In a challenging economy, the instinct to reach for the marketing option with the lowest impact on your budget can be strong, especially for small businesses. And with the range of online services and social media sites growing larger by the day, it's tempting to want to choose between powerful options like email marketing and social media marketing. But it should not be a choice of one over the other. In fact, it's the two working together that will result in the strongest and most productive connections with your most passionate customers.
Complement and contrast
It might sound funny to say, but email marketing and social media complement each other well. For example, the primary strength of email campaigns is that they allow businesses to build deep, trusting relationships with customers through regular, direct contact. Social media, on the other hand, empowers users to interact with businesses at their leisure and in their own style, and leverages the power of the trusting relationship to attract even more fans.
Your most passionate customers -- who are often your most valuable customers -- are the ones who are reading the email you send, connecting with you via social media sites, and telling their friends about you. They are the ones you need to focus on to build a vibrant community because they will pave the way for you to make brand-new connections with the people in their networks.
Completing the virtuous circle
The New England regional burrito chain Boloco is a great example of how this plays out. It all begins with a positive interaction, whether it's a customer enjoying a great burrito, a Boloco email newsletter landing in the customer's inbox, or a someone posting on a social network about the restaurant's great service. These interactions cause a ripple through the customer's social media networks -- when people see their friend saying good things about Boloco on Yelp, Foursquare, or Twitter, the compliments can easily be passed across other social networks and connections to spread the good word from passionate customers (and trusted friends) to potential new customers.
In turn, when these new customers experience their own positive interactions with Boloco, they sign up for the business's email newsletter, post their own praise on social media sites, and spread the word even further. More friends then visit the store, have a good experience, and decide to sign up for newsletters, thus completing a virtuous circle of customer engagement.
Extend the spend
Linking between email newsletters and social media goes beyond the circle, though. It's not only synergistic, it also extends the marketing spend across multiple channels, maximizing its value. For example, archiving email newsletters online and posting links to them on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn can extend the reach of that communication. On the other hand, including links from blog posts or YouTube videos in an email newsletter can encourage subscribers to explore social media efforts they might not have otherwise known about.
Find more followers
Another way to get email marketing and social media to work in sync is by using each channel to drive adoption for the other. For example, businesses that insert links to their various social presences in their email newsletter templates can easily make their presence known to loyal customers and subscribers. Likewise, there are easy ways to add email newsletter subscription links to social networking sites through blog badges, Facebook applications, or even HTML code.
Back to basics
To excel in social media marketing as a small business you need to go back to the same values that helped build your business: You need to provide a fantastic customer experience that builds up a group of dedicated and passionate customers, who you then need to keep in touch with so you can keep that passion alive.
Use social media marketing tools and email marketing to organically build your audience and perpetually maintain an effective marketing mix.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.