By Courtney Beinhaur • June 06 2013
Marketers hear it all the time. There's a lot of hype around building your social media following quickly. Saying that a Facebook fan is becoming more valuable than an email subscriber. But don't abandon your email marketing and lead generation efforts just yet. Let's take a closer look at what social media accomplishes for your brand.
The value of social media
Marketers love social media. It's cheap and effective. Companies are buying 'likes', follows are being traded, and you aren't stumbling upon anything by accident. There is no doubt that social media has become an important piece of any marketing mix. The important thing to note is what social media is good for.
• Social media is great for engaging customers. Social media sites allow brands to open a dialogue with their customers. Social media allows customers to get involved in a conversation in an environment where they feel comfortable.
• To that point, social media is great for customer service. Customers can ask questions, address complaints, and write reviews. Not only can brand representatives respond, but other customers can answer and share experiences as well.
• Social media is a great driver of impressions. Unlike email where users can delete a message without even opening it, in social media, messages often show up in news feeds.
• Then of course, there's the sharing aspect that allows messages to go viral. Social media makes it easy for users to share content they find interesting with their 'friends'. Further, if a user interacts with a brand in social media, the interaction is automatically shared with their 'friends' in many cases through news feeds. When users are sharing content or messages with 'friends' and those 'friends' continue to share with their 'friends', content and messages 'go viral'.
• The ability to share makes social media a great place for promotions. Submitting content, votes, opinions, and spreading the word for a chance at winning something is a natural fit for social media. Very often, the end goal is lead generation, by driving additional followers or fans, or by requiring users to opt-in to emails to enter.
So the question becomes: “why spend money to deliver brand messages through email marketing?" If companies can reach their customers on a platform where they are engaged, feel comfortable, can interact with the brand, and can easily share the message, why would you want to crowd their inbox with emails that they may never open?
There are still a few things that email marketing can do far better than social media.
The value of email marketing
• It is important to keep in mind that social media is intended for just that: social interactions. Whereas email can be more of a transactional tool. Any message that pertains to a specific user, such as order confirmations or customer status notifications, must be sent by email. Do you know which of your Twitter followers are your VIP customers? Can you segment your Facebook fan base and send users who haven't purchased from you in 180 days a special sale?
• Email remains a superior tool for driving visits (clicks) to your website and thus for driving short-term sales. On social media sites, the user expects to engage in a dialogue with brands within that space. Conversely, when a user receives an email from a brand, they expect to be called to visit the brand's website.
• Email is a great place to include advertising. In a well-designed HTML email, you can surround the message the user is looking for with relevant ads and links to your website.
Marketers need to differentiate separate incentives for their users to follow them on their social media sites, in addition to subscribing to their emails. For example, maybe your brand runs sweepstakes and giveaways only on its social media sites and announces sales and promo codes only through email newsletters. If that is the case, and the user is aware of it, then your users will be incentivized to follow you in social media and subscribe to your emails. And they'll open those emails too. Then, you can deliver messages through the appropriate channels to a larger and more engaged audience.