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It's Pointless to Compare Email and Social Media Marketing

Posted by Keith Trivitt on July 10th, 2012 at 6:26 am

Web hosting company HostPapa’s new infographic comparing email marketing and social media marketing has given marketers a new lightning-rod topic to debate.

Despite no shortage of proponents in each camp, we think the conclusion is simple: it’s pointless to compare email marketing with social media marketing. Each has a unique value. More importantly, we believe that email and social media should be used in tandem, not against each other, for effective digital media and marketing campaigns.

The problem with comparing email marketing and social media marketing is apparent: one (social media marketing) is a brand strategy while the other (email) is a direct-response strategy. Each requires the other in some form to be effective, and each builds off the other for greater value and efficiency.

The infographic isn’t without merit. It offers some valuable insight marketers can use to understand how, when and where to use and integrate email marketing and social media marketing to improve their lead-gen and digital engagement efforts.

But first, it’s necessary to look at the facts.

Email Still Generates Results

Email marketing continues to produce eye-popping results. According to HostPapa, business spending on email marketing campaigns has increased 60 percent in the past year, accumulating 17.4 percent of U.S. brands’ digital marketing budgets in 2011. Email open rates continue to rise, too, improving 12.6 percent in Q1 2012, according to a report by Epsilon and the Direct Marketing Association.

Those are no small feats; especially for a form of digital communications many believe is dead/has died/will die.

Social Media is Garnering Big Money

Those numbers pale in comparison, however, to the growth of social media. The figures are widely known but worth repeating for full effect. Facebook has 900-plus million users worldwide. LinkedIn has 161 million active members. Twitter has more than 100 million active users. That doesn’t take into account the $4.7 billion businesses are projected to spend on social media marketing in 2012. Or data indicating that small to medium-sized businesses are projected to increase their social media budgets by 100 percent this year.

HostPapa concluded in its infographic that email “wins” because of its allegedly superior reach, features and usage. But that misses the larger point addressed above: social media isn’t about generating a direct response or a purchase. It’s about connections, relationships and engagement between brands and their customers. Of course it is different than email; comparisons between the two are futile.

What does this mean for brands still confused about how, when and where to integrate social media into their digital marketing campaigns?

  1. The natural synergy of email and social media. Direct marketing (email) is more effective when there is branding (social media) behind it, and branding is improved when there is direct marketing behind it. Look for ways to integrate best practices from each into your next email or social media marketing campaign.
  2. Social goes beyond engagement. The common perception of social media is that it doesn’t offer a direct sales component. It’s great for engagement but bad for lead generation. That’s true … to a point. Brands can turn social media marketing into leads if they include a way for consumers to opt-in to their email marketing campaigns within specific social media messages. From a tactical perspective, the digital age demands that email marketing and social media marketing are interconnected and integrated.
  3. Let social do the soft sell and email go direct. Know where you are placing the appropriate function, how it will be consumed and how audiences will react to the message. Include social components in every email marketing campaign to ensure that first-, second- and third-tier readers can share your content and advocate for your brand.

Keith Trivitt is director of marketing and communications at MediaWhiz, a performance marketing and integrated digital media agency. Steve Goldner, senior director of social marketing at the Ryan Partnership, a MediaWhiz sister agency, also contributed to this post.

5 Responses to “It's Pointless to Compare Email and Social Media Marketing”

  1. [...] publication from Ipsos OTX which features proprietary, global infographics and com more… It's Pointless to Compare Email and Social Media Marketing – iMedia Connection (blog) – blogs.imediaconnection.com 07/10/2012 It's Pointless to Compare Email and Social Media [...]

  2. It doesn't have to be one or the other! I think the most successful companies use a mixture of both and take advantage of their best assets every time. The more integrated a online campaign the better.

  3. Thanks for chiming in, Nick. I couldn't agree more. Integration is key in almost every aspect of marketing, and especially in the use of email and social media. The great thing about the digital age and the rise of social media is that it allows marketers to build off the success of one channel and use that in tandem to enhance other channels. When done right and strategically, it's a very effective method for delivering broader value to brands.

  4. Michael Roy says:

    Solid assessment of the combined power of email and social. I would only add that social analytics have now progressed sufficiently to go beyond engagement and proactively research and drive lead-gen to direct offers to appropriate personas. This opens up greater ability to reach more qualified consumers - where they interact - at lower costs. The landscape is evolving quickly with strong potential benefits (and caveats) to enterprise and consumers.

    • Keith Trivitt says:

      Great points, Michael, and thanks for sharing that insight. All the more reason for email and social media marketing to be integrated throughout a brands' digital marketing campaign. The ability to more accurately generate and track leads based on social media and tie that into an effective email marketing campaign is something available now that wasn't the case even a couple of years ago.

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