Asking direct mailers about whether or not they use social media in their marketing strategy is a bit like asking anyone in their 30s, 40s or 50s if they've seen the movie The Social Network. "I've heard it's good, but haven't gotten around to it."
So, while social media is everywhere (Facebook, for example, claims to have more than 500 million active users, with 50 percent of them logging on every day), are many direct mailers taking advantage of this popular, yet unproven form of communication? At present, the mailers active in social media efforts appear on the low side (in this issue, see Paul Bobnak's article on the 2010 election direct mail, for example), but it's a figure that will only grow over time.
I posed the social media question to three established direct marketers who work with many companies that rely on direct mail. Here's what they had to say.
Grant Johnson, president of Johnson Direct in Milwaukee:
"It's a lot harder to measure ROI with social media. But as it gives your customers/prospects another way to interact with you, it's a wise decision to add it to your media mix.
"However, keep in mind like all media, you should continually test here to see what works and what can be improved upon. Also understand that all social media is not equal to all segments. Twitter is different than Facebook, and so is LinkedIn.
"We have tested it with several clients and have had mixed results. For a specific client, however, it has worked wonderfully to build a database of followers who we can then communicate with. These folks are more interested in what we say, and we are trying several techniques, both online and offline, to get a positive ROI."
Gary Hennerberg, owner of the Hennerberg Group in Colleyville, Texas, and author of the recent "What's Really Working In Email Marketing":
"It seems there is always a new frontier for marketers! For one of my clients (who I'm not at liberty to identify), we are are constantly reminding customers in monthly direct mail letters ... to use their p-URL to check their account, sign up for email alerts, and go to Facebook and become a fan or follow on Twitter. Fans on Facebook and Twitter hear about last-minute deals or surprise announcements. Sure, we could email those customers, but seeing a post on Facebook is much more friendly and inviting.