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« Media Companies Must Divide To Conquer | Main | Presentation: Six Digital Trends to Watch »

Hot or Not: E-mail Marketing vs. Social-Media Marketing

The following is also my column this week in Advertising Age.

Contrary to popular belief, video didn't kill the radio star, YouTube didn't knock off TV and Twitter didn't shut down blogging. However, in each case the steady advance of new technology definitely forced the incumbents to evolve. One can argue, for example, that some of the more established blogs on the web benefited greatly from building content strategies that engender massive link sharing on Twitter. Much the same, TV ad creative has changed to facilitate additional exposure on YouTube.

Enter e-mail marketing, which, to some degree, has been beaten down by regulation, and has taken a backseat to social networking. Nielsen revealed last week that e-mail's share of time declined 28%, putting it in third place, while social networking, the leader, climbed 43%.

Despite these attention currents, however, the reality is that e-mail is stronger than ever. According to an eConsultancy study of 1,400 U.S. consumers, 42% said they prefer to receive ads for sales and specials via e-mail compared to just 3% who said the same for social-networking sites and 1% who preferred Twitter.

Savvy marketers are beginning to see that if they leverage all of their channels effectively, they can increase their overall ROI and, in the process, establish a deeper bond with customers and influencers.

They will have help.

Quietly and steadily, email marketing is evolving and turning more social, thanks to a blitz of homegrown innovations, acquisitions and start-ups that are reinventing the platform. Many companies are building end-to-end "social CRM" tools that will help marketers manage their relationships by mashing up existing customer touch points and social-networking sites.

Here's a look at some of the companies in the space:

  • Constant Contact, an e-mail-marketing vendor, in May acquired Nutshellmail, a handy tool that helps individuals and businesses manage their entire social-networking presence via e-mail. Nutshellmail offers a suite of plug-ins, including one that makes it easy for businesses on Facebook to add an e-mail newsletter. Constant Contact is planning to build this into an entire end-to-end offering for small -and medium-size businesses.

  • Rapportive, which provides contextually relevant information to Gmail and Google Apps users about their contacts and the companies they work for, last week generated a fair amount of buzz for raising a seed round that included high-profile investors such as Paul Bucheit, Gmail's architect and now a key member of the Facebook team. Xobni, a similar technology that integrates with Blackberrys, Facebook, LinkedIn and more, raised $16 million earlier this year. Meanwhile, Microsoft's new Outlook Connector brings a similar functionality right to millions of corporate desktops.

  • MailChimp, a popular e-mail-newsletter platform, is in the process of integrating Facebook "like" buttons to campaigns. This will provide marketers with detailed analytics that reveal how many and who clicks on "like" and whether they progressed down the funnel toward a sale, thereby increasing overall accountability.

  • Flowtown and Rapleaf, meanwhile, are taking the opposite approach by helping marketers understand the social connectivity and influence of existing members in their online databases. Flowtown has an e-mail-campaign-management system that integrates with many of the larger platforms, as well as an array of powerful insights tools.

As more marketers apply analytics across the entire marketing spectrum (online and offline) and tap into tools like the ones mentioned above, the mentality will change from reach to relationships. In the process, both e-mail and social-media marketing may gain, but what's clear is that the two are increasingly made for each other.

Reader Comments (21)

Both need to be done well, but forgetting one won't kill your business. Thanks for the solid post, Steve.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott Magdalein

Email marketing will continue to thrive as long as we constantly give our customers a reason to "check their email".I don't see Twitter rivaling email anywhere in the near future. People don't save their tweets to read for later. Maybe one day.So, I guess they are bot hot for now.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Coddington

Lets not forget that email marketing is 1:1 and social marketing is still primarily 1:many. Both have their place depending on what you're trying to achieve. I think it's flawed to have a "direct marketing" strategy and a "social media" strategy. It's about communications objectives, customer segmentation and insights, content strategy...and then an engagement plan that considers the best method to achieve the goals. I'm a huge convert to social marketing, but I've also significantly increased and innovated in my e-marketing approach. A combined/integrated solution is delivering outstanding results. Thanks for the great post presenting an informed and balanced view.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Hey Steve, thanks for the Rapportive mention, and thanks for the TNW pic :) Were you at the conference?I think it's worth mentioning that the tools you list are part of a connected ecosystem. For example, RapLeaf is a strong source of data for us at Rapportive, and also feeds directly into Flowtown and MailChimp, e.g. another example, it's possible to see your MailChimp data from inside Rapportive, e.g. ; think we'll see even more of these integrations in the near future, which will make it even easier for marketers to develop relationships with readers — everybody's going to win.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRahul Vohra

Thanks Rahul, I wasn't - and you are right. 

