Brands have used email marketing for years as part of their marketing communications. For brands that don’t sell directly to consumers, email can provide a channel to establish a dialogue with consumers, and to provide content that could be shared with others, so it was “social” before social networks came along. With the rapid growth of Facebook, brand marketers sometimes ask whether they investments in building an email database and creating email content still make sense. My answer is a hearty YES! Email continues to be an important part of a brand’s social marketing strategy. Here’s why:
1. Email is still growing; consumers still choose to receive it. While many consumers are increasing using social networks for connecting with friends and families, permission-based email subscriptions continue to grow. This implies that consumers are looking for relevant information from brands. By carefully segmenting content and monitoring consumer response, brands can provide real value and information that consumers are seeking.
2. Email is a hub for brand communications. Email provides the brand a unique ability to connect the consumer to all elements of the marketing plan: the brand can send consumers to a Facebook app, share a YouTube video, invite them to an event in the “real” world. Mike Bloxham from the Center for Media Design at Ball State University calls email “the connective tissue in the media mix based on the ubiquity of its use, the amount of time people use email throughout the day, and the ability for marketers to proactively communicate with their customers through the medium.”
3. Email is relevant to the consumer. Because the marketer controls the database and can track the behavior and interests of email subscribers, the brand is able to create different email content for various consumer groups, providing the opportunity to be more relevant to each consumer. At present, Facebook messages on the news feed can only be segmented by geography and language. Facebook can now function as a “reception room” for potential consumers; it’s an easy and light format that allows consumers to easily get to know the brand. Once the consumer has decided that they want deeper, more personal contact with the brand, links between social they can sign up to receive email messages that will include personalized content that is right for them.
4. Email remains important to users of social channels and mobile devices. Nielsen studies indicate that users of social channels are also heavy users of email. ExactTarget found that 58 percent of online consumers check their email first, compared to the 11 percent who start their day by checking Facebook. ComScore reported that mail dominates time spent on mobile devices and computers.
Email is alive and well, and an important part of the social marketing strategy for consumer brands. Email is one part of the social CRM toolkit, allowing brands to build strong and enduring relationships with consumers.