Integrating Social and E-mail Marketing: Where to Begin

E-mail marketers have brushed aside the notion of the e-mail channel’s imminent death. Instead, we’ve fully embraced social as the go-to marketing channel (sorry, search), benefiting both e-mail and social channels.

E-mail and social media are the top marketing tactics that will get increased spending in 2010, according to the “2010 Marketing Trends Survey” from StrongMail. The study also found that integrating e-mail and social is one of the most important e-mail marketing initiatives for 2010, just after improving performance, targeting, and growing opt-in lists. (The last item is often a victim of the social/e-mail fixation, but more on that next time.)

Savvy marketers are trying to figure out how to build their databases and communicate effectively and intimately, while also driving traffic and business. However, the do’s and don’ts of integrating e-mail and social go beyond plugging in a few links on each platform.

According to the StrongMail survey, 27 percent of those surveyed had already implemented an integrated strategy, and another 24 percent had developed a strategy and were researching how to put it in practice. A total of 18 percent of the executives surveyed wanted to add social components into their e-mail efforts and did not know where to begin. Another 10 percent said their CEO’s teenage daughter said they were idiots unless they moved all of their marketing dollars into social widget apps and made her CMO (well, maybe the last one didn’t happen).

Here’s a six-point checklist for developing an integrated e-mail and social marketing plan. This column will discuss two items; next time look for the four other points.

Know Your Audience

If you are a business-to-business marketer, do your subscribers crave MySpace and Facebook logos in their e-mails? Probably not. What about content from and links to YouTube channels and LinkedIn Groups? Maybe so.

There is no template for how and what to include in your e-mail offerings. So, where should you start? Develop an outline of your audience, including where they are in terms of social networks and what you can offer them via both e-mail and social channels. Remember, it takes more than a button to have an integrated social and e-mail communication strategy.

Follow Your Customers

Does e-mail marketing drive a considerable part of your revenue? And is it the key medium for your customers to learn more about your company? Then you should not turn your back on e-mail, especially in terms of continuing to build your permission lists.

Organic e-mail acquisition will be the biggest casualty of the social marketing phenomenon. Why? Go to just about any one of your favorite sites – whether it’s a content or commerce site. Then notice the plethora of share, become a fan, follow us, and other buttons that didn’t exist 20 months ago. Well, what if your customers just use social to connect with your friends and have no interest in social as an advertising medium? They just want good old-fashioned e-mail offers and newsletters delivered to their inbox. Good luck finding a preference center or opt-in signup form, link, box, button, or what have you. E-mail may be the cash cow, but it is too often left hiding in the barn for most sites. Signing up for your e-mails must be easy to find and easy to do.

In my next column, I’ll examine four other points to consider when integrating e-mail and social marketing initiatives, including how to approach list building in a social era.

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