Building an Audience: Facebook Versus Email

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Last year the UK branch of  Ben & Jerry’s announced that they were abandoning email marketing and switching to social media as their main means to keep in touch with their customers. Twitter was busy with the opinions and pronouncements of social media gurus. Blogs were written on the death of email and many eDM professionals pondered their fates. Or at least looked on, bemused. Some may even have sniggered.

Whenever a brand throws out the old in favour of something topical it gets attention. It is bold, and both the professional and amateur media love it. In the end the numbers will either vindicate or invalidate the experiment, assuming they measure the ROI in a way that reflects reality. Everything else is speculation, informed or otherwise.

Facebook has got to be better than email...

As interesting as the lively debate between the social media exponents and eDM professionals was at the time, it just begged the question: ‘Why not just do both?’ After all, I am sure you won’t get tarred and feathered at your favourite morning coffee do if you dabble in the black arts of using stuff that works.

Social Media and Email: With, not Instead Of

How you can use a social media platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, et al, is different from the tools available with email, from users’ expectations regarding content and frequency to how the user can interact with the material, and the platform’s restrictions on what can be delivered in what form to whom.

To borrow from Mitch Joel, it is ‘With’ not ‘Instead Of’. Using both social media and email gives you more options, and increases the size of your potential audience. Connecting with customers across multiple platforms facilitates different interactions, and gives the customer the choice of how they want to connect with the brand. Maybe a Facebook fan that finds no value in your updates would actually love the email newsletter, or perhaps the Twitter account amuses them during their work day while they find eDM invasive. Giving the customer the choice can mean that when they opt out of one channel, they might still connect through another.

Building Audiences on Other People’s Platforms

Building eDM and Social Media Audiences

Facebook fans are not really yours; neither are Twitter followers. Without the accounts they are connected to, these audiences don’t exist. Unlike email. There is also little point in building different engagement strategies for multiple channels without cross-promoting them.

Competitions, surveys and other data collection or content driven special events can accomplish both of these goals:

  • Making the brand’s audience aware of other touch points and
  • Collecting contact details and other information through either a microsite or the brand’s main web presence.

The nature of eDM as a one way communication channel without the ability to demonstrate social proof makes it better suited to direct customers to a range of appropriate social media touch points, where most of the content would be published during the campaign. Cross promotion of the brand’s social media touch points and a call to action that would lead to further entries in the brand’s email database and CRM will generate better connection with and a better picture of the audience.

Promoting campaigns such as these should not be restricted to just eDM and social media. Getting the most out of it requires that other media is added to the mix, be it print, broadcast, SMS, MMS, PR, online display and promotional activity on the brand’s site. However it is executed, there should be two returns to the business:

  • More information on the brand’s customers
  • More points of contact with the brand’s customers.

Do Everything You Can Do Well

Limited access to resources and avoiding uneconomic channels are the only reasons that should affect what tools are and are not used online. There is no reason to abandon one kind of promotional activity online in favour of another. With so many ways to go online and consume information, arbitrarily limiting a brand’s options in how it can reach and be reached by its customers is not a winning strategy.

One response to “Building an Audience: Facebook Versus Email”

  1. Anthony,

    Great article. I can only say that we see the power of the combination of email and social everyday with our merchants on our platform. If you have an interest and some time, I would be glad to share with you our platform benefits and actual results (as they are attributed to various consumer interactions).

    Please advise as to your availability and interest.

    Again, nice article.

    Rob Danielson
    VP Business Development

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