E-mail Firms Latch on to Market for Social Campaign Tools

 

Following the footsteps of analytics firms, e-mail companies have begun offering products to help marketers manage and track social media campaigns. This week, Responsys joined StrongMail and others in unveiling tools for coordinating things like e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and mobile campaign management and reporting. The connection across these channels: CRM and direct marketing.

The new Responsys product allows marketers to automate and manage messaging across their presences on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to e-mail and mobile. The tool also enables followers to share offers, with all click-throughs and conversions trackable.

Twitter and Facebook followers and friends are “potentially our most loyal customers,” said Michael Manta, marketing manager for Diapers.com, which recently started using the Responsys system. The company had been pushing out offers and communicating with customers across those channels on an “ad hoc” basis before. “Engaging and interacting with them more is an area where we’ve been a little negligent lately,” he said, explaining that he expects the tool to help the company improve in that area.

“Increasingly major companies are looking at social media more as a customer loyalty and retention tool and less as a customer acquisition tool,” suggested Jay Baer, president of social media marketing firm Convince and Convert. “The bigger companies are seeking integration, because it saves them time…and it adds a whole new layer of relevancy for the consumer.”

“What we’ve seen over the past year is our customers and the marketplace saying… ‘I have all these fans – how do I take advantage of this?'” said John Berkley, VP of product marketing at Responsys. “What’s been missing is the set of capabilities and the structure and framework to treat [social media and engagement] as part of their marketing strategy.”

Personal finance service Mint.com used StrongMail’s social e-mail service to test, optimize, and track results of various offers associated with e-mails asking customers to share their positive Mint experiences with their social networks. Those who shared invites in exchange for exclusive access to a beta test shared their experiences with the company with an average of five friends each, according to StrongMail.

As companies struggle to understand how to incorporate social media into more standard campaign channels, many have turned to companies like Responsys and StrongMail for assistance – especially if they use sites like Facebook and Twitter for direct marketing or CRM. “People who are in charge of digital direct marketing are now being tasked to figure out…social media,” said Berkley.

Earlier this month, e-mail firm ExactTarget acquired CoTweet, a service used by businesses to manage and track multiple Twitter accounts and interactions with followers. ExactTarget plans to combine the technologies to integrate e-mail, social, mobile, and Web site marketing. E-mail marketing outfit Blue Sky Factory also incorporated social capabilities last year, enabling marketers to include links for sharing messages on Digg, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter.

After acquiring social marketing firm Popular Media in June 2009, StrongMail aimed to apply its viral technologies to direct marketing goals more typically associated with e-mail. StrongMail’s social tools allow clients like Flip Video and Omaha Steaks to identify influencers and motivate them to drive viral programs, track social campaigns, embed social sharing widgets on their company sites, and manage Facebook and Twitter fans and followers.

The company makes its social products available to clients even if they don’t use its e-mail offerings. “What we’re saying is the function of social marketing and e-mail marketing is not always in the same place,” said Ryan Deutsch, StrongMail’s VP of emerging media, describing how the company’s approach to integrating social products is different from others. “The value of these tools isn’t just to take a message that went up via e-mail and put it up somewhere else.”

Analytics firms have started a social campaign tool battle of their own recently. In an effort to help marketers better track Facebook campaigns, Webtrends, Omniture, and Coremetrics have each unveiled their own Facebook measurement capabilities.

You can follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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