Social Media and Email – More Alike than Different

February 15th, 2010

From a business objectives standpoint, isn’t uni-directional social media more similar to email than it is different?

Social network connectivity is becoming the post-modern email newsletter. A way for consumers to stay up-to-date with the brand, hear about special offers, and occasionally advocate to their friends. This puts significant pressure on email to be more relevant, because most of what would be contained in an email newsletter or special offer now happens faster and more personally within Facebook, Twitter or other social outposts.

Social Media is Email Without the Database

Because social communication feels more authentic and timely in most cases, email marketers must fully embrace testing, personalization and optimization to boost relevancy for recipients. Because the real advantage email has over social is data. Email knows who you are, what you’ve bought, what you click on, what time you open. Twitter knows that you are @somecustomer, and what you Tweet about, and maybe your geography. It’s no contest.

I certainly do not support the Draconian position that somehow social networks threaten email’s existence as a marketing channel. But, if email marketers don’t actually use the data they have at their disposal to increase message relevancy, then the email versus social debate become more viable. 

Unify Your Team

The first step is for  companies to devise a coordinated strategy that uses email and social communication synergistically. Today, most companies have separate email marketing and social media departments, and they need to merge (or at least cooperate fully) to eliminate the unfocused, tone-deaf message conflicts that are all-too-common today. 

To best develop thriving, mutually beneficial relationships with your customers, think of your social communication and email communication programs as two rungs on a content ladder. Google’s new Buzz technology recognizes this convergence, by treating email connections between us as the core atomic unit of the social Web, rather than newer, more ephemeral connections made on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere.

The Content You Want, via the Channel You Choose

The future of integrated communications is in consumer choice and personalized preference centers. Today, most contact preferences center around phone, email (HTML or text), and direct, postal mail. But, isn’t “following” and “fanning” just a new version of “opting in”? Won’t we soon see forms that ask us to choose one or all of these contact methods:

  • Email newsletter

  • Blog (via RSS or email)

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Remember, social media is an ingredient, not an entree. Will you spend some time thinking about how to integrate your social messaging, not building a throne for it?

    (For an interesting look into the somewhat more distant future of email and social convergence, check this post series by the thoughtful Fred Tabsharani)

    (photo by Brunogirin)

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