Connecting Social and Email Marketing

Recently my firm conducted an executive survey looking at what marketers are doing to connect social and email marketing. The results indicated that marketers’ social and email tactics are rather rudimentary. For example, 52 percent stated they were using social sharing buttons in their email, but just 38 percent stated they are using social listening platforms to discern brand sentiment analysis. To further explore the latest tactics to connect social and email marketing, I sat down with Rusty Warner, vice president of products for Alterian.

David Daniels: How can marketers leverage social listening tools to improve their email marketing programs?

Rusty Warner: Email is more effective at driving business results when it’s paired with social media. Marketers can leverage social listening tools as valuable inputs with regard to campaign strategy and content. Are there specific markets we should target? What are the messages and images which resonate best with those audiences? Are our competitors strong – or weak – in a market we wish to target? How does that change our messaging? These are only a few of the questions to which social listening tools can provide answers to better inform email marketing programs.

Social listening tools are also critical to post-campaign metrics. Many marketers stop their measurement at traditional metrics like deliverability, open, and click-through rates. The only way to get a big-picture look at the reach of your email campaign is to track its viral reach beyond the inbox and throughout the web – so once again social listening tools can prove invaluable.

DD: Is it purely sentiment analysis or are you also seeing it being used for audience segmentation?

RW: Sentiment analysis is a key indicator for measuring brand effectiveness. However, social media data can also be used to refine campaign strategy, drive segmentation, and provide more detailed ROI reporting. When leveraging social media channels with your email marketing programs, you must develop content for different audience segments to enable proper measurement. Include a separate tracking link for each social network so you can measure the sharing effect separately, and construct a new landing page for each email campaign for better tracking. Likewise, use different links for your direct distribution list and social networks. After the campaign, assess the effect of the shared content on purchases or engagement, and adjust your future messaging accordingly.

DD: What are the biggest challenges for email marketers attempting to combine their email efforts with social media sites?

RW: The first thing email marketers must understand is that it’s all about delivering relevant and engaging content. If you expect email recipients to share your messaging with their networks, then it must be compelling. And it’s not just about the right message at the right time to the right person: the tone of voice and how the message is tailored for sharing across various channels are just as critical. Get it right, and you’ve succeeded at viral marketing. Get it wrong, and your reputation for spam and junk mail could trigger an even bigger backlash in the social media sphere.

Secondly, it’s less about targeting recipients and more about understanding their behavior. Who are the brand advocates likely to share your content, and how do you provide incentives for them to do so? When do you direct email recipients to social sites in addition to – or instead of – your own landing pages? Beyond increasing reach and driving positive sentiment, what are your goals for integrating your email and social media efforts; e.g., what are the desired responses from your email recipients versus unknown prospects with whom those recipients share your content?

DD: Finally, what advice would you offer to marketers when starting out to connect their email and social programs?

RW: Analyze to understand the impact of your campaign and fine-tune future programs.

Apply web behavior analytics to landing pages to understand how users interact with the brand’s content. Introducing behavior analytics enables testing and optimization, enabling marketers to understand their consumers’ behavior on a granular level. Behavior analytics can provide insight not just into what works but, equally importantly, what doesn’t.

Get a big-picture view and analyze the campaign’s viral reach by looking at how many people outside your subscriber list had access to your message. This viral reach comes in many forms – social sharing, copying and pasting the content itself, including the message in a blog, and posting links on social networks. Assess the reach and tone of your message as it spreads throughout the web using a social media monitoring tool too. By monitoring social media sites, you can see what content was shared, where, with whom, what type of commentary was included, and what comments were received.

Making calculated adjustments to the offering and the messaging used in the campaign can produce an increase in ROI. Attribute results back to your campaign by tracking consumer interactions every step of the way. Doing so can verify the number of sales, sign-ups, or other conversion activities based on the total number of subscribers. Tracking an email campaign from start to finish, with all potential interactions along the way, is the only way to truly prove the effectiveness of your email marketing program. Thanks David for taking time to sit down with me.

DD: My pleasure. Thank you, Rusty.

For additional resources on how to improve social marketing techniques, see these social columns from my ClickZ peers.

Until next time,

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