When I read posts about the use of social media within email marketing and vice versa, the topics very often cover how to use social to get more subscribers or how to use email to get more social mentions and social “reach”. Another popular topic is how both channels strengthen each other.
As people who have been following me for a while know, a few years ago I launched a now dormant blog on the cross-fertilization of social and email (back then dubbed ‘social email marketing’) to fight thousands of opinions stating that social would kill email. The mutual strengthening of both channels, with topics such as the then nearly unknown use of social sharing tools in email and tips to include peer reviews and other social phenomena in email, was the essential message. Social media and email strengthen each other but it’s not about the channels themselves.
Moving away from a channel-centric view
Looking at interaction channels as reinforcing each other is still a left-over of a channel-centric view, rather than a people-centric one. Whether you want to use social and email in a cross-channel approach, use viral and referral marketing in email or use social media to strengthen your email activities, the simple fact is that just connecting and integrating both channels leads to no results. The results are defined by the people who use them to interact with your business and each other.
Integration of social and email is still one of my favorite topics, although I prefer an even more integrated and holistic approach. Yet, it’s time we look at the behavioral and emotional needs of our recipients, fans, etc. across the channels.
One of the main reasons why the combination of channels works is obviously the increase of interaction tools and of multi-channel behavior.
Do we send and get too many emails?
A second reason is the simple pragmatic fact that, in most cases, conversion rates in email are dropping. This is mainly due to an increase of email communication and marketing messages in general. It’s also often due to a broadcasting mentality that is not of this time anymore.
However, let me immediately add a big, fat footnote to that: this increase depends on numerous factors. My wife doesn’t get more emails. She gets those she wants from the retailers she likes, and if they would send her even more promotions, she would embrace that.
Nevertheless, people who use email intensively, such as myself and many business people, simply are harder to reach in an ocean of channels and messages. So, I guess it…depends. Furthermore, this is not a reason as such to send less email, it is a reason to do it more wisely though. Earlier this year, Dela Quist explained me how the subject line of an email has a branding impact that works, even when the email is not opened. I believe that, just as I believe everything has a branding impact and can lead to sales. He also adviced, in a way, that marketers should send more email (see the presentation he gave at one of my events below to understand what he means). There are many valid points in Dela’s different way of looking at things (and I have a soft spot for people who think different and are nice on top of it) but simply viewed subject lines won’t contribute to a big chunk of your bottom-line.
It would be stupid to ignore the facts and the feedback I get every time I talk to a marketer in yet another business: conversion rates are dropping. It would also be stupid to ignore my own behavior: I simply skip more emails than before. And, yes, every interaction impacts another, often in ways that are invisible to the all-seeing eyes of digital marketers. However, if it doesn’t engage me, it doesn’t work.
Engagement and relevance are not buzzwords: you can measure them
Engaging subscribers through an integrated approach or even within a single channel, and offering more relevant content, promotions and whatnot, along with innovative ways to provide more control to the “recipient”, is simply a must for mostorganizations.
The integration of social and email offers many benefits in this regard. However, it is not just about technology, integration, and viral spread. It is about engaging and involving people and that’s exactly where one of the most important challenges lies for email marketers.
When you talk about engagement, you inevitably have to talk about relevance. Many people don’t like that word because it’s too vague, not measurable and not well defined. That’s true: you won’t find relevance in a marketing dictionary (I guess, I wouldn’t know really).
But the word means what it means. Here are some definitions I found:
- Something (A) is relevant to a task (T) if it increases the likelihood of accomplishing the goal (G), which is implied by T.
- Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter. A thing is relevant if it serves as a means to a given purpose.
- Information or actions that can help or hurt me.
- Have a strong connection to priorities and activities.
Something is relevant if it makes me fulfil whatever rational or emotional goal, appeals to me and makes me a happier, better informed, smarter, etc. person, even if it’s just for a while. Relevance is what makes me act and what engages me. Relevance is what makes me want more.
Furthermore, regardless of all the theories and debates, you can measure relevance, and it’s nephew engagement very well, also in email, social and the combination of both.
If it’s not relevant to me at a given point in time, I will not notice it, share it, forward it, act upon it or do anything at all.
If I do act upon it, across channels, you will be able to track it. Period. And even if you wouldn’t be able to measure how I feel about something by observing my sharing, forwarding, bookmarking, tweeting, clicking or whatever behavior, doesn’t mean it has no value. On the contrary: it’s all about perception and emotion. So, move and engage me and make it really relevant, regardless of the channels and combinations of them.