Email, Social Media Measurement, Email Marketing Advice, Social Media ROI

Have We Seen This Social Media Movie Before?

People say social media is unicorn, but it’s really just a horse.

movie reel 222x300 Have We Seen This Social Media Movie Before?Sure, social media empowers customers like nothing before it. And of course, social media creates a new level of real-time accountability for companies previously accustomed to asynchronous communication. These are the ways social media is different. But in other ways, it’s largely the same.

Let’s compare email marketing and social media.

Market Size

According to Forrester Research, U.S. companies will spend $1.676 billion on email in 2012. They’ll spend $1.649 billion on social media. When people ask you how big the social media business opportunity is, tell them it’s about the same as the email business opportunity. Very big. But nowhere near search, or television, or radio.

Messaging Flow

Email is (or at least should be) opt-in. The only people that get emails from your company are people that asked to receive them.

Social media is also (thankfully) opt-in. The only people that see your tweets, status updates, foursquare check-ins, and notifications of your new YouTube musings purposefully signed up for the privilege.

Audience Count

The people that have opted-in to receive our email are called subscribers. They can unsubscribe and remove themselves from the group.

The people that have opted-in to receive our social messages are called followers. Or fans. Or awkwardly, “likes”. They can unfollow or unlike to remove themselves from the group.

Viewers

In the world of email, we count the number of people that saw or read each message. That metric is called “open rate” (post-modern email marketers call this the “render rate” and use a slightly different method of calculation).

In social media, we wish we could count the number of people that actually saw a specific tweet. But we have that metric in Facebook, where it’s called “impressions”, and on YouTube, where it’s called “views”.

Actions

Email marketers closely track the number of people that click links placed in messages. This is reported as the click-through rate – which is expressed as a percentage.

Social marketers also very closely track the number of clicks, but that data is usually reported as an integer (often via intermediaries like bit.ly) because we don’t know the number of views, and thus cannot determine the percentage. Facebook, however, does provide this data, and calls it “Feedback” (percentage of people seeing a specific status update that click “like” or write a comment).

Virality

For more than a decade, the world of email has hoped to send messages of such vigor and verisimilitude that recipients would be compelled to click a “forward to a friend” button to send the message onward to their compatriots, who would surely benefit from its contents. That F2F rate has historically been tracked by email marketers, although it’s accuracy is poor since it’s easier to just click “forward” in your email software, than to click the button within the email itself.

In social media of course, this sharing behavior is the coin of the realm. Retweets, Facebook shares, Diggs, Stumbles, and now Linkedin shares are badges of honor, displayed proudly atop each blog post like family crests of feudal lords.

That’s a lot of similarities. Does anyone else feel like we’ve seen this movie before?

Related
  • http://www.brainwads.net/drewhawkins Drew Hawkins

    Never really seen a side by side comparison put that simply but it makes sense. Do you think social tracking tools will get more sophisticated? Or will social (as a whole) be viewed with the same ROI vantage point that TV or print marketing views audience size?

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    This social world is new and improved to most people..but I been around long enough to say it doesn’t excites me that much..It great to use all the big time social site like twitter and facebook..but still just an old seo guy..

    BTW Jay..Can you can contact me on my contact page..Its very important..I need your help.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    This tack of this post is to present that there are few semantic differences between email and social media, and from a marketing perspective, the final word is simply that you need both to be successful online. How hard you emphasize one or the other is a matter of taste, but maybe the best analysis is that social media has (arguably) equaled the success rate of email marketing in a very short amount of time.

    Whether these two forms remain “equal” in the eyes of online marketers will be interesting.

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    But Jay…it’s a revolution!!

    There is one thing that I’ll offer that differentiates Social Media from email. I think email is a way to take that relationship one step further, and then meeting or talking on the phone is one step again. If a business relies a great deal on Social Media and is worried that they flubbed something, they can send an email and say, “Oh, sorry about that.” But once you get taken off that “subscribe” email list, you’re done for. The relationship is broken in that regard.

