Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! That’s email marketing (Jan) talking about social media. Now that I’ve made myself sound older than I am, let’s talk about how these two (just like Marcia and Jan—of course, Marcia gets top billing) are a lot more alike than you may realize.
Social’s rapid growth in popularity among businesses is primarily because of its power. You’re where the people are, giving them the content they want and when they want it. It doesn’t get much better for a marketer. But with everything businesses know about their customers in the big data world, there’s no reason email shouldn’t be just as popular and even more powerful.
Here are 10 social tips that also work with email marketing as well as how both channels can learn from one another.
1. Set Expectations
Someone stumbles across your Twitter page and reads your bio. They can immediately see what you’re about and get a sense of how you engage online. They know what they’re getting into by following. The same goes for Instagram bios and Facebook’s “About” section.
Email can be trickier. Aside from signing up via an opt-in form, most people who wind up on your list(s) didn’t explicitly ask for content. These people likely purchased a product or service, downloaded a whitepaper or started a trial with your organization.
Maybe you treat them differently dependent on where they came from, but it’s important to make it clear from the beginning with what they should expect. Tell your audience how often they’ll hear from you, what they’ll hear about and basically why it benefits them to stay on your list.
2. Do More With Less (Aka: Have a Ridiculously Obvious Goal)
I have this friend who hates Twitter (sorry, Bryan). He’s a verbose person who doesn’t like being limited when he’s trying to say something. But to a writer or marketer, that’s one of the best things about Twitter—it teaches you to really challenge yourself to be as succinct as possible. The same should go with your email marketing strategy.
One of my team’s favorite phrases for describing how simple email should be is:
Neither social or email is the place to flex your vocabulary muscle. That tweet or email you’re working on isn’t the next Moby Dick. Get to the point without making anyone have to think too much about what you’re saying or what you want them to do. This advice probably extends to everyday life as well.
Yes, it’s conversation, but pointed conversation. If you ignore this and do less with more, your call-to-action (the goal) gets buried and you confuse your audience.
Sometimes simplicity is the best approach with your call-to-action phrases. It’s never good to confuse readers or give them too much to think about when you want people to click your CTA buttons.
3. Use Images (With Caution)
There’s a lot of discussion on how imagery can significantly increase social media engagement. I say this carefully and with a huge caveat, but the same can be true for email.
The standard email image rules apply: make sure your alt image text is clear, engaging and clearly legible in image-off tests. And please, don’t make your whole email one giant, text-filled image.
Humans are visual creatures, which means a clothing company actually showing you the clothes increases the odds of you clicking and buying. But images can increase engagement in email in other ways too.
User Experience (UX)
On our team, we sometimes use GIFs and static images to support the action we want the user to take in order to improve their experience. Here, we show people exactly where to look for the trial extension button once they’re in the app.
We also use images (typically GIFs) to not only showcase the product or feature, but to generally impress people and get them excited and talking. Talking where? On social, of course!
We also know the importance of emojis for marketing. On social media, GIFs can take longer to find or require additional context to your post. However, emojis are a bit more universal and they can really make your subject line pop in the inbox.
4. Be Relevant
Ever heard of newsjacking? How about real-time or moment marketing? These methods—which require a delicate approach—involve brands inserting themselves into trending topics on social media.
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
Oreo responded perfectly when the power outage occurred at the Super Bowl a few years ago.
— LEGO (@LEGO_Group) February 27, 2015
How about the infamous dress that swarmed the Internet for a few days?
But how does this translate to email? Joe LeKostaj, Director of Email Marketing at Sprout Social, explained how marketers need the data around them to stay relative in the fast-paced world of information.
“Between analytics, social profiles and info the user has actively given, you have access to a crazy amount of information about who users are, what they do and what they’re looking for,” LeKostaj said. “If you’re taking all that in and still sending all your users the same email, you’re doing it wrong.”
It’s about knowing your customers and what’s hot with them right now. Rather than sending batch-and-blast style emails to everyone on your list, try sending emails reactively that are relevant to an action they just took. If you do need to send batch-and-blast, segment appropriately with different language and CTAs—depending on who they are.
So that headline from before now becomes “Here’s some **** we know you want to do because we use our data in a surprisingly obvious way and can tell what will resonate with you.”
5. This Time, It’s Personal
One of the biggest draws of social media for brands is its ability to connect them with their customers on a personal, one-to-one level.
— Samuel Adams Beer (@SamuelAdamsBeer) August 19, 2015
Here’s a great example of when Sam Adams gave me a free beer tasting. This is so much more than your auto-generated “Thanks for following – click here for more info!” message. Also, you should probably stop doing that.
While email marketing may not be able to reach that level of personalization (it’s still a one-to-many/robot situation, after all), it’s crucial to make people feel like a message is just for them.
