In March, Sperry began sending social media “influencers” on fantastic journeys. Over the course of this year, the Odyssey Project will let close to 80 people enjoy an individually tailored adventure. The only requirement is that each share the experience with followers.
Filmmaker and photographer Josh Aldridge went piranha fishing on the Amazon – and nearly got killed. Aspiring Olympic sailor Annie Haeger went winter kayaking in Lake Superior. You get the picture – and so did millions of others, via Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, YouTube – and email.
Too often, email is regarded as the menial servant of marketing, doing the heavy lifting of conversion without enjoying the glamour of social media. But smart marketers like Sperry are including email holistically in their content marketing and social media strategies.
“We’ve seen email shift from ‘save 20 percent’ to being a potential delivery vehicle for some amazing content and digital social experiences,” says Michael Hart, managing creative director of mono, the agency that created the Odyssey Project for Sperry. “We’re seeing email as a powerful channel that can be used in brand-building ways.”
Allrecipes.com is another brand that sends content seamlessly among channels, from email to social and back again. “We want to be everywhere our audience is and provide inspiration at all touchpoints. Our content strategy works best when we are thinking about our audience throughout the journey,” says Brook Greb, email marketing and audience engagement manager for Allrecipes.com.
Pinterest sends more traffic to Allrecipes.com than any other site, so it makes sense for the brand to feature popular pins in its emails – and then invite consumers to repin them. In September, it introduced another experience, allowing cooks to follow each other, and this capacity is also highlighted in personalized emails.
Chad White, research director of Litmus, a platform to build, test and monitor emails, says there’s increasing use of email as a distribution channel for social media content. Brands are more likely now to include popular Pinterest pins and user-generated photos. “Bringing the voice of the consumer into the messaging makes it feel less company-centric and more customer-centric, like consumers chatting among themselves,” White says.
Best Practices for Social eEmail
A recent study of viral emails by Litmus found simplicity of design and content as the most important factors in getting people to forward them. Litmus looked at 400,000 email campaigns, comparing the most-forwarded emails to those in the middle range.
“You’d think fancy, sophisticated emails would get a lot of that forward love –but that wasn’t the case,” says Litmus’ White. “Some of these emails were painfully simple. The lesson is that subscribers really respond to clarity.”
That simplicity includes:
- One or two images
- A single topic
- A single call to action
- A single column of text
Interestingly, when brands in the Litmus study asked email recipients to share the email’s content via social media, they were also more likely to forward the email. “Consumers have already proven that they don’t make channel distinctions the way marketers do,” White notes.
Personalization Vs. Virality
Email marketers have for years trudged unceasingly toward the goal of true personalization as the key toward better ROI. According to email marketing platform Campaign Monitor, emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened, and marketers have seen a 760 percent increase in email revenue from sending segmented, personalized campaigns.
How does that fit in with the newer quest for virality? Very well, actually. Litmus found, rather counter-intuitively, that emails that were segmented, triggered and highly personalized were shared more often.
White says, “Our conclusion is that the more pointed and targeted a message is, the more inclined people are to share that with others like them.” In other words, an email that focuses on a specific interest or topic is perhaps more likely to remind us of a friend with that interest. “People are tagged in our heads with usually very specific attributes, so if an email is not targeted enough, it doesn’t trigger that thinking.”
He adds that, just as email should take a cue from search terms on a company’s website, email content should be informed by social media content – and vice versa. “There are opportunities like this all over the social sphere.”
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