Have you ever marveled at a brand that engages its Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and YouTube subscribers in friendly conversation while delivering remarkable, relevant social media content? In contrast, have you ever received an email from that very same brand that’s so aggressively bland it could only have been built by an intern or a spam bot?
How did email content become a forgotten marketing channel when it has higher click-through rates, conversion rates, and ROI than any other channel? And not only was email the most popular online activity of 2012, but it’s also the channel through which a staggering 77 percent of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications.
Some marketers are under the misconception that they’ve nailed a social email content strategy by placing a few social sharing buttons in their email templates. But social sharing buttons don’t make email more social — great social media content does. The self-serving sales pitch you pasted into your email template isn’t going to spread like wildfire across the internet just because you embedded a social sharing button.
The bottom line is that if your emails are not populated with noteworthy content that’s relevant to your audience, your social sharing button is a useless waste of kilobytes, attention, and time.
I know what you’re thinking: “Where am I supposed to find remarkable content to populate my emails?” Well, the best part of content marketing is that great content works in any channel.
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Brands should be using the social media content they’re already creating — YouTube videos, Facebook updates, Tweets, Instagram photos, blog posts, etc. — to more deeply engage email subscribers. And just as brand-made social media content can (and should) be used to power email, so too can fan or user-generated content (UGC). Comments, likes, and recommendations — everything your fans are saying about your brand — are far more believable (and effective) than anything you can possibly say about yourself.
Bringing in the voice of the customer boosts credibility. In fact, 92 percent of consumers worldwide trust recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising. In other words, when it comes to customer acquisition and attention, the best way to reach more people is to have your brand’s fans do it for you.
So how can you move beyond the social sharing button and how do you make your email content more social?
Here are eight tips on how brands can use the best brand-made and fan-made content to make their emails truly social.
1. Extend your social shelf life: Incorporate the tweets and Facebook posts that you’ve already invested the time to create into your eNewsletter content. The average life span of a tweet is extremely short (around 18 minutes, by some estimates), and the majority of Facebook posts only reach an estimated 16 percent of page fans. By bringing social content into your emails, as Dreamfields has done in the example below, brands can breathe new life into content that would otherwise die far too young.
2. Create a “social digest:” Fans love seeing your best social media content aggregated into a single, easy-to-follow publication. Curate your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts and comments into a weekly “what you might have missed” social digest. This type of email is perfect for innovative marketers working to feed the ever-active hunger from fans for the latest buzz around their favorite brand or product.
3. Produce an event social recap: For many people, nothing beats attending a major conference, concert, broadcast, playoff or gathering. An event recap email is a great way to connect with fans who were at the event, or who viewed it online or on TV. By syndicating the best social content from the event into a social recap, you can leverage fan enthusiasm and real-time content as fans update their Instagram or Facebook accounts with live photos, tweets, or videos.
4. Encourage fan #engagement: Always invite fans to talk, share, recommend, and give feedback, and make it easy for them to do so. When a customer takes the time to compliment your brand or recommend your products and services on social media, their friends and family will almost certainly take notice. Include relevant #hashtag searches, comments, and “liked” content in your email content. Social affirmation as digital word-of-mouth is immensely powerful.
5. Be real-time: Conversations on the internet happen in real time, so in order to stay relevant and valuable, your content must be current and authentic — sending information days or weeks after it has happened will likely be considered as boring or “yesterday’s news.” Use social content that is timely and relevant within the last few minutes or hours of the time you generally send your email content out to your followers, like cable network TV Land does in the example below.
6. Transform fans into subscribers, and subscribers into fans: All too often, brands have a disproportionate ratio of email subscribers to social fans and followers. While social drives engagement, email content drives conversions. Build a cross-channel strategy where each channel leverages the strengths of the others. Use great social content to drive subscribers. On the flip side, use social content in your email strategy to drive participation on social conversation and offline word of mouth.
7. Be mobile: More than 55 percent of social usage, and 43 percent of email opens, happen on mobile devices. And those numbers are growing. As an email marketer, you want to deliver an experience with your email content that is as elegant as it is functional. If you aren’t designing content to provide a seamless experience on mobile, you are likely going to be missing engagement.
8. Train your subscribers: We often hear of email oversaturation and subscriber fatigue. This can be as much about poor content as it is about frequency. If your social emails are of a consistent quality and are delivered on a reliable timetable, your subscribers will learn to anticipate and rely on the value your content provides.
Social + email = content synergy
Social media and email marketing work best when they work hand-in-hand. The social world presents great opportunities for brand marketers to evolve their email marketing strategies to a new level of value and engagement. Working with email and social media in tandem can help build brand awareness, retain customer loyalty, gain new subscribers, and generate new sales.
As far as I’m concerned, email is the best customer relationship channel. And the best way to build those relationships is by sharing relevant, timely, and useful social content that drives digital sharing behaviors and offline word-of-mouth endorsements.