The debate over social and email integration rages on, some say one cannibalizes the other, others say they're completely independent while some believe they're complimentary – the answer? They're all right, but it depends on your objectives, audience and the content used and an integrated strategy.
Today I'm aiming to give you the high level framework to put together an integrated email/social strategy based on how we approach it for our clients.
It goes without saying that objective setting is critical. Like any communications planning your first step before designing an integrated email/social strategy is to clearly define your overarching goals. Are you raising awareness of a brand, shifting perceptions, driving sales, building loyalty or increasing purchase frequency, etc. It's important to note having X number of fans, or subscribers are not objectives – they're an asset you can leverage to achieve a business objective.
First step: Why do your customers engage with each channel, if at all?
Firstly, social media is a generalization, it varies in each country but there are usually a few platforms that make up the majority of reach. In Australia a study (Source: Burson-Marsteller, Aug 2011) found that Facebook achieved a reach of 69 percent, followed by YouTube at 57 percent and Twitter at only 11.4 percent.
The reason people engage with these channels varies too, for example 93 percent of people use Facebook to catch-up with friends and family, whereas only 15 percent want to engage with brands. Whereas it's higher on Twitter, with 36 percent of people wanting to follow brands. (Source: AIMIA/Sensis Social Media Report, May 2011)
What's also very interesting is that people engage with brands for a variety of reasons. On Facebook 69 percent for customer service, 64 percent for product reviews and 35 percent for promotions.
You can see from the graph below (Source: 2012 ExactTarget Digital Down Under Report), that email and Facebook are seen more as channels for discounts, offers and promotions, whereas Twitter is seen as a place to stay up to date with a brand, news and new products.
What drove you to like/follow/subscribe to an organization? (% who agreed with option)
Now overlay all that with your customer's (i.e. students vs. mums vs. young professionals) habits, your category (i.e. luxury automotive vs. low-cost travel) and your brand and you can define which channels should be considered in your strategy and the role they might play.
Fundamental question Does it make sense for my company to participate in the medium?
Step 2: How can you be truly and sustainably engaging?
Once you've identify that there's a potential role in your channels, your need to figure out how you'll maintain a relationship through content. Without good content any channel will die an instant death, it's so easy to opt-out of these channels so break their trust and they're one click away from unsubscribe/like/following you.
The fact that someone has opted-in to your brand should be respected, they're trusting in you to deliver value. Breaking that trust may negatively affect any equity built in your brand.
Another important consideration is that in email/social channels you're competing with your customer's friends, family, colleagues, boss, celebrities, deal sites, entertainment, news and your competitors.
"On Facebook, you're competing with people's friends" – Paul Adams, Product Team at Facebook.
So to create engaging content don't just replicate your mass reach activity, think about it as a conversation. Treat them with respect, give content that they'll love and be ready to adapt and you'll build long term customers at scale. Remember you can quickly see what content works (clicks, likes, RTs) and what doesn't, so communicate, listen and change – get rid of the bad stuff, do more of the good stuff.
In coming up with engaging content an important step is to audit all the content opportunities that exist within your organization. To do this for a large luxury department store in Australia we identified a stream, river, even torrent of content opportunity across their business they never realized existed. One great stream was from their suppliers who have amazing content in the form of stories, advice, trends, reviews and more that they've been dying to get out to consumers. So much content was found that our client has a very active daily content calendar with a back log of 3 months of content.
And finally design a content strategy that's sustainable – make sure someone can maintain it, there's plenty of breadth and it delivers on your overarching objectives.
Fundamental question Why would someone want to engage with us, come back and share?
Final step: Define the role of each channel
Now you've identified the channels that make sense for your brand, customer, objectives, and defined a sustainable content strategy, it's time to define channel roles.
A first step is to define the weighting of ‘types of content' per channel. For example, with the same luxury retailer from above, we defined the role of Facebook to be 70 percent ‘engagement' and 30 percent ‘promotional', whereas email was the other way around and the website was in-between. This enabled us to evaluate content opportunities and see where there was double up (which is fine) and where there were differences in channels. We could then set those expectations with new subscribers so they get what they're anticipating.
Then think about engagement, relevant and frequency with each channel and piece of content you're delivering.
Fundamental question Is it clear the role each channel plays in delivering engaging content to achieve our objectives?
Summary So do email/social integrate? Well, yes, no and maybe, depending on audience, brand, category and objectives.
First step: Why do your customers engage with each channel, if at all? Does it make sense for my company to participate in the medium?
Step 2: How can you be truly and sustainably engaging? Why would someone want to engage with us, come back and share?
Final step: Define the role of each channel Is it clear the role each channel plays in delivering engaging content to achieve our objectives?
A few good references
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As Executive Planning Director at Visual Jazz Isobar Australia, Simon Small has established one of the country's largest digital strategy teams, comprised of 30 planners, data analysts, researchers, and social media specialists. Social media is focal point for him, having initiated best-practice processes and a team of community managers who oversee social influencers, promotional campaigns, bought advertising, customer service, and crisis management. A digital advocate for many years, Simon established the industry body, Love Digital, which was later merged into Marketing magazine, and co-founded Melbourne's Social Media Club. He continues to support AdSchool as Head Lecturer in digital strategy and recently rewrote the national curriculum for the course.