Social media is far too often heralded as the death of email marketing. In fact, social media’s existence has breathed extra life into email campaigns by increasing levels of engagement with consumers.

Email is still far and away the most used internet channel and social media could not survive without it.

In May, Ofcom’s Adult Media Literacy Report 2010 showed that 75% of internet users sent or received emails at least once a week in 2009, compared to just 35% going online for social networking sites. Social media should be thought of as an extension of email, as email drives peoples’ use of social media sites.

  • For most people, email is their first contact with a social media site, as they’ve been invited through email to join by a friend. 
  • Users must have an email address to sign up to a social media site and members are updated of notifications via email to draw them back onto the site.
  • When brands post promotional messages or news updates on social media sites the first notification members receive is often via email. 
  • Users are first informed of someone joining their network or commenting on updates or links they have created in brands’ Facebook groups by email.
  • If brands launch a competition through social media, members are usually first informed by an update that arrives via email.

Social media actually makes people consume more email, particularly for the most frequent users. However, instead of thoughtlessly jumping on the social media bandwagon, marketers should think about how to strategically integrate social media into their existing email marketing strategies.

Rather than doing it because everyone else is; marketers should do it because it makes sense for their marketing goals, their brand and relationships with their customers and prospects.

Just as having a big email list and “blasting” out the same buy-buy-buy message to consumers will result in mass unsubscribe rates, simply slapping a Facebook or Twitter link into an email template is equally pointless. Marketers shouldn’t let their social media presence become background noise that subscribers are trained to ignore.

Here are four tips to increase engagement levels through joined-up email and social media campaigns:

Be Compelling

Include informative, share-worthy content to engage consumers, request feedback and include links to social media sites at the top and bottom of every email. The more relevant the content, the more subscribers will want to share it and interact with the brand via other channels.

Be interactive  

Using video, real-time quizzes and surveys to give information to subscribers is a great way of getting consumers to spend more time engaging with a brand. Another option is to use social media sites to host a competition.

Doing this via Twitter or Facebook enables brands to engage with consumers on a personal, one-to-one level and gives them a reason to actively follow the latest updates and announcements.

Communicate a consistent message  

Marketers need to have a cohesive approach that combines all of their communication channels. For example: launch a competition via email, invite people to enter on Facebook, allow people to vote for the winner on Facebook, announce the winner on Facebook and by email, and send an email including related offers and promotions.

Each channel works to support the other and the marketing messages are aligned.

Personify the brand  

Social media is all about humanizing. It can give a brand a voice and personality, or help reinforce an existing persona. Giving campaigns a personal touch helps them stick in peoples’ minds and creates a closer relationship between the brand and consumers.

Margaret Farmakis

Published 17 September, 2010 by Margaret Farmakis

Margaret Farmakis is Senior Director of Strategy Consulting at Return Path and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (6)

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Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

I couldn't disagree more.

"Ofcom’s Adult Media Literacy Report 2010 showed that 75% of internet users sent or received emails at least once a week in 2009"

That may well be true, but how many of them read, accept and actively interact with e-mails from brands? I think that number would be a lot lower than the 35% who are using social networks - and that number must be quite out-of-date too...

almost 8 years ago


Sean Duffy

I think there are lots more relevant pieces of research than the Ofcom report that talk about brands engagement with consumers through email & social media. In fact so many it is just boring to hear the same old headlines from each new report.

And in relation to the comments by Henry I would say the number might be suprisingly higher than he thinks of those who read & respond (or are certainly influenced) by emails from brands. Yet there will definitely be a correlation between higher engagement rates with brands who make an effort, and those that simply blast away.

I don't get this obsession with integrating social and email though. The article only gives us vague ideas on integration rather than solid examples. For most brands they should just worry about optimising their email channel for each individual customer rather than some pathological desire to integrate with social for benefits which in reality don't have any measurable benefits.

Brands should focus on getting their email right before bothering with this whole social media integration area.

almost 8 years ago


Stephen Rothwell

Just a thought on some of this. Engaging via mobile channel achieves 10 times the revenue for retailers than email marketing. Just evidence from our services.


almost 8 years ago


Skip Fidura

Sean hits on a very good point.  Integration is not just about having your readers share your email content online.  It is also about using the data available from your social programs to improve your other channels (including email).  There also needs to be understanding that email is not the right channel in all situations or in all phases of the customer lifecycle and that the deft marketer can move seemlessly between channels to meet the customer's needs.

almost 8 years ago

Andy T

Andy T, Managed Services Consultant at Pure360

A tweet is a subject line and a single call to action, like a tiny email

almost 8 years ago


maneet puri

Topic is interesting but not too informative. Though I agree to some of the points you have mentioned in the blog but the points should be more elaborated, touching all aspects related to it. Today peopel are no longer dependent on 'just' emails, they are more inclined towards other channels like Stephen said - engaging via mobile channel- which are faster than emails and instant.

almost 8 years ago

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