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Email + Social: Reflections and Predictions


By Julia Peavy

With 2011 almost in the books, it’s that time of year again (and I’m not talking about overeating and uncomfortable holiday work parties). It’s time to reflect on how email and social media were integrated in 2011 and where we’re headed in 2012.

Wide Adoption of Community Links in Emails
According to the 2011 Responsys study, Viral & Community Links in Emails, top online retailers including community links (i.e., Follow us, Like us) in promotional emails jumped to 88 percent in 2011 (up from 75 percent in 2010). While top online retailers might be adopting this tactic at a very high rate, not all marketers have embraced this tactic so wholeheartedly in 2011. Look for the inclusion of community links to be adopted more broadly by all email marketers in 2012 as the email and social media departments work more closely together.

Viral Network Links in Email Decrease
The same Responsys study found that only 52 percent of top online retailers included a Share with Your Network (SWYN) or Forward to a Friend (FTAF) link in every email (down from 56 percent in 2010). As marketers better understand what email content is truly share worthy, expect more strategic inclusion of sharing links with SWYN being the link of choice (and FTAF slowly being phased out).

Limited Social Cause Emails

While 2011 saw some marketers starting to embrace the email channel as a channel to promote “social cause” campaigns on their social media properties, there is still a great opportunity to use the email channel to promote a company’s charitable cause efforts. With tighter email and social media department integration in 2012, expect companies to embrace the ability of email to reach additional audiences and communicate more than just a great deal.
Facebook and Twitter are Preferred Social Networks 

Stand alone emails promoting Facebook were definitely most prevalent in the inbox (and Twitter to a lesser extent). Will we see stand-alone Google+ emails making their way into the inbox in 2012? As business launch their Google+ pages, I expect to see marketers experimenting with stand alone email to drive activity on these Google+ pages.  In addition, watch for Google+ community links to be included in standard email templates.

Limited Email Collection on Social Networks
According to the April 2011Silverpop Mocial Survey, only about 10 percent of companies surveyed offered an email opt-in page on their Facebook pages. However, 38 percent of companies surveyed had plans to implement an email opt-in on Facebook. Will 2012 be the year marketers start to take full advantage of their social networks for building their opt-in email programs?

B2B Companies Slow to Adopt Social Media 

While 2011 saw heavy participation in social media by B2C organizations, B2B organizations have been slower to embrace the channel. According to a survey conducted by Accenture in November 2011, “Embracing Social Media in a B2B Context,” only 7 percent of the survey group felt that their organization was leveraging social media very heavily and 9 percent were not leveraging social media at all. 2012 will see more B2B companies developing social media strategies and hopefully, using the channel in conjunction with their more established email programs for a strategic multi-channel marketing approach.

Small Businesses Embrace Social Media and Email

According to April 2011 research from Pitney Bowes, small- and medium-sized businesses rate email and social media marketing channels as the easiest to use and the most cost effective, ahead of direct mail, QR codes, advertising, and mobile marketing. With limited resources, expect small businesses to rely more heavily on these channels in 2012. Look for small businesses to embrace the “easiest” integration tactics (including community links in emails, running a stand-alone campaign promoting their social networks, etc.).

Explosive Mobile Growth
eMarketer predicts that 28.8 percent of the overall U.S. population will own a smartphone by the end of this year. This smartphone penetration is fueling increased mobile activity for both email and social networks. According to the newly released Return Path study on mobile email viewership, email opens on mobile devices is up by 34 percent from April 2011 through September 2011, as compared with the previous six-month period. With mobile having such a tremendous affect on both email and social media, 2012 will be the year marketers start to explore how to best capitalize on integration tactics (e.g., emails optimized for mobile that promote social games, location-based campaigns, or mobile apps) that take advantage of this mobile boom. 

What email and social integration trends did you see 2011? How do you see marketers integrating these channels in 2012?

Julia Peavy is director, response consulting for email security and deliverability firm Return Path.


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