Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing

19 Jan

My Twitter stream today is buzzing about social media marketing trends. @loomisgroup (my current employer) linked to an article by Jay Baer that got me thinking. The article is titled, “Have We Seen This Social Media Movie Before?” The blog post posits that social media marketing is analogous to the basic structure of email marketing and nets similar results. While this may seem like an easy concept to agree with, I think accountability and immediacy are fundamental issues that make the two quite different:

While Jay does casually mention accountability as a dissimilarity in the beginning of his post, he minimizes the effect to which it changes the overall communication structure. Marketing agencies and businesses are only minimally held accountable for their actions when conducting an email marketing campaign. The nature of one way communication doesn’t give recipients a voice so there’s no conversation between parties. This is great if you, as an agency or business, are either lazy or fuck up. The most you get are a few angry emails from customers instead of a litany of disparaging posts on your companies Facebook page. This fundamental shift has led to an industry of professionals crafting outbound messaging with these social platforms in mind. No longer can you buy a list, blast, cross your fingers that 2% click through to your product and repeat. Now to be competitive, companies have to play above board and maintain a level of transparency unheard of previously. This is good.

The nowness of social media marketing has also changed the playing field. Where timing was once the key to the success of an email campaign, messaging consistency is now paramount. Customers have the ability to trend a topic on Twitter in a matter of hours or barrage a Facebook page in minutes. The unmoderated nature of social media means someone has to stand guard at all hours if you’re not willing to be 100% transparent with your audience.

Sarah Palin’s Facebook page is a great example of how badly this can go. In the wake of the recent Arizona shooting people were angrily posting on her page. However, her moderators were removing unwanted posts the minute they went up. This sort of tactic is an option but something will always slip through the cracks. When it does, it appears that you endorse the message since you obviously left it untouched while removing others. In Palin’s case, the post that was missed celebrated the death of the 9 year girl who was murdered.

On the other hand, I recently helped an e-commerce site rebrand and relaunch their site. They have a small but diehard and opinionated audience who is super active in several social venues. On the company’s Facebook page, the audience voiced their reaction loudly and immediately, which was mixed at best. So, the company promptly explained to them why they had made the shift and everyone chilled out and had a constructive two-way conversation about the new branding direction.

The differences between email marketing and social media marketing are becoming more vast than their similarities. Just as new technology has decimated music industry profits, so too will new avenues of connecting with customers destroy outmoded email marketing tactics. I predict that email marketing, except possibly in purely B2B settings, will soon go the way of banner ads.

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