Why Email Is Like Madonna and Facebook Is Lady Gaga

This is the third of my expert feature interviews on emerging areas of digital marketing and how they intersect with email marketing. This two-part interview is with Jay Baer, a highly regarded social expert who really gets email’s yin-yang relationship with the medium. His day job is president of Convince & Convert and he also is the co-author of “The NOW Revolution.”

Jay and I talk about the nuances between email and social, why where email and social “live” matters, and, of course, what Madonna and Lady Gaga have to do with this discussion.

Simms Jenkins: You are the rare social media star that actually finds email not only relevant but essential to a strong social media program. What do you say to the naysayers who claim email is old-fashioned and irrelevant in today’s social age?

Jay Baer: I wouldn’t call myself a social media star, but rather a social media strategist who happens to have a blog some people read, but thank you. I speak and write about email and its integration with social media because I believe it to be strategically sound, and because of my long background (1994) in digital and email marketing. Is email as popular among young people as other forms of communication? No. But it’s still the most viable, measurable, reliable way to communicate to people who have asked you to do so, and that’s not going out of style any time soon. As I’ve heard said, it’s pretty tough to say email is dying when you have to have an email address to even join a social network.

SJ: You previously told me that email is Madonna and Facebook is Lady Gaga. Can you expand on that?

JB: Madonna is the original. Gaga is the newfangled upstart. But fundamentally, they are the same thing with a fresh coat of paint. Email and Facebook have the same dynamic. Both are used to keep your business top of mind among people who have given you permission to do so. Realize that 84 percent of Facebook fans are current or former customers of a company (DDB, 2011). Thus, you are preaching to the choir on Facebook (most of the time) – just like you are with email.

SJ: What does social do that email can’t and vice versa?

JB: Social certainly has the advantage of real-time interaction, and the ability to create back-and-forth conversations where the “fan” (subscriber in the world of email) can create content too. Email has the advantage of being more reliable. Your open rate (a dicey metric anyway) might be just 25 percent, but something like 99 percent of your subscribers will actually receive the email. On Facebook, the percentage of “fans” who see any particular status update from you is 7-15 percent (depending upon whose data you believe). On Twitter, who knows? But, if you think that 53,000 people see every tweet I send, you’re delusional.

SJ: So will email and social continue to be siloed in corporations despite the obvious similarities?

JB: I hope not. But the reality is that in larger companies, email is often still a child of technology or direct marketing, whereby social is more in the communications camp. I see better hopes for synergy among mid-sized and smaller companies.

In Part 2 of my conversation, Jay and I will discuss where social media marketers are dropping the ball when it comes to email, why active social media participants are your best email subscribers, and who is executing best of breed email and social programs.

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