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Email + Social: Attaching Value to Social Media Marketing

7/5/11

By Stephanie Colleton

Let’s take a look at the value of marketing via social networks. It’s no secret that marketers have been struggling to measure the return on investment for their social media efforts. However, a recent report finally sheds some light on the issue. A survey conducted in early June reports that 43 percent of US marketers have successfully used social media to increase customer acquisition in 2011.

Additionally, another study from June reports that each new Facebook fan is worth 20 website visits per year.

That is good news for marketers who have invested in the channel.

What does this have to do with email? As a more established channel, an email program not only often has a bigger audience, it is more easily measured. Because of this, an email program is a great starting point for driving social media followers and tracking the success of such efforts.

Last month we talked about to what degree marketers are including “Like” and “Follow” icons in their emails.Another tactic marketers have embraced for using email to drive social media sign-ups, is sending a standalone email that is a direct attempt to drive social followers. Let’s take a look at how some marketers are implementing this type of campaign. In the example below, personalized handbag-and-accessories company Initials has created a promotion called Facebook Friday in which subscribers can receive free products each Friday by being a fan.

While Initials has dedicated an entire email to social media, it appears the integration is one way. Currently, there is no email sign-up available on the Initials Facebook page (although there were callouts for SMS and RSS). In addition, the only call-to-action in this email is at the end of the email. To encourage more clicks, The Facebook Friday image should link to their Facebook page and an additional link could be added to the “become a fan” in the headline.

In this next example from The Limited, they are specifically promoting Twitter and do an excellent job of listing reasons why a subscriber would want to follow the company. It’s especially important to emphasize the unique value of connecting to the brand via social media versus other marketing channels. For example, by using Twitter the follower can share photos of herself in The Limited fashions.

In this last example, NASCAR offers a discount incentive to become a follower:

The small text at the top touts access to Daily Deals as a reason to follow on Twitter. However, the main message of the email is a one-time discount incentive. The Daily Deals benefit could have been better incorporated in the creative to show a specific reason to follow NASCAR beyond the initial discount.

While reviewing these campaigns, it occurs to us: to what degree is some marketing cannibalization going on here? This is not new to marketers. Cross-channel marketers have their calculations on the value of a catalog customer vs. an email customer vs. a brick and mortar customer.

But now social needs to come into the mix. Marketers need to be tracking what kind of revenue is being generated by their social followers. How does their spending compare to the spending of their email subscribers? Does an increase in social followers at all correspond to a decline in email subscribers? What is the overlap? Are customers who are both subscribers and fans likely to buy more overall?

These are the new types of metrics marketers should be tracking to see if the type of campaign we discussed here makes sense for their program. Driving followers just to reach an arbitrary number of fans/followers goal might not make sense. Marketers should be sure to know what they will get in return for reaching that goal and that it doesn’t draw away from a known revenue generator.

Have you launched social media only email campaigns? How did it work? Are the individuals that receive your emails and follow you on social media more lucrative for you? Have you determined the value of your social media followers? Share your story with us as the value of social media marketing continues to evolve.

About the Author: Stephanie Colleton is director, response consulting at email-certification and reputation-monitoring-services firm Return Path. Along with her colleague Julia Peavy, she will be writing the monthly Email + column. Together they will cover the integration of email with other marketing tools and strategies.

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