E-mail and Social Media: Everyone has a Job to Do

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Dave Parsons
Dave Parsons

“You simply can't have an effective social media program without an e-mail component.” This bit of wisdom comes from Paul Gillin, author of The Secrets of Social Media Marketing, and they are words that every marketer should live by. Too often marketers are rushing off to create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts without taking the time to understand how they will use them, or even why. But the most successful strategies often begin with what many consider to be the first form of social media: e-mail.

Chances are you've put a great deal of time and effort into developing your e-mail marketing strategy. Your first foray into social media also requires careful planning, though you may not have the flexibility to invest the same time and effort, or even close to it. If getting to market quickly is critical, start by looking at your options for social media and answer a simple question: what job can this tool do for me?

It sounds so simple, and yet so few marketers take the time to ask. Our client Morton's The Steakhouse has done an excellent job identifying the right tool for the job, in particular with e-mail and Twitter. As a high-end restaurateur, Morton's does not offer coupons to its subscribers. Instead it uses e-mail to invite guests to make reservations or stop by their local establishment for special events. Morton's sends invitations through Facebook and Twitter too, but the focus is primarily on engaging guests in a conversation.

While e-mail has proven to be the most effective channel for securing reservations and promoting restaurant events, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are ideal for creating a dialog with guests, and Morton's uses them to their full advantage. The steakhouse invites fans and followers to share their dining experience with other fans and followers, upload pictures of themselves celebrating special events at Morton's establishments, and even hosts “tweet-ups” at restaurant locations to entice more followers to stop in. And because Morton's is able to be part of the conversation in Facebook and Twitter, they get a better understanding of what their guests want and enjoy the most, and can incorporate what they learn into future e-mail marketing campaigns.

For fans of Morton's The Steakhouse, there is value in being both a follower on Twitter and an e-mail subscriber. You need to create the same balance of value for your customers as well, and give them a reason to engage you in more than one channel. Invite Facebook fans to subscribe to your e-mail program, and let them know that they will receive special offers targeted exclusively for them based on their preferences (still a unique marketing advantage that only e-mail can provide). Ask your e-mail subscribers to review your products online, or invite them to follow you on Twitter for the latest news about your company or your products. If there is value to be had, your customers will be there.

In the end, a successful social media strategy isn't about the tools. It's about content. Think about what you have to share with customers – special offers, white papers, product reviews, or fun commercials – and then decide which channel is best suited to deliver that value. Remember, nothing will disappoint customers more than a Facebook page with no posts, a Twitter feed with no tweets, or an e-mail that offers a 20 percent off coupon for steak to a lifelong vegetarian.

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