By Cliff Guy
The current buzz around Twitter has once again brought social networks to the forefront of many marketers’ minds in the same way as Facebook and Myspace did back in digital history. But for all the buzz, it’s important for marketers not to become distracted by social networks and neglect one of their key online marketing tools – email.
One of the great strengths of email marketing is its unique ability to deliver and build 1-2-1 relationships with a target audience. Used well, email does this better than any other marcoms channel available to marketers (excluding costly face to face or telephone contact).
Whilst social networking sites can provide a valuable opportunity for spreading messages, brand values and information virally, they are simply not able to offer a 1-2-1 communication in the way that targeted, personalised email campaigns can.
That’s why marketers who are successfully integrating social network channels including Twitter into their mix, are using them for mass broadcast of content such as white papers, website downloads and blogs, along with scanning them to monitor brand reputation, and facilitate customer service conversations.
There are further barriers to using social networks as an effective alternative to email campaigns. Members of social networks are not receptive to overt marketing messages. The B2C companies that have been successful on social networks have tended to add value in a very low impact way. While there is a place for this tactic, it cannot begin to deliver the responses and returns demanded by direct marketers using email marketing.
Email is highly significant in helping people to decide whether or not they want to buy from you. New research shows that two out of three people in the US use emails to help them decide about online purchases. UK purchasers have no reason to behave differently.
Whilst email is ubiquitous and will remain the primary, daily communication tool in business, interestingly there is currently a blurring of people’s business live and private lives with the use of social networks like Twitter.
Because these tools are new and people are still trying to figure out how to integrate them into their lives, they are ‘friending’ both business contacts and personal contacts on the same social networks.
This blurring of behavior is likely to change, not least as people become less comfortable about the possibility of their clients or their boss seeing pictures of them in full social abandon on a Saturday night out!
Only then will we have a clearer picture of the future role social networks will be able to play in business.