Social Media in Email Marketing: Hurdling the Barriers to Adoption
A survey out this month found that most marketers plan to invest in social media and email marketing campaigns this year. Yet confusion over how to measure their effectives and even where to start are major hurdles to setting out. New Media Knowledge caught up with the report author to get some advice on how to proceed.
According to a survey by email marketing specialists StrongMail this month, two-thirds of firms plan to increase spend on social media (62 per cent) this year and 66 per cent of firms plan to integrate social media into their email marketing campaigns. However, marketing managers admitted that measurement and even knowing where to start were major barriers to adoption.
NMK got in touch with Paul Bates (pictured), managing director of StrongMail, for his take on how firms should engage social media within their email marketing strategies.
Measurement is still a key barrier to adoption of social media. What advice do you give firms on measuring the effectiveness of social media campaigns?
Measurement remains a challenge in social media because most companies leveraging the channel are doing so with technologies that do not enable tracking and reporting. Some of the most popular vehicles that enable sharing within social media campaigns do not provide marketers with data at a contact or “influencer” level. We encourage clients to implement technologies that enable marketers to: (1) Assign traditional direct marketing metrics to social media, such as conversions, and (2) identify key brand advocates within your social programmes so companies can segment communications to this group and incentivise further advocacy.
“Where to start” is also an issue for a third of companies. Where should they begin? What are the key facets to take into account when launching a social media programme?
The best place to start is to figure out where your target customers are active on social networks and why. Take the time to observe the type of activities they are engaging in. Are they creating and sharing content or are they merely using social networks to check out their friend's latest status updates? Companies like Rapleaf can simplify the process by providing an aggregate report of where your customers have a social presence. You can also use services like MySpace's FanSync, which allows you to upload your list and automatically send a Fan request to everyone who has MySpace account. FanSync was designed for bands, but brands can use it too.
Next, check out what kind of presence your competitors have on the social networking sites. See what approaches work and which don't. After figuring out where your customers are hanging out and what they're doing there, you can begin to formulate a strategy that allows you to engage in a conversation with them that inspires them to promote your brand.
Direct Marketing departments appear to be most likely to run social media programmes. Does this surprise you? Who should be running this and why?
No, this was not a surprise. We conducted the research to confirm our suspicion that this was the case. The research also suggested that companies were assigning responsibility for social media marketing to the same teams responsible for email communication. This was not a surprise either.
In recent years, companies have invested more and more in marketing programmes and technology that generate a high return on marketing investment and offer transparency from a tracking and reporting standpoint. The email channel offers the highest return on investment (ROI) of all available digital direct channels. It makes sense that companies are turning to email marketing professionals to figure out how to monetise social opportunities. Furthermore, research from Forrester in July of 2008 shows that email is the most preferred mechanism for sharing content online. If consumers are already leveraging email to share content, it makes perfect sense to leverage the email experience as a launching point for new sharing alternatives.
You say 83 per cent plan to increase spending in email marketing in the next year. What’s the justification for this? How does “email marketing” differentiate itself from spam?
Email marketing is receiving a lot of attention and investment because it is one of the most cost-effective channels available. Unlike broadcast, direct mail or print advertising, email marketing is relatively cheap and far exceeds other channels in ROI. In 2008, email marketing generated $45.06 for every dollar spent on it, according to the October 2008 DMA (Direct Marketing Association) “Power of Direct” report. By contrast, non-email Internet marketing generates half the ROI of email, while non-catalogue direct marketing generated only a third of email's ROI. Legitimate email marketing differentiates itself from spam in the fact that recipients opt-in to receive those email marketing messages, whereas spam is unsolicited.
Around a fifth has no apparent interest in social media marketing at this stage. Are they ill-advised not to at least be dipping their toe in or is social media really not for absolutely everyone?
Every company needs to properly evaluate the opportunity and ROI afforded by social media marketing before making a decision to create a formal program. It doesn't matter if you're big or small, social media can have a profound impact on your business. A “mom-and-pop” restaurant can increase business by prompting happy customers to post reviews online, while big brands like Apple can use social networks to reward and inform their loyal followers. Creating a strategic social media marketing plan might not make sense for every business, but you should be tracking the conversations about your brand at the very least. In doing so, you can gain valuable information on your brand capital, respond to complaints and figure out the right time to dive in.