This means using (and cleaning) your data. The last thing you want to do is send an email that says “Hey there, Big Fat Test Account!” But if your idea of personalization is using their first name, it’s time to step your game up. Somewhere, you’re tracking when they last bought, what they last bought, how many team members are on their account, what their interests are, etc. Use that information intelligently to change a generic email to a highly targeted one.
6. Know Your Content Calendar
The companies that are serious about social aren’t just posting messages on the fly as they think of them (aside from responding to and engaging with followers, of course). They have well-thought-out strategies with planned posts scheduled across their various profiles. In fact, Sprout’s own Social Media Manager Darryl Villacorta explained why it’s important to have a clear view of what’s going out, to whom and when.
“Make sure there is consistency across all in-house channels to fire on all cylinders,” said Villacorta. “So long as you’re fully aware of what’s scheduled to go out, when you inevitably run into something more important or pressing like a product launch, you can be ready to quickly pivot your messaging strategy for maximum impact.”
The same holds true for email. As you grow and develop different buckets of users dependent on their stage in the funnel, you need to know the recurring and one-off messages planned for those audiences. Otherwise, when your events team wants to send out an invite, you could wind up burying or interfering with a more direct revenue driver that’s scheduled to go out to the same group.
7. Selling vs. Thought Leadership
Not every tweet needs to be selling something. Even more so, you shouldn’t sell something in every tweet and the same thing applies to email.
For any of you turkeys that are taking flight today: pic.twitter.com/LK7htLeEcF
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) November 26, 2015
Sometimes you just need to establish yourself as a leader in the space by providing good content and by educating your subscribers about your area of expertise. Not sure which will work better or when to go with the hard vs. soft sell? Keep reading.
8. Track Your Results
Speaking of selling, there’a plenty to talk about how to track social media’s ROI in business. This is especially critical if you’re not selling something in every Tweet. Branding efforts have always been harder to analyze, but that’s why tools like Sprout Social help you do just that.
Email is shockingly measurable and surprisingly unmeasured at many companies. Don’t just talk to me about your open and click rates. Talk to me about the end result:
- The product demo
- The survey fillout
- The purchase
It’s easy to get caught up in content creation, list management and just staying afloat rather than spending time analyzing what is and isn’t working. But the benefits you’ll see from setting and tracking goals for individual emails (and for your email paths as a whole) will prove those efforts to be extremely worthwhile.
When a brand first starts using social, it can take a while to find its “voice.” It usually boils down to the way your followers interact with your brand. But in order to get them to start engaging, it might require some testing. So you play around. You try different strategies. Never get so comfortable that you’re no longer trying to move the needle.
The most crucial thing when it comes to testing, though, is testing with purpose. Your test should always be set up to drive the next one. What will you learn here that you can use on the next round? This way, if you fail (you’re going to fail, and that’s OK), it will at least teach you something.
Consider innovation vs. iteration, which is an important distinction. How small are you thinking? Will that subject line test improve this month’s revenue? Do you really know that your email or social program is performing well enough that it wouldn’t benefit from a complete overhaul?
“Innovation seeks exponential gains by experimenting with completely new concepts and designs, whereas iteration seeks incremental improvement by tweaking small details, like wording, colors or call to action,” said Sprout Social’s Chief Marketing Officer Scott Brandt.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: Just try something. Selling vs. thought leadership. Anything. And you’re not in it alone. Utilize everyone on the team because you don’t know it all and a hunch can prove to be very rewarding.
10. Emails (or Tweets) Are Only as Good as Their Landing Page
For the most part, the link you include in your social post or your email will still require further action. The email or post itself is only creating enough interest to start the process—but not complete it.
Dependent on your organization, you may have a whole team dedicated to creating your landing pages, or you may do it all yourself. This can be overwhelming for some marketers who might put too much on their plate. It’s about bandwidth. But it can’t be ignored.
As clever of a writer as I like to think I am, I don’t care if you read my emails. I want you to take that next step. It’s just about how people work. Email is a scan-and-decide medium, whereas landing pages are for consuming content. You either click or you ignore, delete, or unsubscribe (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
If you’re creating a beautiful, descriptive email but the place you’re sending the end user is cluttered, gross and confusing, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
So What Now?
Yes, Marcia and Jan are different. But as you spend more time with each and understand them better, you’ll realize how similar social and email marketing are and that they could actually learn a lot from each other.
So if the entire marketing team sits at your desk, you’re in good shape to find these cross-media connections yourself. If not, break down those silos and see what your team is doing that might work for you too.
If you enjoyed these tips, the next step is making sure you have the right tools.
Thoughts? Please share in the comments below.
Zachary Hanz: Zack is an Email Marketing Manager at Sprout Social and former wildlife card collector and singer/songwriter. He’s obsessed with compelling messaging, fitness, and hip-hop music (all music, really).