-side, email enables SMEs to reach a much greater percentage of their customer/prospect base. Well-executed email marketing campaigns will typically see open rates of between 20-30%. Email also allows for more personal and in-depth communication. Brands are able to offer up much more detail in an email, with product/service descriptions and images all delivered direct to the customer’s inbox. Businesses should keep in mind that today’s customers are more savvy and particular than ever, making accurate segmentation key. Email allows companies to tailor content for specific sub-sets of its customer base in a way that simply isn’t possible with social media.

Both social media and email offer specific benefits that help SMEs market their business. Advocates for each will share examples of how their business has seen success through Facebook marketing or a well-thought-out email campaign, but Katy Howell, social business strategist and MD at Immediate Future posed perhaps the most important question: “Where are your customers?”

In today’s digital age, most people consume content and interact with brands across a number of different mediums. It is unlikely that a person would only be a TV-watcher, or not use any other channel but Twitter. SMEs should take the time to investigate and understand where their customers are and how they prefer to engage.

For example, an SME offering clothing for toddlers may find that their customers are particularly active on Facebook, as the mums share photographs and updates of their little ones with friends and family, whereas older gentlemen who build bespoke model aeroplanes may be more receptive to email and the level of detail it allows. Each customer will have a different preference as to what content they receive over which channel and when. While certain demographics might be more likely to be active on one versus another, for most customers, using a combination of channels with varying types of content will be the optimum approach.

Ayotte added that maximum results can be achieved when integrating email and social media to deliver the right content via the right channel, helping create a deeper level of customer engagement. By combining email and social media, marketers benefit from the direct and personal contact of email as well as the interactive, engaging nature of social media and its ability to expand the brand’s visibility.

It’s really best thought of as a continuous loop: a business might start a conversation by sending an email with a ‘call to action’ by asking a question and directing recipients to a social channel to weigh in. As the conversation builds, friends of the company’s fans will see the discussion and might even join in or “like” the brand’s page. Closing the loop, many SMEs grow their email lists using social channels, encouraging Facebook fans to sign up for more news and exclusive offers via email.

Once obtaining the valuable customer opt-in for additional communications, businesses are able to continue to share updates, offers and general news via email. Smart businesses will also use email to extend the life of their social content; email newsletters are a great way to build out an idea, recommendation or offer mentioned in a social post with more details and next steps for customers who are interested.

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