Are You Treating Your Fans Like Cattle

Email ain’t dead yet.

When they wake up, 59% of consumers check their email account before anything else online, according to new research from ExactTarget (disclosure: client), in a sweeping survey of 400+ Americans. (play with the data in the super cool interactive tool below)

This correlates well with a similar, but far less statistically rigorous poll I conducted one year ago asking Twitter users what they checked first in the morning, and email was preferred by 77%.

The full ExactTarget research is available for free here, and includes several other interesting discoveries:

  • People who check email first tend to be motivated to interact with brands online for the sake of deals (why you need a deal before you’ve even had coffee, I’m not sure)
  • People who check Facebook first (11% of total respondents) tend to become fans of brands for entertainment purposes, or to show support (the concept of social badging).
  • 39% of the people that check email first still use Facebook daily, but their motivation for doing so remains deal-centric.

Moo. Don’t Treat Fans Like Cattle

To me, the key insight is less about who checks what first (although it would be interesting to see the impact of smart phone ownership on the results). The key insight is instead the fact that motivations for brand interaction are widely divergent. You cannot presume that your subscribers, fans, or followers pay attention to your brand for reasons that are anywhere close to homogenous. They are not a faceless heard. They have motivations that are specific, particular and important.

This has enormous implications for social segmentation, content creation, tonality, and appropriate success metrics. We all need to start thinking about how we can mine social and email data to create not just one list of subscribers/fans/followers, but multiple lists based on what people want from our brands, and how likely they are to respond to information of a particular type and context. If we’re not using the available data (made even richer by the coming ubiquity of “like”) to boost relevancy of our social and email communication, our fans will gravitate toward companies that are. Because relevancy = respect.

For many companies (but by no means all), “batch and blast” email whereby everyone on the subscriber list gets the same message is a thing of the past. It’s time to start thinking about social media the same way. Programs like ThinkGeek‘s @thinkgeekspam that includes only deals and offers may need to become the rule, not the exception.

I’m going to write more about my thinking in the area of social segmentation this summer, but for now what do you think?

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7 Differences in Major Brands' Acceptable vs. Exceptional Email Marketing Programs

Yeah, you’re sending email. But is it email that people WANT or email that people TOLERATE? The difference is critical, and our brand-new, eBook shows how to do it right.