How e-mail marketing can become truly social

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on September 5, 2011

How e-mail marketing can become truly social

Much has been made of the so-called "death of email marketing", and numerous articles have been written about how marketers are having to become smarter about their e-marketing strategies, but one of the key techniques that seems to be missing in most strategies is finding ways to make e-mail marketing more social, according to Steve McGrath, managing director for UK-based Big Dot Media.

We all know how important social media integration has become to marketers in today's consumer-networked world, but there is still a significant lack of this kind of integration when it comes to e-mail marketing strategy. This is perhaps strange because, in reality, the same social media integration that is used on web sites and other online and offline assets can quite easily be transferred to emails.

For example, let's say I receive an email from a well-known fashion brand that does social media really well. The retailer already has good levels of Facebook and Twitter engagement from a very active fan base, but social media integration in its emails is limited to two small links to social media pages at the bottom of each email. I know this brand has dedicated social media resources, and it has obviously invested a lot of time, effort and money in its social media presence, but this still seems like an afterthought when I receive emails from the brand.

So what could this hypothetical fashion retailer do differently to build a greater degree of social marketing into its emails? Well, its email contains numerous images and links to products on its web site, so why not put a 'like' or 'share' links on the products themselves? And, to show proof of social media engagement, why not put the last five noteworthy tweets or status updates in the email? And finally, why not cross sell the benefits of joining their online communities with some nice info messages about what benefits they get by being a Twitter Follower or a Facebook fan. Particularly in the B2C market, 'social proof' is a major factor in consumer behaviour, and this needs to shine through in all forms of communications - not just directly in social media channels.

It is true that, for B2B brands,  integrating social media into emails - or indeed adding social media to the whole marketing mix - is a lot harder than for B2C brands, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't also try. Perhaps experiment with individual sharing links on news items, or simply add some tweets and Facebook status updates to marketing emails, giving these communications a more personal touch. Most customers actually enjoy getting closer to their favourite brands and feeling like the brand is letting them into the 'backstage life' of the brand - so even if you have the most conservative and traditional of brands, it will still pay to let customers see a little more brand personality.

When you think about it, social channels and the email channel are actually very similar; both are relatively inexpensive, both are easy to set up and maintain, both provide rapid feedback and response, and both can produce a very engaged audience. So it makes sense to use them in combination to increase both email marketing effectiveness and social engagement.

Finally, there are two very important by-products of the ongoing global integration of social channels with email:

  1. Engagement-based email filtering With the introduction of engagement-based email filters (such as Google Priority Inbox) - which determine email delivery rules based on how much 'user interactivity' an email sender generates - it is more important than ever that your email audience engages with your email in some way, otherwise you may find that your next email might not even be delivered.  
  2. Search engine rankings An increase social media engagement has also become a significant factor in search engine rankings. The more engaged a brand is in social media channel usage, the better its search engine results tend to be, so now is the time to start giving both customers and potential customers every possible opportunity to engage with the brand.

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