Is Social Media More Effective Than Email Marketing?

One of the questions I often get in my classes by older students (normally those in their fifties and sixties who are just beginning to experiment with social media for their businesses) is: Is Social Media More Effective Than Email Marketing? The short answer? No.

Social media has been heralded as the great equalizer for brands and a way for any brand to go from zero to something. Pundits and enthusiasts call this the age of social media and have positioned it as the tool to best all marketing tools. Yet, email marketing still out performs social media from a cost and efficacy perspective.

According to a study from 2015, every dollar spent on email marketing has an average ROI of $38, with roughly 20% of companies reporting returns of 70:10. [1] This is substantially higher from the industry trend seen in social; although, good quantifiable data wasn’t found. What this does point to is the positive benefit of using social media to drive email signups as part of your marketing campaign objectives.

I teach an e-course on social media marketing using the Social Works One Page system. As part of that, I’ve taken a number of courses with top e-course instructors learning how they grow and monetize their businesses. The key aspect of their courses is in the email distribution list as a lead generator for the course. In fact, they recommend not even launching a course until you have over one thousand followers on your email list. This is also the de facto recommended number for many first time authors. A great email list means a great pool of customers who will convert.

While email marketing may have seemed to run its course in the late-aughts as our emails got spammed with every email list ever, and as open rates plummeted (more than 80% of emails go unopened), it hasn’t. Worthwhile emails with valuable content for the consumer creates a large and valuable pipeline for those looking to convert openers to purchasers.

As such, it is critical to think of how social can be a driver for your email listserv. One of the simplest ways to convert social media users into email subscribers is to ask them to join your list and to ask them to do so repeatedly. People often forget this very simple step. Other ideas include:

  • Including a reminder to join the list at the bottom of each blog post.
  • Including a newsletter signup link in the signature of your email.
  • Including a newsletter sign up button on your various social media pages
  • Making your newsletter sign up form visible “above the fold” (i.e. on the top part of your website) on your blog, website or other digital property.
  • Asking friends and family to share your newsletter with people who might be interested.
  • Sending newsletters religiously so as to generate consistency in expectations.

As you take these steps to further your email list, or are thinking of how to change and augment the concept of a newsletter base, you may want to look at those who are doing email successfully. The two most successful examples of late are newsletters TheSkimm and Clover Letter. Both newsletters focus on news of the day with Clover Letter being a form of TheSkimm for teen girls. What makes them both effective is the strong tone in the newsletter (fun, quirky, snarky) and the strong connection to community. Reading either you feel like you understand the author, like she showed up in your inboxes to have a coffee and a water cooler conversation, and you feel connected because she knows your friends, or the cool girls online, or the girls you want to know. Consider this in your own email newsletters: how are you showing up as the most complete realized and personal version of your brand and how are you creating and promoting your community?

So, when they ask me is social media more effective than email marketing, I say no but then I challenge them if it is better only because it has been around longer. And, if its is better because we understand it.

As you think towards the future of social, what does the email newsletter become? Do chatbots become our personal friend and connection? Do they show up in our email boxes and talk us through the news of the day, while connecting us to other cool people? Will social media platforms find a new way to be more effective in their ROI? If so how?

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