There’s a lot of online chatter about how social media is taking over the online marketing landscape and how this affects email marketing. We’re going to take a look at what email currently means and how it integrates with social media to become another avenue for acquisition/retention marketing.
Why Email Marketing Isn’t Dead
So why isn’t email marketing dead? Checking, writing and responding to emails is still the #1 online activity according to the survey taken below from Forrester Research. Although online activity in social networking has doubled from 2007 to 2009, email has remained strong and steady in the last 3 years.
If anything, email marketing and social media are seeing a convergence. Email Service Providers are purchasing social media tools as the industry saw with ExactTarget’s purchase of CoTweet. Even Gmail got into social media with its “Buzz” platform, which is tightly integrated with the Gmail webmail application. As this tight integration continues, you’ll see more emails using social networking features right within the email. This might be sharing email campaigns with friends or using a social network link.
Marketers are using social media as an extension of their current marketing strategy. Just as current marketers rely on direct mail pieces and a targeted Google AdWords campaign to acquire new users, social media is another channel to acquire and retain engaged readers. If your company maintains a Facebook or Twitter page, these pages are your direct communication channels to your followers.
Just as your wall posts on Facebook or tweets on Twitter communicate directly to users, email marketing does the same thing with a vast amount of database information. If you’ve ever shopped at Amazon.com or maintained a queue of DVDs on Netflix, you’re giving these companies large sets of data based on your specific user preferences. These companies make sense of all this user data and send targeted email campaigns to the right person at the right time. Marketers hope that the user finds the message engaging enough to end up converting.
Now You’re Getting Personal
Social networking websites are a true broadcast medium. The wall posts on Facebook and the tweets on Twitter are all messages that go out to everyone on your friends and followers lists respectively. A lot of the information being disseminated by people are more general and quick messages, like a quick “Hello!” or “Let’s get together!” This is where email trumps the social networks. As current users of Facebook and Twitter grow older and become busy citizens, they’ll have less and less time to update their Facebook status and be connected online all the time to see what their friends are doing.
A recent Nielsen Research blog post found that heavy social media users are actually inclined to use their email more than normal to little users (as shown below). The argument is that users receive notices about their social media activities from Facebook and Twitter. But with users making connections with old friends, classmates and colleagues on Facebook, these same people are likely to extend these connections to other mediums such as email, a phone call or in-person conversations. If you’re like most people, you’ll expand your network using Facebook or LinkedIn and carry on your more personal conversations in emails, over the phone or in person.
Everyone has been looking for the next “killer app” on the Internet, and even with a plethora of Web 2.0 applications, email is still the killer application. Despite its flaws (spam, security issues, lack of Flash/video), it’s still the preferred communication platform of business professionals and the majority of Internet users.