How to truly integrate social media and email
24 Apr 2012
Integrating your email and social marketing used to be simple. It just meant adding “share to social” or “Share with Your Network” (SWYN) buttons to your emails. These days nearly everyone does this – Chad White, research director at Responsys showed that 88% of US retailers now use SWYN.
Integration isn’t just adding SWYN buttons
I’m not sure how much SWYN buttons really help. They might prompt the action in some, but the context isn’t right for most who will be more interested in the content of the email. I think that integrating social media into email marketing gives a lot more opportunities, provided you have a strategy for integration and if you’re structured in the right way to do it.
At a recent email conference, I asked how many attendees were responsible or at least could control communications for both email and social “channels” and around half of the audience could – this is encouraging!
Social media as main focus of a campaign
We’re starting to see more examples where social media is the main focus of the campaign, which has to be the way forward for the biggest impact. Social networks are used as the platform to offer value and encourage sharing. Here’s an example from last Christmas:
Mothercare social email campaign
So, what issues should you consider when creating a strategy for integration of email and social? These are some common success factors I see where companies get this right.
1. Value proposition
As you’ll know, gaining response from email campaigns is all about delivering relevance and value. Exclusives and special deals have always worked well with email, and we can turn this to our advantage to gain interest and encourage action.
Many email marketers are now offering exclusive offers in each social channel to encourage following and amplification via the social network.
Today, your email value proposition becomes part of your overall content marketing approach, so you can justify investment in content since it will be shared and syndicated via many platforms, not just email.
Here’s an example from uSwitch
I believe social media works best when each social media channel has a clear differentiated value proposition which reflects the strengths of this platform for delivering content and interaction, and the differentiated audience on each platform.
You can then use email to communicate the benefits of encouraging participation on the social channel. For example: Twitter may work well for deals, Facebook for new product information and Pinterest to engage. I liked this example from McKay Flooring based on Pinterest playing to the strengths of the platform.
McKay Flooring Pinterest page
2. Make email “social by design”
Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook are often to be heard talking about making marketing “social by design”. By this they mean building in a reason to participate and share into communications and products even. I think this can be applied to email marketing too.
Traditionally, email has been seen and treated as a substitute for direct mail without interaction built in. The social networks now give a way to encourage two-way interactions as the Mothercare example shows.
3. Prioritisation of social networks
With a multitude of social networks, if you try to cover all the bases you will be diluting your efforts in the areas that matter. So you need to prioritise your many social channel choices, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, Niche networks and communities on the ones that work best for your audience and marketplace. For example, Mothercare have focused on Facebook in the example above for obvious reasons – the campaign wouldn’t work so well if Google+ and Twitter were part of the campaign too.
It’s also worth thinking beyond the big four social network as suggested by the Smart Insights social radar which is designed to prompt review of the many choices and force prioritisation. For example, we don’t see email integrated so much with You Tube or forums, but that can work too. The platforms nearer to the centre of the radar are the ones where your efforts should focus.
4. Editorial process
I’m fond of saying that “today every business is a publisher”, others are fond of saying this has always been the case… Still, social media demands adoption of the publisher mindset and tools such as editorial calendars for long-term planning.
If you create newsletters, you’ll already be doing this. You will have an editorial content sourcing, review and publication process so that the content and promotions are integrated with offline campaign activities. To work best with content marketing where it can take months to create assets this needs to be longer-term than previously – many will plan for an entire year of content assets to be created and syndicated.
At the other scale we also need micro-planning of social updates through the week, what Facebook calls conversational calendars.
5. Using publishing tools to aid syndication.
Select the best tools for an efficient publication process, for example, at SmartInsights.com we use RSS feeds, Twitterfeed and the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter applications to share content without manual republishing. But you need to add human interaction. Hootsuite works well for managing the human touch and seeing which updates are most popular and can then be featured in the daily or weekly e-newsletter.
6. Encouraging interaction
Think through how you can use email marketing to encourage interaction and participation. There is a danger with social channels that they just become a substitute for push email communications. So think how you will ask questions, solve customer problems and share information and promotions from complimentary companies. Then use email to encourage this type of participation.
Social email marketing works on many levels
Social email marketing isn’t just about the e-newsletter. Event-triggered/behavioural emails can be particularly useful in encouraging interaction. For example, we used to encourage reviews and ratings after purchase on site, now we can also encourage social sharing through the networks.
For many years, I felt email marketing hadn’t moved forward, the challenges of design, delivery, frequency and relevance had always been there. With the challenge of integrating social media, I feel that email marketing is a whole lot more interesting and can continue to justify investment.
Dave Chaffey, CEO, SmartInsights