With Facebook’s following now exceeding the one-billion user mark and the support for newer social media platforms growing rapidly in number, many may believe that email as a marketing tool has become obsolete.
Even though social media channels are excellent platforms for consumer engagement, the once popular form of email engagement is still an effective channel of communication and should not be dismissed by marketers. Here’s why:
1. Email is still responsible for the lion’s share of revenue
It is widely known that there is in fact no commonly accepted return on investment (ROI) calculations for social media. For figures’ sake (and that of management), email has a conversation rate of 17% compared to under two percent for social media.
This is justified by a 2011 report revealing that email marketing returned on average R40 (US$4.5) for every R1 (US$0.11) spent. For 2012, the Direct Marketing Association in the United States forecasts email marketing to account for approximately US$67.8-billion in sales. But wait, there’s more…
2. Targeting can be precise
In addition to the ROI that email marketing can present, targeting — a crucial element to any marketing strategy — offers more precision. Social media channels have also introduced audience targeting, but only at a broad level based on location, gender and language, etc.
What gives email marketing the upper hand over social media is its ability to segment audiences from customer relationship management (CRM) data to precise geographic locations, preferences and purchase history. Email is also able to make use of consumer browsing behaviour to further enhance targeting.
3. Reach is guaranteed (Well, almost)
Only 10-15% of selected audiences are exposed to messages by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. In fact, many posts don’t show up at all. On Twitter, all posts are displayed, but it’s easy for your message to get lost in the noise.
Added exposure comes at a cost which could mount up very quickly if you’re paying per post. Email on the other hand has the ability to reach 100% of its targeted audience.
The challenge lies in deliverability — making sure that your emails actually make it into recipients’ inbox. However, this can easily be handled by following good practice for opt-in, and working with the right service provider.
Contrary to much of the activity on social media channels, all email communication can be directly attributed to an individual recipient.
The difficulty with identifying recipients on social media platforms and tying them to other marketing activities is due to the aggregated nature of individual responses on such platforms.
For example, responses to a Facebook post may come in the form of “18 people like this” with no option of identifying the individual respondents. With email, the email address itself can act as a unifier across multiple channels and touch-points.
It is important to bear in mind that most people are happy to give out their email address, but are hesitant to share their social media profiles with a business.
It is generally accepted that a business may email a customer direct (with permission, of course), whereas many people feel that direct contact via social media is an invasion of privacy.
5. Open garden
Social media still operates as a walled garden despite offering an open API and platform. Statistics provided remain very proprietary to each social network.
For example, you can’t easily identify customers who saw an advertisement on Facebook and visited your website as a result. Email marketing on the other hand is an open garden, and easier to integrate across various channels and apps.
Email metrics are easy to verify and new technology even allows a look into recipients’ mailboxes to gauge whether messages were read and engaged upon.
Contrary to social media, marketers are able to explore their full creativity by incorporating text with no character limitations, graphics and in some cases, animation and video all in one message beckoning customers to action. Social media is still an integral part of any multi-channel marketing strategy, but you should not write-off email as an additional channel.
Email still packs enough weight to roll punches with other more popular forms of marketing and more than able to deliver that ever-important return on investment.