E-mail feeding the social machine

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Social media is all the rage, both as a tool and as a phenomenon.Within some companies, entire teams have been created to devote their time to feeding these burgeoning, always hungry social media platforms.

Feeding the social machine comes in many forms.  In the world of e-mail marketing, e-mail service providers (ESPs) are introducing the integration of social media into their platforms.  Whether it be ExactTarget's Social Forward, Silverpop's Engage or Lyris' HQ, each is doing it their own way and with different emphasis.

ESPs are responding to demands in the marketplace for more feature sets, but how will social media truly integrate with traditional e-mail marketing?

In the world of written digital communications, e-mail remains the dominant form; and therefore it logically flows that ESPs remain the central hub used to disseminate not just email, but also SMS, social media, and the like.  Social media allows companies to communicate to users that might otherwise not want to hear from them via e-mail. Having access to communication via both methods in one ESP tool makes perfect sense.

The danger lies in thinking that what will work in the context of an e-mail will be accepted within the realm of any particular social network.  Herein lies the difference between b-to-b and b-to-c applications of social media integration.  It'd be pretty annoying to send a press release to everyone on your LinkedIn network, yet totally acceptable to send a bit.ly link of that same announcement from your corporate Twitter account. Make sure that for each social media platform you've mapped out whom you're communicating with and what you're going to

It all comes back to a key factor for email marketing success: relevance. Whether your corporate focus is  b-to-b or b-to-c, relevance is key if social media is to work its magic for your organization. To be relevant, you must give some serious thought about the true nature of a "friend," "connection" or "follower".

Whether you're a b-to-c company using social media as an instant portal to users, a branding exercise or for fandom; or a if you're a b-to-b company using it for thought leadership, to shorten your sales cycle, or promote your image, being relevant will allow you to take full advantage of this medium.

Many companies will create a social media presence more as a necessary evil: they're not truly buying into the ROI. To those companies I recommend they look at Nutella (b2c) and Lyris (b2b) on how to make it work for them.  With extra effort and a bit of ingenuity, you might just figure out what all the hype is about.

Meanwhile, using an e-mail platform that has the right social media component ensures ease of use, a minimum increment in investment dollars and therefore no risk in creating your company's social media presence.

The way to do this? Keep in mind your prospect/customer is your focus and relevance is your key – with this data and the right platform, the sky is the limit.

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