Just had a “conversation” with our shiny new marketing manager of the benefits of social vs email marketing. Wish I had a tape recorder (doesn’t that sound dated, hmm iPhone anyone?) to hand as I think it encapsulates the position a lot of marketing managers find themselves in...
We are all of course excited by the opportunities that social media provides, but there seem to be as many fails as there are success stories (Habitat vs Barclaycard), which makes it hard to justify to yourself let alone to your board. I think this is because there are few experts in this field – after all it hasn’t really been around long enough for anyone to be classed as an expert.
Marketers are a little stuck, they know loads about 'tradigital' marketing (email marketing, PPC, and SEO) but don’t yet have enough access to proven social media wins to easily get buy in.
So I’ve been thinking about ways of taking the best bits of social media and incorporating them into Tradigital marketing channels – specifically email.
What is great about blogs? They are regular, informative and you can comment if you so chose (@absterc would point out here that you should always allow comments or it’s not true dialogue).
What can we apply from blogs to email?
- Regularity. Surprising as it may be people get used to the regularity of your emails and tend to react badly if you mess with the schedule, very much the same if a blogger only posts erratically.
- Informative. This is related to the frequency, recipients don’t mind getting very regular email communications as long as you have something new and interesting to them within the content. Monthly emails can be very dull if you are only talking about the latest version of your software, whereas daily emails can be fantastic – Econsultancy's topic alerts and Seth Godin are favourites of mine, because there is always something new.
- Comments. This is the key factor, blogs are two-way communication channels, one-way blogs are just website content with lower copy writing standards. And of course you don’t need to actually comment for it to be a two-way communication, just the fact that you can comment if you want to is enough to engender that feeling of engagement. And it’s exactly the same with email; replies are your listening portal. Replies should be encouraged, you are never going to get loads, after all there are rarely more than a handful on blogs, but you have to make it easy and follow up when people do. So the worst thing you can do is have a “do not reply” email address, and the second worst thing you can do is send a static automated response when people do reply.
How about Twitter?
One of the factors behind the success of Twitter has to be its accessibility. It’s so easy to sign up and as you are limited to 140 characters you don’t need to be Shakespeare to be a regular, and successful, Twitterer. It’s also super quick and easy to Follow/Unfollow.
Lessons that transfer to email
I’m often asked to comment on the content of emails – and the thing I say most often is make it shorter. People’s attention span is shortening by the minute. Honestly nobody will read down to the bottom unless you have something amazing to say – and if you do, put a snippet on the email and the rest of the story on your site. After all email is the channel not the content, email gets people to do things and go places, it isn’t the end destination.
Another thing that marketers get the jitters about (you know you do) is putting the unsubscribe link at the top of the email. Fear not jitterbugs this will show to your recipients that you are a legitimate marketer and that you don’t want to email people who don’t want to received your emails. Even ignoring the massive improvements in your delivery rates that you can achieve, unsubscribe links belong at the top of the email.
On the flip side it is really easy to follow, so make it easy for people to subscribe. Newsletter sign-up forms should be prominent on your site.
Facebook is a fantastic way of keeping in touch, but as a standalone marketing channel it is a little limited (IMO). The main thing we can draw is that email shouldn’t be looked at in isolation.
Email is a great channel but on its own it can’t achieve all your marketing goals (as much as I wish it was the only marketing channel). BUT email used in conjunction with other marketing mediums is brilliant – it’s like adding Vodka to a cocktail, it doesn’t shout about itself but it makes all the flavours work better.
Email can be used to bring together different elements and stretch the channels that people interact with you on. It would be difficult to run an email data capture program through Twitter, Facebook or a blog, driving email subscribers to these social networks is by comparison a doddle.
The ubiquity of email is its main strength, according to our trusty sources Twitter has over 4m users, Facebook a hefty 150m but there are 1.5 billion internet users – 90% of which have an email address, making it the top on-line activity just ahead of search engines. Pretty impressive hey?
My advice take the best bits from social (which we are all, go on admit it a little unsure of the value), and apply to the scale and accountability of email and you are a long way towards engaging, accountable but above all effective marketing campaigns.