Social Is Defining the Future of Consumer CRM

If you’re anything like me, you’ve read more than your fair share of articles about how email puts social media marketing to shame when it comes to driving e-commerce conversions. Yet, this sentiment grossly oversimplifies the value of social media to direct marketers and fails to put it into a lens where the true value of social media can be understood and effectively applied to their daily efforts.

Email marketing and social media marketing is not an either/or proposition; rather, both are essential items in a marketer’s tool kit. So, it’s time to stop thinking about them as isolated channels—or, what ‘the team over there does’—and start thinking about how you can use both in tandem to drive outcomes that have big business impact.

Like any great relationship, strengths and weaknesses support and feed each other. In this case the strengths of email marketing feed social media marketing, and vice-versa. Social media advertising works wonders for email acquisition and lead generation, while email house files work great for social advertising. 

While social and mobile feeds are certainly eroding consumer time spent in the desktop inbox, email is still an important part of a marketer’s toolkit and the relationship between email and social is strong, as can be seen by the amount of chatter about the parallels between a fan/follower base and an email house file. The more interesting part, however, is how the two work together to create a symbiotic relationship.

Capture high-value emails, at scale 

Social media as an advertising medium offers amazing targeting options and the capability to put compelling ads, rich content, and offers in front of users that match your targeting parameters. To acquire high-quality emails, marketers need only reach key social audiences with compelling posts, draw them in with a great offer, and capture email within the social experience. This flow and conversion action works well on mobile, which is essential since more than 70% of daily Facebook and Twitter users are on mobile devices.

Additionally, when marketers manage post-click landing experiences they unlock the ability to optimize email acquisition campaigns at every level with segment/ad/landing page combinations. Once winning combinations are determined, scaling high-value acquisition becomes straightforward.

Using this strategy, I’ve found that emails can be captured at or below the cost and effort of other channels and that roughly half of the emails captured are new to a brand’s house file, making it clear that maximizing social media as a channel for email acquisition can drive remarkable business value. 

Customer profiles and behavioral data feeds social media advertising

While the social networks are relatively new to advertising they have the benefit of learning from all that came before. Facebook and Twitter are leading the development and innovation around social media advertising, but I expect others like Instagram and Pinterest to quickly follow.

Today, the top networks are fine-tuning their ability to use current customer profiles and segments to reach audiences within social, across devices, and soon, across the Web. They’re doing this in ways that brands retain their own CRM data and at no additional cost beyond media spend.

Two new technologies reveal the future of consumer CRM—what Facebook calls Custom Audiences and Website Custom Audiences.

Custom Audiences, broadly, enable marketers to upload email segments to the social network to create ad groups. The network says it doesn’t retain the data; it just enables ad groups for marketers to spend against. For organizations with rich customer profiles and the ability to do rich segmentation, creating targeted ad groups can be an incredibly valuable tactic. Using the same segment/ad/landing page combination optimization techniques, marketers can reach and convert high-value segments repeatedly and at scale. Perfect.

There are many great examples of this in the new, next-generation e-commerce, flash, and private sale sites that have built their entire businesses out of membership email lists. These companies are finding huge success in social for acquisition and conversion. Gilt Groupe, Bonobos, and One Kings Lane are great examples.

Website Custom Audiences are behavioral and don’t rely on current customer profile data. By tagging landing pages and websites with Facebook code, marketers can easily create ad groups based on pages viewed and actions taken. Think about it as the process of moving a consumer down the sales funnel, ever closer to purchase. When a prospect taps a social ad, she takes the first step in the journey. She may then move deeper down the funnel, agreeing to enter a permission relationship by supplying her email address. And, all the elements that brands can collect—from email to behavior, like Web pages viewed, products explored, or requests for additional information—are data elements that feed traditional CRM systems that can in turn now feed new social media marketing programs. Every time a lead is captured from social, value is added to the brand’s house file and CRM system—and best of all, these new leads can be used to further improve social advertising effectiveness and increase lifetime value.

For brands truly interested in adopting a marketing mix where social and email form a closed-loop, iterative process, it should be noted that systems exist today that allow marketers to directly capture emails in social and feed them into CRM systems. And it doesn’t stop there. Once new leads are acquired, marketers can use the data to further improve their social media targeting, thus creating a virtuous cycle where as more and more customers are acquired from social, the ability to target consumers with user-specific promotions on social continually improves. The more targeted and personalized the message, the more likely marketers are to deliver outcomes that directly impact the business—and that’s what direct marketing is all about.

Sure, email as a standalone channel for reaching and converting consumers will endure, and email as a messaging platform will continue to be valuable for marketers. But if capturing email addresses and enriching customer profiles vastly improves our ability to target key audiences across digital and mobile touchpoints, then maybe our email strategies should shift toward a focus on acquisition, data, and segmentation. Segmentation is the fuel of the future and marketers that build expertise here will pave the future of their business.

Matt Compton is CEO of ShopIgniter

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