Ten years ago, email was king. Five years ago, social media was introduced. Today, smart businesses use a communication strategy that combines email and social media to foster solid customer relationships and create the kind of word of mouth or “buzz” that helps their business grow.
How do social media strengthen your email communications? There are two ways:
1. Social media offer greater opportunity for dialog with customers. Many bulk email systems don’t even allow the recipient to reply. Social media allow for conversations and comments from many customers.
2. Social media allow your messages to be shared with others easily. When email was new, the world was excited about “forward to a friend.” Soon, though, forwarding messages became almost “taboo.” A recent study shows that recipients elect to use the “forward to a friend” link less than .1% of the time. Alternatively, “share” links for social media, while still relatively new, are used .5% of the time—five times more often. In addition, when email is forwarded, the study showed that usually only an additional 1 or 2 people are reached. By contrast, the social media “share” link results in reaching an average of 150-200 additional people.
According to a survey by StrongMail, more than 50% of business executives worldwide now integrate social media with their email marketing campaigns. MarketingSherpa, similarly, has reported the influence of social media in its email marketing benchmark survey. MarketingSherpa reports:
• 81% find that social media extend the reach of their email marketing,
• 53% say social media integration increases the ROI of their email campaigns,
• And 31% that it helps them generate more qualified leads.
There are two principles that guide all of the most successful integrated communication strategies:
1. Email is best for communicating information that is specific to the customer. Ideally, it should be used to speak to the individual—not to your customer base as a group. There are many examples: Order confirmations. Also offers relevant to customers’ past purchases. And, localized events or sales. These are the kinds of emails most likely to be opened and read.
2. Social media are best used to communicate with your customer base as a group. With social media, your customers can provide feedback to you and engage in conversation with other customers. Social media are also the best way to create word of mouth for your business.
The idea is that people use email differently than social media. And, they want to receive different information through each. When you use these principles to combine email and social media, the effect is strengthened exponentially.
Following are 5 steps to help your business successfully integrate email and social media.
1. To get started, you need email addresses. If you don’t have email addresses for your customer base—and those prospective customers that you have had contact with—you need to begin collecting them. Collect email addresses in every way possible. On your website, don’t just offer to send a newsletter in return for the email address, though. Offer a download of information, a coupon or anything that can be provided immediately in return for the email address.
2. Develop your social network. The MerchantCircle survey released in February found that 70% of local businesses are now using Facebook to market their businesses. Facebook has surpassed Google search as the most widely used marketing method among these businesses and is viewed as nearly as effective. LinkedIn and Twitter are the other two most used social media sites, but there are many others, including some for narrow market segments. SocialMediaWebsites.com is one directory of social media sites. It includes social media sites for architects, designers, realtors, and eco-friendly companies, for example. You may be able to find a site that attracts your customers. Once you have your social network established, make sure you join in the discussions. Become a “trusted source” of information, respond to questions posed by others in the network, and get involved.
3. Use an email service provider like Constant Contact that makes it easy to integrate social media with your email campaigns. Constant Contact’s templates include “share” links for your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. Make sure you ask your readers to share your content using these links. Constant Contact also allows you to automatically “Tweet” any email you send. Spend some time segmenting your contact database so your emails can be as relevant to the individual as possible. On blog postings and email articles, include an AddThis link on each. This makes it easy for readers to share your ideas. “Share” links also are valuable when you post a video on YouTube.
4. Further strengthen the connection by including prominent social media opt-in links on your social media pages and website. Remember, when someone opts-in using these links, your communication can potentially be shared with hundreds, if not thousands, of prospective new customers.
5. Track conversations by your customers, within your industry, or about specific products or topics. Use the search features on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to track anything written about your company and products. To track conversations within your network or about topics that interest you, I have found NutShellMail to be a great convenience. NutShellMail provides an emailed digest of the social media you want to follow. You choose the social media, the topics, and how often you want to receive it. There is nothing to download and no cost involved. See this video demo for more information. All of these are great ways to obtain market knowledge and ideas for email newsletters and social media postings.
If you want help developing a social media/email integration strategy and getting started, give me a call.