September 23, 2022

Email marketing vs. Social Media: Which is most effective for your business?

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Understanding whether email marketing or social media marketing is right for a business may be a difficult task upon the outset. These are two of the newest and most widely distributed means of marketing to potential clients in the modern era. Both email marketing and social media marketing campaigns allow small to medium size businesses the opportunity to cast as wide a net as possible to grab more attention and draw conversions out of customers that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

How does email marketing engage customers?

Email marketing is one of the single most prolific marketing tactics. According to Statista, email is here to stay. As of 2021, there are currently 4 billion regular email users in the world, a sizable chunk of the world’s population. Statista also expects that this number will only grow. By 2025, it is expected to hit 4.6 billion total email users and continue climbing. This massive population of potential customers should not be overlooked by marketing managers looking to make the most out of their budgets.

Email is not only used daily by much of the world, it is an incredibly active method of communication. Again, from Statista, more than 306 billion emails are sent and received every single day. This looks like nearly a hundred emails per person per day. Mailchimp and HubSpot, two of the largest email marketing services, are in the unique position of seeing the click-through and open rates for the marketing emails they manage. About a quarter of the marketing emails sent are opened, and the average click-through rate is much lower, standing around 2%.

These performance numbers, on their face, seem quite low. Email marketing relies upon the economics of scale to show ROI. A 2% clickthrough rate of marketing emails sent translates to a raw number of conversions from an otherwise untapped market. This makes email a relatively inexpensive method of marketing at scale for businesses. In fact, according to Campaign Monitor, nearly 60% of small businesses surveyed in 2021 planned to increase their spending on email marketing campaigns in the future. Email marketing is an excellent tool for any business looking to cast a wide net with a small budget.

How Does Social Media Marketing Engage Customers?

Social media marketing is a much more broad approach to digital marketing. A good social media campaign engages your audience by allowing your business to opportunity for a brand to create and curate the public’s perception of said brand. Social media marketing, then, is a softer approach to marketing a product or service. Email marketing, conversely more closely resembles its analog cousin, direct mail marketing. Social media’s soft approach is concentrated on drawing in customers by creating a positive perception of a brand, according to a study in the International Journal of Marketing, nearly two-thirds of customers consider the perception social media has given them of a product when considering a purchase.

The power social media has when it comes to reaching out to customers and making a connection with them in order to secure conversions can not be overstated. Successful social media marketing campaigns have a similar conversion and clickthrough rate to email marketing campaigns, sitting around 2-5%. Social media marketing is also a number’s game here. A JEMA study of social media marketingfound that social media marketing is best used to foster goodwill between a brand and its customers.

Any business can benefit from social media marketing as long as it knows who its target audience is. Social media marketing requires more hands-on steering than an email marketing campaign, because culture online moves so quickly and maintaining positive public perception is a constant struggle. Social media marketing is a much more data-driven marketing strategy than email marketing. With social media marketing, a firm understanding of who your target audience is, which social media sites they are likely to use, and what time your audience will most likely be online. The social media marketing dance is quite complex and usually requires a dedicated social media manager or the use of social media management tools.

Can the Two Be Used Together?

The beauty of social media and email marketing is their cost effectiveness and low barrier to entry. This means that businesses typically benefit from making space for both a social media and email marketing budget in order to pull in a wider audience. The two campaigns will also create a synergistic effect.

Email marketing can be used to serve surveys to customers, allowing businesses to draw a more clear picture of their target market. This clearer picture can then be used in social media marketing campaigns to more effectively serve content and curate an appropriate image for the business running the campaign.

Conversely, social media campaigns can supplement email marketing pushes by reminding customers of deals that have been pushed through email channels and incentivizing social media audiences that have not signed up for an email list to overcome the task inertia and add their names to the roster. We can see this with Birchbox’s Instagram posts pushing followers to peer into their emails for seasonal deals while still signaling to potential customers that regular special offers would be available to them should they sign up for the email list.

Which is best for your business?

Selecting the best digital marketing option for your business is an exercise in cataloging your available resources and deploying them effectively.

While social media marketing allows your business to cast a wide net and interact with customers in a more authentic and immediate manner, it can quickly become a labor-intensive practice. Social media marketing will require generating copy for multiple posts a week, and close monitoring of trends to remain relevant as the social media landscape evolves in real-time.

Email marketing requires less pinpoint targeting and real-time adjustments, making it a more resource-friendly method of digital marketing. According to Databox, 33% of marketers send just one email per week and even fewer (25%) push out more than one email a month. This infrequency gives marketers time to plan and produce quality content that is engaging and likely to net lasting conversions. Email marketing also allows marketers to slice their audiences into manageable and customizable chunks rather than pushing a single message to a full audience the way social media marketing naturally must.

While neither method of marketing is expensive, if an operation has less money to work with, email marketing may be the most cost-effective way to push marketing material to a wide audience. Social media marketing on its own is best suited for small operations with a firm grasp of their market or large organizations with the budget to spare on a dedicated social media manager. Ideally — and especially for mid-sized businesses that are rapidly growing — a blend of the two marketing methods will produce exceptional results.