Email Marketing Goes Social: Follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook

Email, we love to hate it, yet we hate to love it. For better or for worse, we are tethered to our inbox and continue to send messages and respond to those individuals and organizations to which we’re tied or vested. Over the years, I’ve labeled email as the world’s largest untapped social network and even though many services attempted to socialize the inbox over the years, email, for the large part, remains regressive.

For the time being, brands and organizations continue to rely on email to connect and stay connected with various stakeholder communities. While message open rates and conversion ratios remain abysmal, email is nonetheless, effective en masse. However, the time individuals spend in their email labyrinth is eroding. Analytics firm Nielsen recently reported that nearly 25% of the time Americans spend online is now spent on social networks. Additionally, email only accounted for 8.3% in June, down from 11.5% last year.

Social networks represent something promising to any organization dependent on communications. Each network represents an “always on” series of engagement opportunities that are each inherently opt in whether they’re in the front or back channel.

- Wall posts
- Direct messages
- Invitations
- Gifts
- Public @ messages

Businesses are now attempting to migrate or extend their communities to social networks including Facebook and Twitter. The ability to do so offers organizations the ability to not only build communities in more modern, real-time and interactive domains, social networks offer a new way to connect personally and contextually. Engaging in social networks presents two immediate benefits:

1. Connect value 1 to 1 to many individuals

2. Connect information 1 to many

Either way, meaningful and substantial information in these paradigms triggers the social effect, which expands reach and also the community overall through comments, shares, likes, retweets, and connections. This activity is visible by friends and friends of friends, and so on, and when combined with an appealing click to action, also enhanced performance and metrics in the process.

eROI recently released a new report, “The Current State of Social, Mobile, and Email Integration,” which found that 66% of marketers included links to social profiles in email campaigns. StrongMail released research in its study, “2010 Email Marketing Survey” that not only corroborated the data from eROI, it upped it to 71%.

StrongMail interviewed business executives in its most current study released in July 2010.  Second to the promotion of social presences in email campaigns, was the ability to provide social sharing functionality inside email. We’re already witnessing the migration as well as integrating the social effect into the inbox. eROI also found that this clickable functionality was secondary in terms of importance with 59.1% of all responses.

Of those social networks most actively promoted in email, eROI found that Facebook was the top promoted network with 91%. Twitter ranked second with just under 84%. LinkedIn and YouTube earned third and fourth spots with 48% and 34% respectively. Other studies found that most small to mid-sized businesses rarely promoted on other social networks outside of Facebook and Twitter.

Social Databases

As engagement evolves from email 1.0 to social networks, expect to see experimentation with one-to-many communication through automated one-to-one and one-to-many mass messaging systems. This capability will evolve from messaging existing friends and followers to sophisticated frameworks that find and connect with individuals who have publicly shared information related to industries, products, services, and interests via keywords. These systems will seek an opt-in relationship through a reciprocal friend, follow or “like” in order to experiment with direct messages that offer promotions, rewards, or exclusive access or content for establishing and maintaining the link.  Initial experiments will resemble dedicated push streams such as @DellOutlet or Twitter’s @EarlyBird promotion channels where followers subscribe to accounts for clearly articulated benefits. Over time, marketers will seek to enhance responses and ensuing actions through varieties of messages aimed at  segmented users as indexed by expressed wants or defined preferences. Eventually, we will see personalized, contextualized and value-added engagement to induce positive word of mouth and consumer responses.

In the end, it’s what you introduce into your messages and streams that counts for everything. Regardless of the incumbent social messaging solutions that are available today or those soon to debut, what’s clear is that intention speaks volumes here. Any mass-marketing that mirrors email blasts of today will only create animosity and immediately alienate communities. In social media, you earn the relationships and inspire the desired outcomes that you deserve.

Remember…Relevance + Resonance = Significance (RRS)

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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