If you're considering implementing an email marketing program but aren't sure if your resources would be better spent expanding a social network programs, or if you're considering decreasing the amount of email you send in order to focus more on social network, this article explores whether or not social network is really "killing" email.

The Rise of Social Network

Before the rise of the mass social media networks, communicating with your users or customers was a lot easier. Most of them read email, and they read it frequently. However, now people admittedly spend less time in their inbox and more time on social networks. As a result, many marketers have shifted their focus to social network marketing to the detriment of their email programs. In this article, we'll explore why social networks haven't replaced email and shouldn't alter your email marketing strategy.

The Numbers

Prompt Communications of Boston recently completed a study that revealed that social networks, and Facebook in particular, are replacing email as the most popular way to stay in touch with friends. 96% of respondents regularly use Facebook to connect with friends, followed by text messaging at 93% and email at 91%.

But that doesn't mean that people aren't going into their inboxes. Email is still the primary communications tool for work and office related communications. Email is also where people receive their receipts and purchase confirmations for online purchases. People do go into their inboxes, often daily, to transact in non-personal ways. While in their inboxes, people are still able to receive, and often are receptive to, your email marketing campaign. There are some very compelling reasons to keep an emphasis on your email marketing program.

Monetizing From Social Networks vs. Monetizing via Emails

One of the most important reasons to keep your email marketing program in tact is because of the increased viability of direct response marketing via email versus via social networks. How users behave in both environments is very different. In an email environment, assuming that you can get the user to open your email, the user is then involved in a solo activity with no other distractions. He or she can read (by which we mean scan!) your email and be funneled into clicking links or taking other actions. Users are involved in the isolated activity of absorbing and responding to your message.

In a social network environment, however, it's much more difficult (though not impossible) to generate direct response actions or sales. Though Dell Computers reports great success with their Twitter campaign, most other businesses (and particularly mid-size and smaller business) have experienced challenges with converting social network users to revenue streams. It makes logical sense. In a social media environment, users are not as compelled to follow through with actions. They are in the network to explore information and, more importantly, interact with other users. Convincing a social media user to become a receptive action taker rather than to read your message and then move on to the next opportunity to interact with other social network users is challenging, time consuming and takes a much longer tail to result in action.

Social Network Migration: Why Maintaining Your Email List is Key

Remember just a few short years ago when everybody believe that MySpace would last forever? Today, MySpace is struggling with revenue and much of its user base has migrated to other social networks. Moving your profile and following from one social network to another isn't challenging. As soon as their friends and contacts start to do it, users will follow them. Just because we believe that nobody would ever abandon Facebook or Twitter today, it doesn't mean that a better option, using better technology, won't come along. And when it does, you'll need to build your social network audience from scratch again.

Conversely, while people do change email addresses, they do so infrequently and often keep the same email addresses for many years. In some cases, even if they change their email address, they'll still occasionally check their old address. Once you have an email database, though there will be attrition, you have a more reliable and long term method of contacting users.

Also, your house email list is a company asset. In the event that your exit strategy involves having your company purchased, the number of registered email addresses that you have on your house list can be factored into the overall value of your company.

There has yet to be a social network that has proven that it can withstand a decade of use, but many email providers have! Don't abandon your email list unless you're willing to take the risk regarding having your social networking strategy impacted negatively by advancing technology.

Better Email Marketing is the Key

Don't fool yourself though, the fact that users spend less time in their inbox than they used to will absolutely impact your email marketing campaigns. You'll need to focus on four things to make email marketing in the social networking era work!

Relevant Offers: Inboxes are crowded, and users will want to clear them out quickly. You don't have the luxury of sending out non-compelling offers to users any more just to benefit from a small percentage response. Take the time to segment your list, study what offers your users respond to and then send only the best offers out via your email campaigns.

Great Subject Lines: Again, because inboxes are more crowded and people spend less time in them, deleting email without even reading it has become more common. Make sure that you spend time and effort on your subject line. You're competing with more email for fewer resources than you used to. The subject line is the most important step in the process these days!

High Deliverability: This should go without saying. Even if you didn't make it into the inbox, it used to be that people would occasionally scan through their spam or junk folders. This isn't the case any longer, so making sure that your sender reputation is clear and your messages are not going to junk folder becomes even more important.

Longer Tail Offers and Content: Because people go longer between checking their inboxes (sometimes days, sometimes even weeks), the ability to use email as a real-time marketing or communications strategy no longer exists. If you send an email that needs to be responded to within 24 hours, you'll see much lower response rates than you used to. Make offers (or events that your email refers to) have at least a three day tail for taking action.

Social networks are not replacing email, but they are changing out people use it. Make sure your email strategy responds accordingly. Send good, relevant, targeted emails to clean house-lists. You'll find that email still works best for pure ROI purposes and also comes with a number of other benefits that you shouldn't overlook.

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