Most email marketers don’t get email-social integration, and most of them approach it backwards. You’ll see little blue Twitter birds and Facebook icons in email templates but this is the extent of their insertion of “real-time” content. It then becomes a send and hope moment as marketers pray recipients will re-post their commercial email offers onto their own Facebook and Twitter pages.

But some companies are beginning to look at new ways of integration that are bringing user generated content right into the emails in real time. One such brands is Bonobos, a company with a strong social presence that takes fan interaction and branding seriously. Leading the charge is Grace Low, Retention Marketing Manager for Bonobos, who is working with Moveable Ink to create innovative and fresh emails that are first to market with.

Jordan Cohen of Moveable Ink is looking to change the way marketers approach email:

We believe that marketers should use original, genuine, user generated content within their emails to add an element of “social proof” to their offers.  If people are organically talking about your brand using their authentic voices, then push that content into your campaigns. Our live email content technology enables marketers to automatically stream the very latest tweets, Facebook posts, and even Instagram photos into email.

Bonobos has been experimenting with a couple of different approaches for this type of integration.

Event thank you emails and Instagram

Bonobos host a lot of events and they find participants want to subscribe to their mailing list on the night. In the past they would send out a generic email that just thanked them for coming and subscribing but didn’t capture the same interaction or style of the night before.

Fans and staff at Bonobos are obsessed with Instagram and Low thought about throwing pictures into the emails. As people would be most interested in getting this the morning after the event, there’s not enough time for the marketing team to turn around an email.

So they established the hashtag #bonobosnation and any Instagram photos with that tag are pulled into the email. Though there can be a worry of inappropriate images, Low says Bonobos trust their fans.

We want to be genuine and we’re not curating the best posts. We’re showing what’s real.

These images actually change in real time so if you open the email later, then you’ll see someone else’s picture. This means the email will change every time you view it so it becomes as interactive as being on Bonobos’s own social networks and becomes an extension of it. This approach also saves the events team a ton of time as once the first email template is created, they can use it over and over again.

Linking Facebook comments into emails

Bonobos brought in further real-time social interaction by integrating Facebook comments into an email about their customer service ninjas (their term, not mine) who are Bonobos’s in-store and online personal shoppers in conjunction with a new line of chinos.

The email featured a picture of Tim in new red trousers and showed what he could wear with them. The team encouraged questions and people started to comment with their style questions. These all showed in the email as they were posted on Facebook and people were able to come back and see them in real-time.

This social integration helped drive awareness of personal shoppers and took the normal one on one interaction that would happen in store and put it in a public forum where the whole community could benefit. It was about real people and not just glamorous guys pictured wearing the Bonobos brand.

The email also helped up sell. Though it was an email about chinos, it also ended up being about shoes, belts, jackets, etc as the professional stylists helped customers understand how to wear the latest fall trend.

When they compared this socialized email with their standard one, social integration actually gave an 8% lift in average order value.

Low always does a lot of testing and in this case Facebook preformed well. they are always pushing the boundaries on what works in terms of process, technology and brand and if it adds any value.

These emails make it more like a community and strengthens our multichannel approach. Our customers are guys who are young, busy and on the go. We want to make it easy, and make them feel special and part of something cool because we love our customers.

Social integration doesn’t work in every email but by using it right, fans know Bonobos are technology forward instead of being told that they are. 

Low is a passionate email advocate and is striving to get her brand to a place where email is not boring and is a place where fans and customers can interact. She wants to make email into a more stable channel instead of just a marketing source. 

I never thought bout social and email together but now I’m seeing that blend. We are seeing what can happen when we combine the two beasts together. So we’re trying to make sure the social and email teams are always talking. 

2013 will be an interesting year as live streaming content changes our expectations from all marketing channels. This email and social integration we’re seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg and using these two powerful channels will be the next big thing.