Why Email Marketing Beats Social Media Every Time
Matt Harris, martechadvisor.com
When the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke last year, the average monthly Facebook ad spend dropped by a staggering 85%, going from $140,000 US in January 2018 to just $20,000 US by May. Big brands like SpaceX, Tesla, and Playboy made headlines by leaving the platform completely.
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Average spend rebounded within a few months but even though brands started spending again, user trust in the social media giant was, if not completely broken, then at least significantly eroded. Many users, mostly millennials, continue to leave the platform and many of those who remain are reducing both the amount of time and the amount of data they’re willing to share.
So is social media marketing dying? I wouldn’t go that far but I will go out on a limb and suggest that it’s a basket brands might consider filling with fewer eggs. And a great alternative is one that’s already an integral part of any well-rounded digital marketing strategy, and it’s one that has proven advantages over social media: email marketing.
Any marketer might get a bit giddy at the thought of an ROI in the 300%-400% range for Facebook ads and organic content combined. But compare that to email marketing’s ROI of 42:1 — that’s 4200% for the mathematically challenged — and it loses a bit of its shine.
Now, don’t get me wrong — Facebook and social media ads, in general, have their place. They’re invaluable for increasing brand awareness and for acquiring new customers. They’re also effective places for building user communities — finding your brand’s tribe. But perhaps most importantly, social media is the perfect place for driving sign-ups to your email list.
Email marketing has significant advantages that go beyond that impressive ROI stat. Let’s take a look at some of the big ones.
With any social media platform, you’re at their mercy when it comes to the data they choose to allow you to use. You have no insight into the integrity of the data, how up to date it is, or how many ‘fake’ versus ‘real’ accounts it includes. But with your own email list, you own your customer data. You have the tools to verify email addresses and other data points. You can purge old and inactive data. No one but each individual customer can take that data away. No one can throttle (or terminate) your access to it or charge you more to use it. And the more you embrace your own data, the clearer it will become that no one can possibly know your customers as well as you do. Not even the behemoth that is Facebook.
All that data is hugely powerful but with great power, comes great responsibility. Protect your customers’ data as if it were your own. Establish and maintain CAN-SPAM, CCPA, and GDPR compliance — and comply with the latter two even if you don’t have to. As trust in social media platforms continues to erode, establishing that level of security and transparency will build consumer trust in your brand. And that trust will encourage more customers and potential customers to share more data.
Customers Want Your Emails
Many consumers are growing more and more suspicious of ads on social media while others simply find them annoying. Either way, they’re easily blocked or ignored. But once a customer has opted-in to receive your emails, they truly want to hear from you. In fact, recent research revealed that 47% of consumers prefer email for brand communications, compared to 17% who prefer display ads, 14% who prefer text messages, and 12% who prefer mobile app notifications. Social media? It came in dead last at just 10%.
But — and this is a big but — your email subscribers expect those emails to provide value. That means more than just offering sales or discount coupons — it means personalization that goes far beyond addressing the customer by name. Your customers expect you to know where they are in the customer journey, what they’ve already purchased, which items they’ve browsed on your website, what content they’ve read on your blog, which physical store is in their neighbourhood…. I could go on. And they expect your emails to reflect the full depth and breadth of that knowledge — though not all at once in the same email, thankfully.
Use Email Data to Inform Social Campaigns — and Vice Versa
There are multiple ways to integrate your email and social marketing efforts. You can include social sharing options in your emails, to extend their reach and to encourage new fans and followers. You can also solicit social media reviews in your post-purchase emails.
Importing your email list into your social accounts to create retargeting campaigns is one of the most common tactics. Most obviously, you can target ads to your existing subscribers but as previously mentioned, most of those subscribers actually prefer to hear from you via email. You’ll likely get more bang for your buck by targeting a new audience of people similar to your most valuable customers, based on demographic data, location, and interests.
But rather than bombarding that new audience with promotional offers, consider using those ads to build brand awareness and use your CTAs to drive email list sign-ups rather than conversions. With 66% of users making a purchase based on an email marketing message, versus just 26% for social media, those sign-ups will have greater value in the long run and the data you collect as a result will be your own.
Social media is no longer the shiny new toy marketers once saw it as, with both organic and paid reach decreasing as user trust erodes, and with costs continuing to rise as returns diminish. Email, on the other hand, continues to be marketing’s most effective channel. And it isn’t going anywhere, with the number of users expected to reach 3.9 billion worldwide by the end of this year. Email continues to drive healthy and consistent ROI, allowing you to keep all that data in-house while you build customer relationships and generate significant revenue. It’s a basket worthy of more than a few eggs.