Why social media hasn't killed off email marketing

Posted by Andrew Tipp on 13 Nov, 2012
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Why social media hasn't killed off email marketing from Wordtracker, the leading keyword research tool

In a world where everyone is talking about social media marketing, email now seems old-fashioned and un-sexy. But don’t write it off. Email can still drive the sales your business needs, as Andy Tipp, email marketer, explains.

Little red devil

Recent studies have shown that people prefer to receive commercial messages via email. In a study of 1,500 US consumers, commissioned by ExactTarget, an email provider, 77% said they prefer to receive promotional marketing messages by email.

Direct mail and text messages were email’s nearest challengers, with only 9% and 5% respectively. Facebook polled the highest of the social platforms with just 4%.

What about specific types of marketing messages? Email still emerges the winner when it comes to receiving financial alerts (52%), travel alerts (43%), order confirmation (77%), ticket delivery (60%) and general customer service information (76%).

And the preference for marketing via email is actually increasing. The 77% figure is up from 72% of people who preferred email when asked by a similar study from 2008.

Email is a more effective sales tool

More people buy through email too - 66% of study participants said they had bought something as a result of receiving an email. This narrowly edges out direct mail on 65%, and phone on 24%.

However, this time social media does better, with 20% of participants stating they had responded to a Facebook message by making a purchase; 6% did the same on Twitter; and 4% on LinkedIn.

So why do people prefer to receive marketing via email? It’s partly down to how people want to use different platforms. In recent years people have migrated their interactions with friends and family to social networks.

People’s networks are personal spaces they use primarily for fun and staying connected. While brands can, and do, engage their customers on social media, users don’t want to be overloaded with deals, offers and promotions.

Conversely, many people view email as a conveniently separate entity; a place where they can receive commercial messages, decide which ones interest them and filter out the rest. In a nutshell, people prefer being ‘sold to’ via email.

Email reaches more people

Another reason that email is so effective is because it has such a huge audience. But how can email have a larger audience than social? Hasn’t Facebook just passed a billion users? True, but compare that to the fact that more than 90% of adult internet users maintain at least one email address, 72% of them check their inbox six times or more each day, and in total there are nearly three billion email accounts.

Marketers believe that email is better

Rather than being consigned to a museum, the email marketing industry is actually growing. 59% of marketers believe email is the best outlet for generating new revenue, and 67% of organizations planned to increase their email marketing in 2012.

This suggests that most marketers recognize the strength of the email audience, popularity and conversion data. Email, in short, isn’t going away.So will email kill off social media?

Perhaps we shouldn’t get carried away. It’s clear that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest have all grabbed a significant foothold on the marketing ladder and are here to stay, regardless of whatever email is up to.

And younger consumers (15-34 years old) are more receptive to being approached by marketers through social media and text messages. They’re also less likely to prefer getting marketing messages via email.

What’s the best strategy?

It’s not a case of choosing email marketing over social media marketing, or vice versa. Email and social can both provide superb returns on investment, so you should be doing both.

How? Well, the first step is to decide on your company objectives. Every department of a business works to meet the organization’s goals, and marketing is no different. For most businesses this means attracting new potential customers and converting them into actual customers.So social and email both have the same goal: driving inquiries and generating sales. But considering the research highlighted in this article, it’s clear they should be taking different approaches. People seem happier to receive the purely commercial messages via email – it pops up in their inbox, they scan their unread items and decide what interests them.

Social media is different. As a brand you need to do more than announce your latest offers. You need to do more than broadcast your message. You need to engage your customers in a two-way conversation, and offer value in the form of interesting content. Any company can succeed in social media marketing if they understand what content appeals to their customers and mix that with the calls to action that grow their business.The exciting news for marketers is that social and email don’t have to work independently as standalone channels.

They can support each other and work together to achieve their aims. Email newsletters can launch social media campaigns and promote your company’s social channels. They can summarize the best social activity on your company’s profiles. Social profiles can highlight exclusive offers from newsletters and drive email subscriptions.

So really, it’s not a competition. Social media and email marketing actually play for the same team and don’t have to fight at all.

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