Marketers like to predict the deaths of things. It's dramatic. It gets attention. It is, in short, good marketing. One of the popular pronouncements these days is that "email is dead." More specifically, "social media has killed email." But, in fact, this statement couldn't be further from the truth.
Email marketing is, and will continue to be, alive and well. If anything, the explosive popularity of social networking is an opportunity to boost the effectiveness of email marketing. There are numerous opportunities for marketers to convert their social followers into loyal email subscribers.
Let's take a look at the ways in which marketers can leverage email and social media as complementary -- rather than competitive -- channels.
Viewing email and social media as separate marketing channels often results in missed opportunities. Adding social functionality to emails is a simple way to strengthen and deepen a relationship with an existing customer. Furthermore, drawing an email subscriber into your social circles gives you another point of contact with a customer who might eventually, for any number of reasons, cease engaging with your brand's email communications.
Recruiting followersIf you're not encouraging your email subscribers to "like" you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter, you're missing a very basic opportunity to integrate your marketing efforts. But that said, your efforts in this arena can and should go beyond simply adding a string of social icons to your email header.
Social channels shouldn't simply duplicate the messaging that goes out in your emails. They should deepen those communications and add exciting new elements. Encourage your email subscribers to "like" you on Facebook in order to view exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from a recent event. Or tell them to follow you on Twitter in order to gain access to special promo codes and VIP sales events. In other words, tell them why it will be worth their while to connect with your brand in a new way.
Encouraging sharingEmail isn't just an opportunity to convert subscribers into followers. It's a great way to spread your email messaging to your subscribers' broader networks. Remember back in the day when email marketers did backflips when subscribers chose to "forward to a friend?" Well, with social networking, email subscribers today can choose to "forward to ALL friends." But they'll only do so if you give them a compelling reason. In other words, you have to give them something worth sharing. And more importantly, you have to make it easy to do so.
Enabling easy social sharing from emails is an area where many marketers come up woefully short. Marketers must lower the barriers to sharing to near-nonexistence in order to successfully spread their messaging. For example, if you want to encourage your subscribers to share a photo from an email, link to a version of that photo on Facebook where sharing is inherent and obvious. Don't take them to a Flickr gallery where such behavior is less natural.
Furthermore, if you want your subscribers to share your email content, tell them that -- and be specific. Don't just throw a Facebook icon next to a coupon code. Be more overt with an obvious call-to-action such as, "Tell your friends how they can save 40% on a cool pair of shoes too!"
Leverage social contentEncouraging social interactions and sharing within emails is a great way to start integrating your marketing efforts. But you should also take the opportunity to integrate social conversations into the content of your email communications. Simply including a snippet of customer feedback, such as a Yelp review or a Facebook fan comment, into the context of your email can encourage others to weigh in on your brand's value in social circles. And again, be straightforward in telling subscribers what you want them to do. After a testimonial, include a call-to-action such as, "Do you have another great story about Product X? Share it with us on Facebook!"
Socializing your emails is a huge step in the right direction. But too many marketers stop there. Remember: Email and social media are complementary, and the relationship works both ways. Yes, you can use email to boost your brand's social status. But you can also leverage your social channels to drive email sign-ups. There are a couple of simple ways to do just that.
Exclusive offersIf following a brand on social media is equivalent to dating, then subscribing to that brand's emails is getting married. That's a big commitment, so it should be a worthwhile one. You need to go big and show your followers why they should take the plunge. So give a financial incentive -- a 20 percent discount on their next purchase when they subscribe, or access to email-only sales events.
Insider insightsPeople love discounts and free stuff. But for some brands, too much discounting can be crippling. If this is the case, consider positioning an email sign-up as means of gaining access to insider information or exclusive content. This can take many forms -- red-carpet photos, weekly workout tips, seasonal recipes. In other words, anything that positions your brand's email program as a special tool that feeds into a subscriber's broader online life.
Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie.
On Twitter? Follow Hubbard at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"Transparent label" and "social media drawing" images via Shutterstock.
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