The Role of Email in Social Media

Hands representing email and social mediaThere’s so much written about the social media sites these days — from Twitter, Facebook, and Digg to Flickr, FourSquare, LinkedIn, Delicious…and more. The big question we’re always asked is: What is email’s role today given the growth of social networking, and is there even a role for email tomorrow? I’d actually ask a second question: What is the role of social media in email?

I love both of the questions because one gets at the value of email, while the other gets at the value of social media. Interestingly, many people ask the first question because they assume that growth in one means the demise of the other…just not so.

Working with multiple email service providers, we continue to see phenomenal growth of email’s role and return on investment (ROI) in marketing today. Here are a few ways email and social media are a matrimony that we see living and feeding off of one another for a long time to come. Be a smart marketer and embrace both sets of tools for what they’re each great at, and you’ll see returns limited only by your imagination.

Email starts the social media relationship

Don’t forget that email is the first piece of data every social media tool asks for when you register with them. That goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, and the list goes on. Email is considered the address of record.

Email alerts you to what you want to know about

Email is used to push out notifications of content and communications from social networking sites. Does everyone have time to go browse social networks all day? Not a chance. People set preferences, alerts, saved searches, and more, and have them sent to email. That’s how many people stay abreast of their social media communities. Remember, though, that if you want to get into those alerts, you have to be active in social media. You have to know where the conversations are happening. Contribute to them, and if — and only if — your content is relevant, will it get read or picked up by the many feeds, alerts, and searches that exist.

Email organizes

There’s so much going on among the hundreds of leading social media sites. It’s not easy for anyone to troll them adequately to learn what’s relevant and of interest. So, if you know your subscriber base well, you have a fantastic opportunity to pan for gold and deliver it back to your audience as the golden nuggets they’d be interested in. Don’t give one or two points, but organize, synthesize, and deliver back in a meaningful way that demonstrates your added value. With email, relevance continues to be the name of the game. Deliver relevant content via a newsletter that comes to me, as requested by me, that meets my needs and that I can’t easily find myself through other channels, and I’ll keep reading your newsletter. That’s how you build a loyal audience that tells others about how wonderful you are.

Social media extends

One of the most basic functions of social media is to extend the reach of your messages. Add a ShareThis icon, forward to a friend, or any direct to social icon (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), and you’ll make it easy for those who love your content to share it out to their network. Don’t depend upon just email to get your word out, though; leverage social media to do what it does best — viral marketing.

Social media will build your list

Building your list goes hand in hand with the concept of extending your content. Encourage your subscribers to pass your messages, promotions, and content along to their contacts. If others find your messages to be particularly relevant, they’ll sign up as well. Those additional subscribers can become some of your best and most loyal new subscribers. If you’re not seeing your content passed along to social networks, ask yourself (and your community) why. The answer will likely come back to the value of your content or the relevance of it to your audience’s needs. Fix the content, solve the most pressing challenges of your subscribers, or give away something your market can’t do without, and see how fast the message spreads.

Share what you’ve done to extend email with social media or vice versa. We’d love to learn from you!

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