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Email + Social Causes: A Missed Opportunity?


By Julia Peavy

Recently, I stumbled across a couple of emails emails that stood out from other emails in my inbox. An email from Power Equipment Direct (PED) promoted a “like” on Facebook in exchange for a $1 donation to Operation Support Our Troops – America!

The other email from French Toast, a school uniform retailer, also caught my eye with the subject line “Meet Mr. Toasty.” This email invited me to visit the French Toast Facebook page to show my support Mr. Toasty’s mission to say “no” to bullies.

Not only did these emails catch my eye, they got me to click (something that is increasingly more important as ISPs consider engagement as a component of inbox delivery).

While each email took a different approach, both messages supported a cause that likely resonated with their audiences and stood out from the multitude of special offers email subscribers receive on a daily basis.

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These emails got me thinking: While there is no shortage of emails in my inbox that promote a one-time discount or special offer in exchange for a Facebook “like,” I am hard pressed to find many emails that encouraged me to “like” a brand on Facebook in exchange for something that benefits the greater good (like the ones from French Toast and PED). And yet, there are several social cause campaigns running on Facebook for major brands like Macy’s, Levi’s and Walgreens.

However, none of the recent emails I received from these companies encouraged me to “like” them on Facebook in return for supporting their cause. Of course, I potentially wasn’t the target for an email promoting the social cause, but I would welcome a break from the constant flow of promotional messages and be given the opportunity to support a good cause (and keep up with the brand in a different way).

From my inbox perspective, it appears these brands are all about promotions, discounts, and deals. These brands are missing an opportunity to engage with an audience that likely contains their biggest brand advocates: their email subscribers.

The fact that many emails promote a “like” on Facebook in exchange for a discount or special offer is hardly surprising given The Meaning of “Like” report recently released by ExactTarget.

According to report, most Facebook users expect to receive access to exclusive offers and content (58%) and discounts and deals (58%).

One could argue marketers are just giving their audience what they want. And yet, marketers can use their social cause campaigns as an opportunity to highlight their brand in a new light and also increase their social media audience. With a bigger social media audience (driven by social-cause emails), these brands can then give their social media audiences what they want to keep them engaged (e.g., discounts, special offers, etc.).

If your company is running a social-cause campaign, don’t miss the opportunity to engage with your email subscribers in a new way and take advantage of one of your biggest assets, your email list.

Give your email subscribers a break from your promotional content and provide the opportunity for them to see you in new light (and potentially gain the ability to reach their social networks).

Who knows? Your biggest brand advocate might be the quiet email subscriber with a huge social network. While many of your subscribers like a good deal, they may like supporting a good cause as well.

About the Author: Julia Peavy is director, response consulting at email-certification and reputation-monitoring-services firm Return Path. Along with her colleague Stephanie Colleton, 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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