How can Social Media and Email Coexist?

By Allen Nance, Mansell Group, Inc.

We’ve all heard about the growing emergence of using social media to supplement marketing efforts. It’s impossible to miss it—with 300 million active Facebook users and 26 million US adults predicted to Tweet in 2010, the numbers are staggering. But should we jump on the social media bandwagon and abandon our email marketing campaigns?  And more importantly, is social media going to replace email? Recent studies have asked these questions and overwhelmingly answered no.  Social media will not replace email. But it will, however, change the way that we communicate with our audiences.

As Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn become more popular and gain more users, and as email inboxes become even more overcrowded and difficult to reach, social media and email marketing will become increasingly intertwined. As of now, only about 50% of marketers with social media capabilities choose to combine email and social media in their campaigns, but the marketers that will thrive in the coming months are the ones that can successfully integrate the two mediums.

We’ve already seen many companies successfully combine these two tools and produce powerful practical advice that can work to the advantage of any marketer:

•               Gone are the days of using the Forward to a Friend option which would produce at most 2 to 3 forwards per message.  Now with a Share This function, your customers can instantly share your email message across their social networking sites. With each Facebook member having an average of 120 friends, each message could potentially reach several hundred people and allow your customers to work for you by serving as “brand ambassadors.”

•               Facebook Fan pages are an easy way to grow your email list. 8 million Facebook users become fans of brand pages everyday. With Facebook fan pages, you can integrate your email sign up form directly onto the page to easily capture your fans’ and visitors’ email addresses, without directing them away from your Facebook page.

•               Combine social media and email in a single campaign. If you have a special promotion or event coming up, start tweeting a few days in advance to get the buzz going. By the time your email goes out, many of your followers will be excited and more receptive to your message. The same can hold for Facebook—start talking about promotions and events on your pages to build some awareness.

•               Use social media to improve overall email performance. Open rates are 18% higher than this time last year and some of this increase can be attributed to social media networking. By engaging with your customers on social media sites, you are in a prime position to learn what’s important to them in a timely manner. In turn, you can craft your emails to be relevant and reach your customers at the most opportune time—which will ultimately improve open, click and conversion rates.

There are obviously pros and cons to each vehicle. Some workplaces choose to block social networking sites altogether, leaving marketers to rely solely on email to communicate during business hours. Social media applications are generally free, but do require updates and management from a staff member.

And let’s not forget that social networking and email are already somewhat co-dependent—status updates and notifications are sent via email and email addresses are often required to create social networking profiles. If anything, email and social media usage will correlate with each other and continue to increase.

Bottom line—the most successful marketing plans will arise from combining the strengths and capabilities of both email and social media to reach your audience when and where they want to be reached.

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