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Rubel

I'm really pleased to read this post. We've been thinking exactly this - and are actually running a conference about the convergence of email and social media in San Francisco on 17th Sept. Flowtown, Rapleaf and Nutshellmail/Constant Contact will be there, plus Brian Solis. We'd love to have your input too Steve, if you're available? (Live or virtual)

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLuke Brynley-Jones

Email is a necessity now, much like we use to think of the phone. On the social side, there are 2 big names: myspace, and as my friend would say, "those who go to the dark side,(facebook), which is for people addicted to games." Life would be hard for me without email, and I am of an age that I lived most of my life without it.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSherry Rheaume

Great article! For email, I like Mail Dog - - They offer a great system with great customer support and many customizable features. They will host your landing pages which is really nice for many clients and they offer great video and social media tools.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob Newton

Great post - I think that as social media marketing continues to grow, email will need to become two things: (1) more social, or (2) more personal. As long as email keeps moving in those directions (and this is both a technology issue, but also a usage issue) it will be an extremely powerful tool.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWill Marlow

FeedBlitz integrates email w/social media marketing, allowing readers to choose whether to get updates via email, Twitter, Facebook or IM. So it isn't either / or, but rather "how would you like to keep up?" FeedBlitz also offers integrated campaign tracking metrics so online email and social media marketers can track the relative effectiveness of each channel (see )Thanks!Phil HollowsFounder and CEOFeedBlitz, LLCwww.feedblitz.comTwitter: @phollows

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Hollows

Not sure about you, but I feel that email advertising is a lot easier to ignore than something a more 'intimate' like facebook or twitter. That is why people say they 'prefer' it via email, given the choice.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAleks Bochniak

  My email is where I stay in touch with family and friends, it is always the first thing I check. Sometimes I don't get on face book for months because it is nothing important on there, just games which I don't play. I get on my space more often to write and read BLOGs, but not for personal correspondents.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSherry Rheaume

I think email marketing is more effective than social media marketing, but it may be better to adopt them together. I see your recommendation list and here I suggest another marketing service---Comm100 Newsletter, it can send emails and newsletters to targets with a high delivery rate. You can have a look at it and hope it will also become one in your list.

August 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

How much is too much ??This brings us to the question "How much is too much??" ie how much of gmail,google,ymail,social networking, orkut,facebook,youtube,twitter,blogging etc is too much ?? Can every thing be done through computer ?? What about face to face meetings ??Even though n number of channels can be brought on the digital media, people need to be aware that customers have only 24 hrs a day and they will have to ration their time on these channels accordingly. For every "n" new channels added, users may lose interest on "n" other channels and stick to only the best of these channels for a while.

August 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergk

It is nice to see a post that points out how email marketing is still effective. I have been reading a lot of information that says the opposite over the past couple of months and it is frustrating because a lot of major companies have completely given up their email marketing campaigns and are using social media exclusively. I think this is a big mistake, as a company should leverage all marketing strategies. It is true that a lot of people use social media, but many people don't and companies are risking losing those customers if they let all of their other marketing tactics go out the window.

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVee Sweeney

I totally agree with the assessment of using email marketing with social media and the statement "when used effectively, social media can actually work to enhance the effectiveness of email marketing." Since implementing a social media and email marketing strategy, i have seen the open number of my emails go up steadily since we implemented the plan.

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Zielski

Nice post! I use NutShellMail for the oneforty account and love it! The daily updates really help me keep track of stuff. I'm dying to get on board with MailChimp. I work for the Twitter app store so I'm clearly a true believer in its power but even I do actually think this is one of several parts of the marketing mix. I think that's why I like MailChimp so much, is because it helps you integrate many of your marketing efforts like SEO, social media and obviously email into one service.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Aronica

Email marketing is still hugely effective.As a 'push' communication tool, many more people actively respond to email than social media because people check their email accounts so regularly. And users have setup email on their phone - which makes it the second best push communication tool to SMS.

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Howard

This is interesting topic to be discussed by all. I think social media marketing can never fell down because of number of people using social networking site. Even a survey few days ago told that there more old citizens then young one who are using social networking site.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRecover Data

Excellent article and thank you for sharing. For me, personally, email marketing can be annoying. It all depends on the product(s) and how they're presented along with the frequency of campaigns.

September 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Schoenberger

I go with Social media! When people talk about their social media strategy they are usually talking about their Goals.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie Sting

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