Social media specialists tend to advise about marketing with social media; while email specialists tend to advise about email marketing.
That’s natural, it’s what they know best. However, it’s not necessarily most effective if, as marketers, we’re looking to deliver integrated communications.
Although the two are not often considered together, as someone who used to specialise in advising companies on email marketing strategy and now also advises on social media strategy, to me the two seem similar in many ways.
Of course, there are other aspects of managing social media around outreach and crisis communications that are quite different, but here I’m looking at using both for customer communications.
Let’s take a look at some of the similarities:
1. Both are used for broadcast
Dan Zarrella, of Hubspot, ‘The Social Media Scientist’, has said that he sees Twitter more as a broadcast medium.
Although we’re urged to engage in conversation through social media, the reality when you review social media communications by retail brands, for example, is that the majority of Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn updates by companies today are promoting products, promotions or events, and rightly so.
Of course there has to be a balance with questions blended into these and response to comments, but the focus is on broadcast. Dan Zarrella said “Twitter is a broadcast medium, with a discussion feature”; a nice way of putting it, I think.
2. Both can be thought of as direct response media
Closely related to my first point, both email blasts and social media should be devised to maximise direct response. The scale of the communication and the period of response vary, but at a practical level the art of getting response through combining copywriting and creative is similar.
We know through studies of Facebook that integrating images and videos tends to give better responses than plain text updates. On Twitter, a status update can be considered as an email subject line with a shortened URL.
If we compare channels for response time using this data from bit.ly you can see there are big differences in response time though – one reason why email marketing is still important.
3. Both work best when communications are relevant and targeted
Relevance, relevance, relevance! This should always be the mantra of online communications, from search marketing to social media.
Testing what works best to improve relevance is helpful across digital marketing. Email marketers use AB testing to compare subject lines; social media marketers assess response to different types of updates and offers.
Of course email marketing offers better options for targeting than social media generally, but there are less-often exploited options for targeting through social media, such as Circles in Google+ or targeted advertising in Facebook.
4. Both should encourage interaction
Direct mail was the forerunner of email marketing and didn’t lend itself to integration.
On the other hand email shouldn’t just be about pushing offers, which is the way many use it. It should be used in a similar way to social media to encourage interaction and dialogue.
An effective e-newsletter for example, will often feature feedback through polls or surveys and will encourage readers to give their opinion through commenting on a blog or the most popular social media posts.
5. Both work best when integrated
The chart above shows that social media has a short ‘half-life’; that is, most of the impact of a single update occurs within a few minutes.
So repetition of key messages or offers is essential. Email gives an alternative way of reminding people about social media campaigns.
Here is a simple example from uSwitch, which is aimed at building social followers through email marketing:
Here’s another eblast where Mothercare is encouraging engagement on Facebook:
6. Both are effective for online brand-building
In this post I have talked about using email and social media to encourage direct response and sale, but in both media it’s important to get the balance right and avoid overload of offers.
In my Total Email Marketing book I talk about getting the ‘Sell-Inform-Entertain’ balance right in email communications and the same is true for social media – you see companies both overselling and underselling!
Informing and entertaining through different types of content are key to keeping your audience engaged with your social channels. Today we call this ‘social content curation’, but the same has always been true for email marketing. An effective e-newsletter has a range of topics to engage and is not just pushing products.
If you can find the sweet spot where you have creative and content that your audience really wants to share, then you will have that viral, amplification effect that is also common to email and social media. This is where tools like Brandwatch can help review the effectiveness of your customer communications.
I hope these six similarities between email and social media communications have prompted some thoughts on how you can use them. Do share your thoughts or examples of how you have integrated email and social media.