Mark Twain once said, "The report of my death is an exaggeration." So can be said for those claiming that e-mail marketing is at death's door or has died. E-mail is far from dead. When it comes to social media marketing, e-mail can actually be one of your strategies' secret weapons, if you understand how to use it in conjunction with reaching your target audience.
Everyone hates spam. It takes up countless hours of mailbox management and is seen as a time waster. With that in mind, e-mail marketing has become the "red-headed stepchild" of online marketing. Open rates are abysmal, especially when you compare it to the "click" actions of fellow online marketing tactics, SEO (define) and PPC (define) marketing. Marketers planning online strategies often forget about incorporating e-mail marketing in with their strategies, beyond sending out the monthly newsletter or advert to their customers.
E-mail can really be social media marketing's best friend, especially if it's strategized properly. This means you need to take the time to target your audience in a succinct way. It means rewarding this audience differently than the general audiences in SEO, PPC, and normal social media channels. It means giving them sharable content that can be just for them, or that they get to see first before any other segment of your target audience.
Think about it this way: if someone has signed up to receive your newsletter - not via purchase but via actually checking the box and filling in their e-mail address - they are truly interested in you, your company, and its products or services. You have a captive audience right at your fingertips - you should be utilizing this fact to your advantage. Most likely, some of the people on this list are going to be some of your most evangelical fans.
Every company hopes to eventually have an army of evangelists when they start to engage in social media. With e-mail lists, you likely have a greater potential of turning fans of your company into evangelists using a lot less resources than if you just went straight out into social media communities and started engaging.
Remember, the people on your e-mail lists chose to sign up, they chose to hear your message, and they chose to be kept informed of your latest content or news. They did this of their own volition.
What happens when people find a great piece of content that they find valuable? They share it, right? And how do they share it the majority of the time? Via e-mail.
Think about all those e-mails you get from your friends that are funny videos from YouTube or those hilarious pictures from I Can Has Cheezburger. People shared those with you because they found the value in them and wanted to share it with their friends in the easiest way they knew how - by just hitting "forward" on their e-mail. They didn't have to sign into a community, find a page to post it on, or click any other buttons; they just hit that forward button.
One of the easiest ways to make your e-mail list members feel special is to treat them in a special way. If you're creating "shareable" content, such as a special video, photo, infographic, or content that's meant for social communities, create a special version for them. Even better, give them the "sneak peak" first. Let them find the value and then start disseminating it to their friends. Let word-of-mouth work to your advantage with your e-mail list members.
If they feel special because they got the "sneak peek" before anyone else, they'll want to share that sneak peek with their own inner circle, because that makes them look like they're "in the know." It makes them "look good" to their friends and the more you can make them look good, the stronger the bond you are creating with the people on your e-mail list.
Don't be afraid to take this approach with your newsletters, too. Before you host the newsletter on your site for the entire public to see, let the people on your e-mail list have exclusive access to it first. Give it a week and then let the rest of the public see it or have access to it.
This is especially useful if your e-mail contains special offers, coupons, or time-sensitive information. It'll help encourage others to sign up for your newsletter or e-mail list because they now perceive the value of "getting the information first." Exclusivity is a great way to start forming relationships with people who can later turn into your biggest fans or most active evangelists.
E-mail marketing isn't dead, by any means; it just needs to be utilized in the right manner to be effective. It can be a social media marketing strategy's best friend when you're looking to launch and promote valuable content designed to be shared with communities. Seeding it out first to your e-mail list can be one of the best ways to build a foundation for that valuable social media content, and help you to gauge just how valuable your audience will find it.
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Liana "Li" Evans is the author of the award winning social media marketing book, "Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media" and she is the president and CEO of Da Li Social, as well as an adjunct professor for Rutgers University's Mini MBA Program. Liana has also been featured in the books "Online Marketing Heroes" and "Video Marketing An Hour a Day." As an established online marketing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience she's focused her unique skillset to specialize in integrated marketing and how companies can successfully strategize integrating all online marketing channels as well as offline traditional media. Her deep technical combined with a public relations background enables her to partner with clients for establishing successful online marketing campaigns that combine cross-channel tactics cohesively.
Li was the search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing architect for such companies as QVC and Comcast (Fancast) and has consulted with several other different sized companies such as AOL MovieFone. Her wealth of knowledge in dealing with large e-commerce and content sites allows her a wider perspective into what it takes to launch successful marketing campaigns in the online space.