Success in Social Media Starts With Email

Every marketing team we work with boasts a coordinated strategy across email and social media channels.

From our experience, that’s just not enough and is often not as “coordinated” as marketers might think.

If your organization treats email and social media as parallel channels through which to push branded content, then you’re missing out big time. A great multichannel marketing strategy embraces the unique opportunities provided by two very different mediums and leverages one channel to boost the other.

In fact, we’ve seen brands boost revenue by 80% or more by taking an “email-to-social” approach to marketing campaigns.

Two truths about social media and email

Consider this: Of the nearly 170 million Americans who use Facebook to connect with friends, less than 1% report engaging on Facebook with brands they’ve “liked.”

There’s incredible power in the conversations that customers are having with friends on social media, but comparatively little power in the content your brand is posting directly.

For most marketers, email will always be the more effective direct channel for getting customers’ attention and driving them to take action.  It’s easier to personalize email, message to different segments, and then get the reader’s captive attention in a way that other digital channels can’t provide.

How can these two truths be combined into a killer multichannel campaign?

It’s a fairly simple equation: If email is the best way to engage customers, and customers are best at engaging their peers on social media, then try creating email campaigns that get your customers sharing virally with friends.

That’s the “email-to-social” strategy. It takes some work, but the results will astound you. When your subscribers start talking about your brand on Facebook or Twitter, email becomes not just a channel for existing customer engagement, but also a powerful catalyst for new customer acquisition through authentic, peer-to-peer sharing.

Three steps to a better multichannel strategy

How can you create effective email-to-social campaigns? Here are a few steps that should help you get started:

1. Make sure your email content is naturally shareable. It’s not easy creating content that people want to share with friends. Of the hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube on a given day, for example, what percent spread virally? Almost zero. 

And the marketer’s job is even harder. It’s not enough to just create shareable content; the content you create has to tie back to your products, services, or brand for it to be effective. Many marketers still haven’t mastered email content for this reason.

In fact, it’s unlikely that your email itself will be something people want to share with friends.  More than likely, you’ll use email to drive your audience to an engaging online experience that has viral potential—think videos, interactive games, photos, exclusive offers, or personalized experiences that stand out.

To craft the perfect email, think about your campaign as a funnel. Subject lines should be for the sole purpose of getting opens, and email content for the sole purpose of getting clicks. Use subject lines that build suspense around things consumers love (for example, “You’ve received a gift from Brand X”); email content generally should feature a large, compelling image with a single clear call to action (“Click here to open your gift”).

Unless your email is meant for content consumption versus driving users to take an action, dial down the amount of text you use.  Focus on the action.  Once the user is on your site or campaign page, you have much more control over the experience and your viral content can take over.

Our best advice for creating viral experiences: Perhaps with some help from your product team, aspire to create a branded experience that will delight your users in an unexpected way.  After all, delight is best enjoyed with others.

2. Make it so easy for customers to share with friends that they can’t avoid it.

If your content is wildly strong, it’s possible to get people forwarding your emails or sharing your links with no support or prodding.  Most likely, you’ll need to provide a social media integration that makes sharing easy, and perhaps offer rewards for doing so. 

Unfortunately, the most compelling social media integrations often require significant technical work.  “Like this” and “Tweet this” buttons are a start, but deeper, API-based integrations can help customers identify friends to share with and provide better ways of engaging those friends. 

These types of campaigns take time to build. But if done correctly they can transform your business by capturing invaluable data about your customers and delivering free brand impressions on social media through sharing. 

Many marketers, particularly those at larger corporations, don’t have the time, budget approval, or know-how to build this on their own. It’s important to find out if there are third-party applications to provide these benefits because getting this piece right can transform your email campaigns from an “engagement play” to an acquisition channel via social media. 

3. Remember, you don’t have to post on social media to make it work for your brand.

Note that this “multichannel” strategy doesn’t involve your brand posting anything directly on social media.  And that’s the point: According to recent studies, most customers just aren’t listening to brands on social channels. 

But consumers are actively engaging with their peers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.  This email-to-social approach puts your brand at the center of real conversations between friends, and friends of those friends, and so on through customers’ social graphs, growing awareness and affinity for your products and services in way not previously possible.

Recognizing the inherent advantages of email marketing—and the potentially limited effectiveness of your direct efforts in social media—may help you discover a strategy that gets more out of both channels than ever before.

Zachary Smith is founder and CEO of Boomerang.

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