    Maybe I’m old-fashioned in my reverence for email in that kind of light, but ciest la vie :)

  • Darleen

    Yes I constantly am seeing similarities and wonder – why all the fuss. Yes there are new technologies and a LOT more people connected, but we have been doing similar since 1995. It is about time the rest caught on :) It is more instant and personal now maybe, than simply email. I still do love email, and the fact that I can edit / save/ come back and either complete and send, or Trash.

  • http://borasky-research.net/2010/08/29/getting-started-with-the-social-media-analytics-research-toolkit/ znmeb

    “When people ask you how big the social media business opportunity is, tell them it’s about the same as the email business opportunity. Very big. But nowhere near search, or television, or radio.”

    Nowhere near search, eh? Any actual numbers you can share?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I don’t have the chart in front of me, but search is like $12 billion compared to the 1.6 for social.

      • http://www.worldslargest-plr-reseller.com/ Mark – worlds largest plr sell

        Hello Friend, agreed with the similarities.
        Could you tell me exactly what you do you mean by: ‘SEARCH’. Does it mean the actions which are purely performed using search engines or on social networks or everywhere?

  • http://twitter.com/mschmulen Mark Schmulen

    Jay – Thanks for another solid post! In many respects Social Media Marketing is the sequel to the Email Marketing blockbuster. Based on our experience with more than 400,000 SMB customers, we have consistently found that social media and email marketing go hand-in-hand. As your post so creatively pointed out, there are many similarities between the two. However we must recognize the strengths and weaknesses of both channels. Hands down, email remains the best way to get your message heard. Even though we don’t always open every email message, most users are trained to at least look at the sender, subject line and timestamp of each message in their inbox. That is not so for social media; due to the constantly updating real-time stream many posts and tweets go unnoticed. However, social media has proven to be one of the best ways to spread a message because the Share and Tweet buttons send out a shotgun blast as opposed to the rifle shot from the Forward button. We have found that marketers who combine both email and social media into an integrated mix get the best results and are more effective at engaging their existing audience and reaching new ones. I like the way Eric Groves from Constant Contact explains this: “Email lights the fire and Social Media spreads it!”

  • http://twitter.com/mschmulen Mark Schmulen

    Jay – Thanks for another solid post! In many respects Social Media Marketing is the sequel to the Email Marketing blockbuster. Based on our experience with more than 400,000 SMB customers, we have consistently found that social media and email marketing go hand-in-hand. As your post so creatively pointed out, there are many similarities between the two. However we must recognize the strengths and weaknesses of both channels. Hands down, email remains the best way to get your message heard. Even though we don’t always open every email message, most users are trained to at least look at the sender, subject line and timestamp of each message in their inbox. That is not so for social media; due to the constantly updating real-time stream many posts and tweets go unnoticed. However, social media has proven to be one of the best ways to spread a message because the Share and Tweet buttons send out a shotgun blast as opposed to the rifle shot from the Forward button. We have found that marketers who combine both email and social media into an integrated mix get the best results and are more effective at engaging their existing audience and reaching new ones. I like the way Eric Groves from Constant Contact explains this: “Email lights the fire and Social Media spreads it!”

  • K2

    Sorry Jay, but I respectfully disagree that Social Media isn’t a Unicorn. I believe that SM is the tip of a fundamental shift in the way business will be conducted in the future.

    Nice comparisons, but you are missing the fundamental changes in the way people interact with SM, and the resultant changes in process flows and the way work is/will be structured because of the change from Direct Communications (push marketing, email, phone calls) to Indirect Communications (re-tweet, appended communications, blogs, etc) enabled by SM.

    SM commentary is raw “Voice of Customer” data that marketing firms have been paying big money for in “focus group” studies. It’s changing the balance of power and resources inside of companies (headcount and budget) to gain insight into what the customer says directly to you (in a sales call, phone call, meeting, sporting event, etc) and what they say indirectly via a blog, twitter, facebook, and how your company affects their entire day and mood.

    If you can’t monitor it, you can’t measure it, and the only thing that is similar to the horse is that if you get on it, you go for a ride on the same trail that you’ve always been riding. The landscape is truly changing because of SM. It truly is a unique animal.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      You’re right in the real-time and asynchronous parts of social communication, which all involve listening and reacting and mining. In fact, I agree with you so much, I wrote a book about it.

