Integrating e-mail and social media to create brand advocates

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You are familiar with the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child?” In much the same way, it takes a community to raise brand advocates. And as an e-mail marketer you should explore the opportunities to lean on social networks and use them to cultivate your community of best customers. There are many opportunities to integrate e-mail and social media; the key is to understand where they intersect and how one channel can leverage the other's strengths (and perhaps shore up some weaknesses, as well).

E-mail can act as the hub of your direct marketing for several key reasons. E-mail is ubiquitous, has the highest ROI of any direct channel, and is measurable. E-mail also has the potential to be a true one-to-one communication if used effectively. Add these up, and e-mail is an effective tool to create highly-engaged consumers, or brand advocates.

Social media shares e-mail's goal of converting consumers into brand advocates. Consumers who interact with brands on Facebook or follow them on Twitter are already more highly-engaged than the average Joe.  They have opinions and want to share them with marketers and other consumers. They are assets to your brand, so treat them as you would a best customer by offering exclusive content or early access to promotions.

E-mail can help move consumers along the lifecycle and into the “social bubble.” E-mail has a push/pull effect when combined with social media marketing. It pushes subscribers to engage with you in social media channels by soliciting user generated content and promoting viral applications. You may think social media is not for you because no one's talking about your products, but sometimes all you need to do is ask.

E-mail also pulls people in by providing new content for social channels, which is important because to keep customers engaged in the bubble, you need to nurture them with new content on a regular basis. Forrester Research defines the levels of engagement within social media, from inactive to creator (with several steps in between).  On average, only slightly more than 1 in 10 people will make it to the creator level and actually write a product review or blog about you. For the other 90%, make it easy by providing a way for them to interact with you on their level, whether it be by following  you on Twitter, or flagging your content on Digg.

Although e-mail and social media are powerful channels that work differently, they do share a common goal: convert customers into brand advocates and provide them with the means to advocate on your behalf. By understanding the relationship between the two, you can create brand advocates inside and outside the inbox.

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