Email vs. Social

With all the talk in the news lately over the future of Facebook, it?s natural for this question to come up. It’s not the first time, either; people have wondered about the utility of Social Media since the commercialization of MySpace in 2004.

So why don?t we have an answer yet? The reason most people give is that unlike email, where every customer reaction can be tracked and calculated to a T, social media lacks quantifiable benefits, creating an ambiguity that could potentially throw the argument either way. Basically, they’re saying that we can?t agree on an answer because there isn’t one. But the truth is simpler than that: Email vs. Social Media isn’t a valid question.

That’s not to say that you shouldn?t be constantly evaluating where and how your company markets itself. That IS important. However, boiling that decision down to a choice between electronic mail and networking sites glazes over the fact that the two media work much, much better together than they do individually. In other words, it’s not Email vs. Social, it’s Email PLUS Social.

So how do you integrate? The first step is doing what you may be already: including recognizable social icons in the header and/or footer of your emails. Whether it’s one, the other, or both, you’ll want to give your audience direct links to your social presence in the most obvious way possible. Icons have the advantage of being both visual and relatively small, making them attractive and easier to identify than text hyperlinks.

Next, you’ll want to highlight Social content in your emails. Are you running a contest? Attending an event and liveblogging it on Twitter? Let people know! Whether it’s a one-off or part of a regular newsletter, keeping your audience informed about your social promotions will boost engagement and ensure that your campaign makes an impact.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that email seems to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this relationship.

So how does Social pick up the slack? By generating new contacts for your campaigns:

Social media networks are a great place to promote or even host list-generating sign-ups and surveys. By alerting your fans to these opportunities and providing proper motivation, you’ll be able to draw from a pool of users not regularly considered for email targeting. Additionally, you’ll want to consider using Social-driven contests to draw an audience.