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When we think of social media in the US, we think of popular channels such as Facebook and Twitter.  

However, there is one that is often overlooked but is just as important in your integrated marketing mix: email.

Email marketing’s intent and the behavior it tries to produce is similar to the other social channels and this will prove why the rumors of email marketing’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

Successful email marketing and the network of sites and applications that make up what we today call social media rely on three important elements:

  • Engaging content.
  • Accompanying and relevant links.
  • The ability to share information.

The understanding of these three actions is imperative to help set strategy and goals in one’s marketing plan. There are more factors to consider when thinking about email as a mode of communication:

  • There are 2.9bn email accounts worldwide (The Radicati Group, Inc. Releases Email Statistics Report, 2010-2014).
  • Email is still one of the most popular online activities: 92% of U.S. adults online use email (Pew Research Center 08/09/2011).
  • 86% of people 18 and over share content via email (Marketing Profs October 2010).
  • Email is the preferred method of commercial communication by 74% of all online adults (Merkle View From the Digital Inbox 2011).
  • 58% of people in the U.S. start their online day by reading their email (ExactTarget ìEmail X-Factor Study 2010).
  • U.S. internet users engage with an average of 11.8 brands via Email, compared to 9.4 brands via Facebook and 7.9 brands via Twitter (ExactTarget Subscribers, Fans, and Followers: The Social Profile 2010).

These fun facts should be enough to make enough to make any online marketer salivate at the opportunities that this sort of reach could generate.

Let us not jump the gun though. We should not let our excitement have us move overreact and shape an email that people don’t want, unsubscribe from or report as spam.

Basic principles

Basic Principles: Strategy

As in all forms of marketing and that includes email and channels on the social web, research and strategy is imperative before you begin any campaign:

  • We must first identify the people with whom we want to communicate.
  • We then listen to make sure the content we have suits them.
  • If we don’t have a relationship with them, we should form one.
  • Then we need to provide useful information, the kind that they want, at a frequency that matches their needs and continue to do so.

Well thought out email campaigns are known to produce average open rates of approximately 20% and clickthrough rates of 8 – 12%. You can reach (and improve on) these benchmarks by thinking about what you want to say and to whom you want to say it before deploying your campaign.

These simple principles apply for everyone and in the marketing cases of email and social media; these principles almost make you think these two techniques are twins.

Wonder Twin powers activate

activation

There’s one more aspect of email that makes is social in today’s online world. Not only can you share through email, but you can share through social media!

This tactic is one that is growing but still under-utilized by many. Creating ways in which an engaged user can easily share information is not only effective, it is appreciated. All it takes is a bit of code and the content in your email can be effortlessly shared on Facebook, Twitter and, dare I say Pinterest?

Once again, it is this behavior that demonstrates the similarities between email marketing and social media marketing. Yes, they are different channels. Yes, they are both based on relationships.

Yes, email marketing tends to get a bad rap, but so does social media at times. When it comes down to it, when done successfully, it’s all a conversation. What’s more social than that?

Gary J. Nix

Published 25 October, 2012 by Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix is a Marketing Specialist at Blue Fountain Media, a digital marketing agency in New York City. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and Google+.

4 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Cynthia Schames

Cynthia Schames, CEO at AbbeyPost

Great stuff, Gary. Email is all too often overlooked as a powerful channel, and I will never understand why! Conversation equals conversion.

almost 4 years ago

Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix, Founder, Brand & Marketing Consultant at The BRANDarchist

Thank you, Cynthia. It's interesting how email and social are similar in terms of how they are viewed both positively and negatively.

almost 4 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

I think people automatically turn to social media and other SEO techniques when it comes to trying to build on conversions and as Gary rightly points out there is a tendency to overlook email marketing completely. Although, I agree that when used in the right context it can really bring in an audience. I know it’s an overused example, although there is a reason for this, but Asos are good at marketing through this channel and I’d imagine it’s pretty successful for them too. It’s definitely worth trying if it’s relevant to the line of business you are working in. Thanks for the post Gary.

almost 4 years ago

Cynthia Schames

Cynthia Schames, CEO at AbbeyPost

Gary, interesting...I never think of social as having a "bad name" within the marketing world (other than the constant "what's the ROI" mantra), but definitely I feel like email gets a bad rap, as does affiliate and other performance marketing.

John brings up a good point by referencing Asos' success in email marketing. I personally believe that email marketing is most effective in a retail utilization. Whether that's because pretty pictures with big slashed prices just make people scramble to open their wallets, I don't know. But I do know that it's awfully hard to create compelling and visually appealing B2B email marketing content on a regular basis.

almost 4 years ago

Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix, Founder, Brand & Marketing Consultant at The BRANDarchist

Hi John. Thank you for your comment. I completely agree that relevance is one thing into consideration when deciding which channels you are going to use to communicate with your audience. I'm hoping that both this article and your comment will serve as a reminder to all!

almost 4 years ago

Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix, Founder, Brand & Marketing Consultant at The BRANDarchist

Cynthia, while I agree that most of us in marketing departments and agencies don't view social as a "bad thing," some business owners still do -- mostly because they are dealing with fear or a lack of understanding as to how this tactic can help their brand.

That could very well be why we're here, though!

almost 4 years ago

Cynthia Schames

Cynthia Schames, CEO at AbbeyPost

Ahhh good point! Fear and loathing among the long tail are definite characteristics of SMM today.

almost 4 years ago

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Amy Vernon, GM, Social Marketing at Internet Media Labs

I love this, because every time I hear someone say email is dead, I wonder what all those things are that I send and receive every day. Spammy email is dead, but if you provide value (as with anything else in life), it's very much alive. :)

almost 4 years ago

Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix, Founder, Brand & Marketing Consultant at The BRANDarchist

Yes Amy, it's always interesting when we see things that so may claim to be dead. Maybe because we're close to Halloween... :-)

almost 4 years ago

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Tim Peter, President at Tim Peter & Associates

Great point. I've been saying much the same thing for the last couple of years (http://www.timpeter.com/blog/2010/05/26/the-forgotten-social-network/) and, it's great to see you take the lead on this.

almost 4 years ago

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Joakim Nilsson

Certain channels has certain characteristics, by the end of the day it's communication and collaboration, or conversations as you correctly phrased it. The point is that companies are forced into managing a presence across channels, a force that's driven by customers not the company.

over 3 years ago

Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix, Founder, Brand & Marketing Consultant at The BRANDarchist

Well, you know what they say about great minds, Tim...

over 3 years ago

Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix, Founder, Brand & Marketing Consultant at The BRANDarchist

This is very true Joakim. It's almost as if, with all of the advances and opportunities availed to us by technology, we too often forget about basic marketing.

over 3 years ago

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