Email Marketing Versus Social Media

Most every marketer wants to know how to get the most out of his resources. And today there are more choices than ever on how to invest those precious dollars. In particular, there’s the ongoing—and fervent—debate about email marketing versus social media; which one produces the most return?

“In most cases the uses of email marketing and social media are really going to vary,” says Evan James, head of North American marketing at social analytics company Socialbakers. James says that whether marketers use email, social, or both depends on the industry and where the customer is in his purchasing journey. “First, [it] depends on the industry that a brand is marketing in,” he explains. “The difference also depends on what point someone is in the customer purchasing lifecycle: brand recognition, evaluation, purchase, or an actual customer.”

Perhaps the best way to determine which channels work best for your business is to weigh the pros and cons of each. “The strength of social media is that it can give a company credibility to an audience,” says Eric Krattenstein, CMO of email marketing software Mailify. “People like to go online and see brands are active on social media. It tells the customers that they’re being heard, and that they can get a response in real time.” Krattenstein says that the problem with social media marketing, however, is that for it to be the most effective, companies need a large following.

“With email marketing, you can do more with less,” he continues. “Even if you have only 200 subscribers, a marketer can generate leads. That’s a major pro. The con may be that you always have to produce good, strong content for those emails. On social you can focus more on conversations.”

“It all comes back to what’s your objective,” says Jeremy Epstein, VP of marketing at social management platform Sprinklr. “For social media marketers your goals might be participation, engagement, producing advocates, education, and connecting with a community. For email you might be looking for gaining permission, subscriptions, building customer anticipation, or clicks-to-conversions.”

Epstein says that, bottom line, marketers need to determine whether a channel is meeting a company’s specific goals. “At the end of the day, it has to be about driving business outcome,” he says. “If you’re not driving a business outcome, then why bother?”

Epstein, along with Krattenstein and Socialbakers’ James, says that ultimately the right strategy will be customer-focused and omnichannel. In fact, each says that marketers shouldn’t choose one over the other but rather create a strategy that meets shoppers wherever they are.

“The channel of the future will be one that’s some sort of hybrid of all the channels,” Krattenstein says on a final note. “The technology is already getting us there with social feeds inside of emails and the fusion of email and mobile. Eventually we’ll bring all of the unique benefits together, and that’s when we’ll begin to see the most return. That’s marketing of the future.”

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