Email: Need a Lift?
Contrary to popular belief, social media will not kill email. The death of email at the hands of social media is greatly debated, and fueled by research from comScore, which reports that time spent on Web-based email declined by 8 percent in 2010, while time spent using social networks grew by 36 percent. Even as social media redefines how people share information, email use by marketers continues to thrive. Forrester Research projects that email marketing will grow by more than $4 billion by 2012.
Although traditional email is a cornerstone of marketing, the adoption of social media continues to change the landscape. Ideally, any digital marketing strategy will encompass both social media and email marketing. That said, they each have unique strengths:
● Email communicates best with individuals: Customers can be targeted for digital marketing campaigns, and organizations can optimize messaging to respond to individual behaviors. Success can be tied to revenue, customer satisfaction and loyalty. However, traditional email marketing is not ideally suited for ongoing dialog, and remains largely isolated from social media conversations.
● Social media communicates best to demographics: Conversely, social media is informal and organic. It's inexpensive to start, and developing the channel can contribute to the bottom line. According to a 2010 Syncapse study, "The Value of a Facebook Fan," (opens as a PDF) the average value of said fan to a brand is an additional $136.38 a year.
Organizations that participate on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn can easily share posts that contain news, links to promotions or special offers to large numbers of followers. When a customer likes, comments, +1's, or re-tweets a post, it is shared with their followers, greatly increasing the reach of the marketing message.
Good social media communications create compelling social content that is highly targeted and shareable, and often features customer contributions. Social media analytics are not as standardized as analytics for email, but significant progress is being made to measure ROI.
7 Ways to Put Them Together
It's important that organizations develop a thoughtful, integrated marketing strategy to engage and retain customers. To fully maximize ROI, social media should be tightly integrated with email marketing.
Here are seven ideas to lift email response rates with social media:
1. Post links to your social sites. Start by telling customers you're active on social sites. It's worth the effort to use an API that makes it possible to "Like" or "Follow" your organization directly from your landing pages or websites, rather than creating static links.
2. Invite email customers to join your social networks. When you email customers, prominently feature links to your social media sites, which allows you to increase your reach into these channels and grow your networks. You might start with simple links to your social sites, but you'll improve response by offering a strong call to action.
3. Create sharing links. Articles featured in your email should include a unique "Share This" link to social networks. Sharing content helps you earn a place in the social stream of your customer. When content is shared, it extends the reach of your brand to their friends and followers. This enhances the reputation of your brand to new potential customers and increases the possibility for new revenue. Because the recommendation is coming from a friend, it is much more likely to be trusted. Likewise, as you create social content, or when you find customer-created social content that's worth sharing, feature it in your email communications. This can increase loyalty with current customers.
4. Share email content within social networks. Just as you share social content with your email subscribers, you can share email content with your social fans and followers. If you have a special offer available for newsletter subscribers, or have other exclusive content you want to share more broadly, share it with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn followers. Increasing the frequency and visibility of specific offers will produce higher response rates.
5. Invite customers to ask questions or participate in discussions on social sites. Email marketing is traditionally a one-way communication vehicle, but now you can invite subscribers to ask questions and continue the discussion on your social networks. Make sure you have the ability to actively respond, and you'll find your customers will be more engaged.
6. Invite social media customers to sign up for your newsletter. Build your customer database by inviting fans and followers to subscribe to your email newsletter. Feature a one-click link to sign up, and occasionally remind fans and followers why they should subscribe.
7. Find brand advocates and create content for them to share. Segment your customer database and find your most active customers. Create content that they'll want to share with their social networks, and feature it prominently in your communications to them. Brand advocates appreciate an insider view into your organization or product. Potential customers often look to these advocates to help make purchase decisions, so giving your fans something to share will keep your organization or product part of ongoing conversations online.
Effectively integrating social media into your email marketing can help you grow your business. But to prove that, you need to define your goals and track social activity to key performance indicators.
Set up-front business goals that relate to the email marketing activities you implement. Along with revenue or campaign participation, key performance indicators should include reach, customer satisfaction, customer recommendations, brand awareness and brand affinity.
With those goals identified, track social media analytics with the same rigor you track email. Just as you create unique campaign identifiers to track the success of a banner advertisement or demand generation email, you should set up tracking that will allow you to measure your social media programs. Social analytics are an emerging science, and are more important every day.
It's easy to establish a social presence—the challenge is making that presence relevant, measurable and meaningful to your bottom line. Don't miss out on the opportunity to enhance your marketing effectiveness and measurably increase you return on investment by integrating social media activities with email and other marketing channels.
You aren't alone in this. There are plenty of excellent social media and digital marketing service providers who can work side by side with you to develop your campaign strategy. So, what are you waiting for?
Amber Whiteman (formerly Amber Newcomer-Dyer) is an account director and John Porcaro is director of social media at Metia Seattle, the North American headquarters of global agency Metia. Reach Amber at email@example.com and John at firstname.lastname@example.org.