      However, on proactive, structured social communication (tweets, Facebook status updates, blog posts, et al) the similarities are striking and important. And the reality is that most companies (for now at least) are much more committed to the proactive, push model of social communication, than the more nuanced, pull method you describe.

      I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

      I should probably amend my statement to read, “proactive social media is a horse”. That would be more accurate, and I thank you for pointing out the flaw in my juxtaposition.

      • K2

        Understand your point, but my perspective remains that companies going down the pro-active structured communications path for social media (“the horse” under any definition) are missing the reality of Social Media. It doesn’t come across as genuine and sincere – it’s just the same message via a different channel. I guess in that situation, SM is simply a horse.

        However, the capabilities of SM allow a user to grab that message, append it with their own opinion, and re-broadcast it to millions. Companies are losing control over their message. Look what happened to Amazon and BP with their recent PR challenges. People riding the traditional “marketing horse race” are left in the starting gate, and when the announcer calls “And they’re off” they run a straight race in a narrow track, while public opinion swirls around them, forward, backward and sideways. Structured communications in a multi-dimensional environment usually fail to meet objectives.

        It is a different world entirely. Communications cycles are compressed, and proper REACTION is critical to success in this new world. These components do not lend themselves to “structure”. Trying to plan a traditional marketing department for this “unicorn” is a waste of valuable corporate resources.

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          A few things here that are off base.

          The reality of social media is that more companies are using it proactively than conversationally and reactively. I don’t think you can say they are therefore missing the reality of social media. They are choosing – for whatever reason, often misguided – to participate in social media in that particular form or fashion. I also don’t think you can make a blanket statement that all proactive social media is insincere or not genuine. When I tweet that I have a new blog post – a proactive form of social media – is that insincere? Perhaps it is. And if so, I make no apologies.

          Indeed, users can grab that message and rebroadcast it. However, the user only sees the message if they opted-in to the company’s communication initially (follower or fan), or saw some other consumers’ redistribution. See how the opt-in piece is similar to email? And certainly no consumers (including Bieber) reach millions of others on their own.

          Companies are not losing control over their message, because companies never had control over it. We’ve always thought whatever we think about brands. Social media just allows companies to see what we’re thinking for the first time. The magnifying glass is the difference, not the message control.

          I actually don’t think BP’s problems were in any way caused by or exacerbated by social media. They shot themselves repeatedly in traditional media. Social was just the echo chamber.

          Indeed, it’s a real-time world now, which is hard for companies to handle. That’s why my book is called The NOW Revolution. And of course reacting to real-time events is job #1 for all social media programs (or should be). But that certainly doesn’t mean that creating content, starting conversations, humanizing your company, etc. on a proactive basis isn’t part of the equation.

          By your logic, companies that have little existing chatter about them in social media – and thus cannot win the real-time reaction battle – shouldn’t have a social presence at all.

          Listening and reaction are simply table stakes. The ante in the new real-time poker. The evolved social state combines reactive and proactive. And on the latter, the mechanics are much more similar to what’s come before than is typically understood – at least that’s how I see it.

  • K2

    Sorry Jay, but I respectfully disagree that Social Media isn’t a Unicorn. I believe that SM is the tip of a fundamental shift in the way business will be conducted in the future.

    Nice comparisons, but you are missing the fundamental changes in the way people interact with SM, and the resultant changes in process flows and the way work is/will be structured because of the change from Direct Communications (push marketing, email, phone calls) to Indirect Communications (re-tweet, appended communications, blogs, etc) enabled by SM.

    SM commentary is raw “Voice of Customer” data that marketing firms have been paying big money for in “focus group” studies. It’s changing the balance of power and resources inside of companies (headcount and budget) to gain insight into what the customer says directly to you (in a sales call, phone call, meeting, sporting event, etc) and what they say indirectly via a blog, twitter, facebook, and how your company affects their entire day and mood.

    If you can’t monitor it, you can’t measure it, and the only thing that is similar to the horse is that if you get on it, you go for a ride on the same trail that you’ve always been riding. The landscape is truly changing because of SM. It truly is a unique animal.

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