E-mail and social media

Sophisticated e-mail marketers are increasingly realizing that the inbox experience is morphing into the social networking space — some customer segments are relying less on e-mail and more on Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and others. Managing the shift and adapting to this new paradigm will be a priority for marketers in 2008, especially for those who target younger demographics.

Today, while e-mail remains the social networking vehicle of choice for most customer segments, especially older ones, marketers still have time to get hip to social media marketing. E-mail marketing offers mature tracking, reporting and has a proven model for monetization. Understanding this model is a good place to start when seeking to launch new social networking programs or monetize existing social media investments.

E-mail marketer Daily Candy recently trumpeted the value of e-mail as a branding tool when the brand shared its e-mail advertising CPM rates at the first annual Email Experience Council Summit in the first quarter of 2007. Publishers like Daily Candy are leveraging the e-mail channel to tremendous benefit and commanding increasingly higher CPMs from advertisers who are realizing excellent returns from their investments.

Corporate spending on social media applications is also rising dramatically, but many marketers are struggling to generate returns on these investments. The social networks are therefore clamoring to help their advertisers better monetize these opportunities before their share of budget diminishes.

One area of intense focus is reporting — the social networking sites are working hard to ensure that the delivery and tracking of campaigns meets the expectations of e-marketers who rely heavily on performance metrics to manage and optimize their programs.

The good news is e-mail and social media are complementary channels. E-mail marketers need not develop entirely new communication strategies to reach social networking audiences. Many of the same segmentation and targeting strategies that proved successful in e-mail can be easily leveraged across channels, though specific messaging tactics will certainly differ.

Social network audiences demand authentic, transparent content. Communications that seem too promotional are uniformly ignored or deleted. Marketers must therefore work especially hard to create experiences that drive brand engagement in softer, more creative ways. Those who rise to the challenge and forge honest, open communication streams that empower users to interact with a brand on their terms, can be rewarded with viral growth unlike any they have previously experienced online, while those who treat the networks as simply another vehicle for the same old spray and pray communications are surely undertaking an effort in futility and negatively impacting their brand’s equity.

Interested, but still not sure how you are going to merge social media marketing into your multichannel model? Keep reading. Over the next several months, the buzz around social media will probably intensify as I and other industry insiders hit the speaking circuit to share strategy, case studies and performance results.

Nicholas Einstein is director of strategic and analytical services at Datran Media.

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