Email shines as a permission-based communication channel anchored by a database that captures and uses personally identifiable information. The social channels leverage built-in tools and functionality to motivate and accelerate sharing behaviors. If you can connect the two strategies you will have a potent combo that reaches a brand-aware and brand-positive audience with highly relevant, personal messaging and then gives them the tools to share their enthusiasm along with your news and offers.
For the connection to work best, you need to work it in both directions in a truly coordinated fashion. Your email program should be planned, optimized, and tracked for the standard email metrics plus new measures that illustrate your success in motivating sharing, likes, and other engagement indicators. Similarly, your social programs should be planned and implemented with your email results in mind. And ideally, all your programs would be reviewed and reported in a common dashboard so that you can record and analyze the cross-channel impacts of all of your efforts.
This cross-channel integration is centered in data and more specifically in your email database. Your email database however is not just the repository for all that information; it’s also an action arm that allows you to take advantage of the social data you have collected and the behaviors you have observed and noted.
Here are some ways to best leverage your email and social channels together:
- Give social fans a compelling reason to join your list such as previewed or unique content, tools, coupons, or discounts.
- Intrigue your audience with content snippets or thumbnail images used in social environments. This works especially well as the content is shared among friends, perhaps introducing you to new populations.
- Support users with the tools to easily join your list. A Facebook app is an easy build with a simple form. Don’t give users a ton to fill out. Keep it as simple as possible. Use Facebook Permissions when doing sweeps or contests, which allows you to capture email and other personal information like date of birth without requiring the user to fill out a form.
- Testing opportunities abound to establish winning content, approaches, or messaging that can be previewed in one channel and rolled out in the other. For instance, mine your blog for popular content, then alert email subscribers to this content and invite them to participate in the discussion. The goal is to move your users across channels with you and to keep track of what they respond to.
- Facebook ads are an inexpensive, quick, and easy way to test imagery and messaging. Best practices in Facebook ad copy share some common characteristics with your email subject lines. Both should be short, to the point, and focused on the call to action (CTA) or reason/benefit of taking the action.
- Strategically using your social channels to distribute news and alerts helps you to stay in front of your audience with more regularity without raising the risk of inducing email list fatigue. It’s also free or almost free and makes sense particularly when the message is minor and doesn’t justify an email.
- Increase opens by using social channels to alert your communities of upcoming emails with news, promos, or offers. Post to your communities about upcoming events with language like “Watch your inbox for a special offer coming just to our subscribers.”
- Conversely, use email to preview certain upcoming social events – encouraging list members to become fans or followers, if they are not already.
- If you use social to acquire new email subscribers, make sure you use a related prize to help weed out the prize-seeking populations who are less relevant to your list. Follow up with a qualifying offer or promo that helps you determine the true (potential) value of that new user.
- Make sure users are vetted through an email preference center so that they can specify frequency, format, etc…and you can establish a positive email relationship right off the bat.
- Leverage up your email content – it’s expensive and time consuming to produce well and you want to get as much value out of it as you can. Look for bloggers who reach your target audience and (carefully) reach out to offer them relevant content.
- Add sharing buttons to all your site and blog content so your users can easily take advantage of the technology to help distribute your content.
Social communities have some unique characteristics that you want to respect and employ in building your cross-channel database and marketing plan. Curating and sharing content are the chief activities in social and you want to support these populations with the right tools while giving them a reason and a roadmap to join your email list.
Part 2 of this exploration of leveraging the email-social connection will explore some specific tips for each of the major social properties.