Which Drives Better Response? Email marketing or social media?

Here’s a comment I read recently in an online forum:

“Other marketing channels, such as email, still prove to be better at driving conversions than social. Despite this, companies are still spending a lot of time and effort on their social campaigns – why?”

My first reaction was: says who? Where is the data that suggests that email is better at driving conversions than social done well. Certainly you can’t just start a Twitter account, begin blasting messages and hope to generate results, but I have neither seen any research or had any personal experience to suggest that this statement is correct.

In any case, these kinds of questions “which is better, this or that?” always get the same response from me: it depends. It really does. It depends on the marketer’s objectives, audience and the range of communication tools and options available to reach that audience effectively.

In fact, email marketing responses can be quite low for a number of reasons:

  • Much of the email sent is never actually “delivered” to recipients – it’s caught by spam filters or ends up in junk mail folders.
  • Even if the email marketing piece ends up in the recipient’s inbox, given the amount of “email fatigue” that exists it is often overlooked or deleted
  • Of the messages remaining – those that are read – a small percentage actually create a response

Social media can be effective for a number of reasons. Social media tools provide:

  • The ability to develop relationships with target audiences
  • The ability to connect frequently around specific topics/issues of interest
  • The low cost in terms of out-of-pocket expenses (time is obviously still a cost consideration)
  • The ability to use social media to drive web site traffic and, ultimately, some sort of response/conversion

I have also found social media to be especially useful in developing “thought leaders.” A number of my clients use social media in this way.

Social media can be an effective choice and can serve to drive traffic to a web site or landing page. And, as with email marketing, these interactions can be tracked effectively through analytics to see how conversions may be created. But, generally, social media and email marketing are generally two different strategies. Social media efforts are often not designed to lead to direct response, but to be part of a larger, well-coordinated, communication campaign.

Done well, social media can be very effective – so can email marketing. It just depends.

Recommended Reading:

Likeable Social Media

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

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