The Difference Between Like and Love

The concept of “reach” is not one that comes up much in email circles, but among the social media set, it’s practically everything.

The cool kids in the social media department – denied common sense concepts like opens, clicks, and conversions – had to come up with their own terminology to measure engagement.

So they looked to TV (another medium that frustrates attempts at measurement) and borrowed “reach” – the total number of different people or households exposed, at least once, to a medium during a given period.

But the balance in the world of social media “reach” is shifting fast, and email marketers are going to “like” why.

For those unfamiliar with these terms, there are three main categories of reach: owned, earned (organic), and paid.

  • Owned reach is generally measured by the number of subscribers or registered users that you see on your own properties. For email marketers, this might be also called “unique opens.”
  • Earned reach is your brand’s message finding anyone – including subscribers and registered members – on a third-party site, without your direct action (i.e. “goes viral”). When this occurs without having to pay for placement, it is considered organic reach. For email marketers, earned reach happens when someone uses “forward to a friend.”
  • Paid reach is, simply put, the practice of paying publishers to show your ad or content. Think “native ads” when you are looking for context, or Facebook “Custom Audiences” when you are using first-party data for matching. For email marketers, a form of paid reach might be retargeting someone who has visited your site after receiving an email and doesn’t convert. You are using your data to pay someone to find your visitor and show ads – a lot of ads – to them.

It used to be that the social team would set up a Fan Page on Facebook and invite customers to “Like My Fan Page.” For years, brands competed for “likes,” paying social agencies millions of dollars to earn them.

Why? Because it provided brands with a way to organically reach their fans via their News Feed at little to no cost.

But now, while “likes” remain great for friends posting cat photos, they don’t do much for your brand. Heck, Facebook doesn’t even “like” them anymore, having virtually eliminated organic reach on its platform by curtailing any post deemed “overly promotional.” And Twitter, albeit to a lesser extent, is following suit.

Want to reach your “fans” on Facebook or Twitter? You better be prepared to pay… and use owned first-party data.

And where are you going to find that owned first-party data? Email.

Many people use the same email address for both their Facebook and Twitter logins as well as their brand newsletter subscription. That match forms the basis for paid reach, and makes the email address (specifically the hash of the email address) the key piece of first-party data for reaching your fans on Facebook and Twitter.

So while Facebook “likes” are nice, it turns out that what marketers – and social networks – really love are email addresses.

And in 2015, you can bet that your display advertising and social media teams are going to love your data a whole lot more than you’d like to believe.

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