Email vs Social Media – which is more effective?

Highlighting the Main Pros and Cons of Each Channel

A common question asked of marketers is which of these two channels is the most effective. Most marketers may be inclined to answer this question based on their preferences, their business and their past experiences, but the truth is that its not a simple answer. Each of these channels has their pros and cons, and whilst many may argue that email is over, and social media has in fact taken its place – I don’t think its quite that simple.

Whilst social media has created its own booming method of marketing communication and social collaboration, it has still not reached the heights that email has – I mean even in its most basic format email has become a central aspect of all forms of internet based activities – even social media sites require email addresses to sign up. That said however, email does not have the reach that social media does, despite having the advantage of age, and also it has lost out to social media for the communication vehicle of choice for the younger generations.

The main point however, is that whilst both channels have their ups and downs, each one is traditionally used slightly differently. Therefore depending on what activities you are planning on undertaking will depend on the real answer to the question of which channel is better for you. That’s why I thought I would quickly highlight the main pros and cons of each – allowing you to see at a glance which channel may be better suited to your individual requirements.

Social Media – The Top 5 Pros

1 – Audience: You can reach customers that traditional marketing misses, and expand your reach outside of the contacts that make up your existing customer databases and subscriber lists.

2 – Interactions: Prospects can easily interact with your content, sharing and sending high performing posts viral, and adding in their own feedback quickly and easily through a channel that is built around being heard and speaking out.

3 – Loyalty: You can use social media to build your brand, demonstrate personality and interact with customers and prospects. This shows your target audience that you care about their opinions, their wishes and more and breeds loyalty by boosting your reputation and building longer lasting relationships with your followers.

4 – Speed: Social Media is perhaps the fastest way of getting a message out to your followers, prospects and customers. With just a few clicks you can let your audience know about new product launches, upcoming events and more. Not only that but you can use social media as a form of swift, concise customer service – resolving issues in real time and maintaining positive interactions with your social communities.

5 – Cost: Perhaps one of the most important “Pros” for social media is that it is low cost. Depending on your preferences, marketing budget and more, social media can be used purely organically – that is to say without additional expense, or used with a budget designed to amplify your reach. The ability to include a free channel in all activities is incredibly useful for stretching the confines of ever smaller marketing budgets, and even if you are including budget for sponsoring updates / paid ads it is easy to keep your campaign on budget.

Social Media – The Top 5 Cons

1 – Time: Social media marketing places a great deal of demand on a marketing department’s time. Content needs to be created, edited, approved, published and shared. Comments need to be responded to, pages need to be maintained, a social presence needs to be built and maintained over time. With growing requirements for content and social communication from your follower base, the time spent on social sites is ever increasing, and as such so is the requirement for resource to man this operation.

2 – Vulnerability: Using social media as a channel through which to communicate with your audience opens you up to backlash, misinterpretation and employee negativity all at once. Sending content / thoughts out to your follower base allows them an open market through which to communicate with you, and about you – and they are not always going to be positive. Negativity spreads like wildfire and one wrong comment submitted accidentally, taken out of context, or issued by a malicious ex employee can mean the difference between social success and viral trending of corporate failures.

3 – Control: Using social media requires accepting a lack of control over certain elements of your marketing. For example choosing who views your messages – once they are out there, there is nothing you can do to stop them going viral, to stop your competitors / employees seeing what you have to say. Not only that but anything you publish is up for grabs, and once comments are applied to it, your content will often prove more memorable for the comments, than for the content.

4 – Skill: Keeping up with exciting and innovative content to post out through your social networks is challenging and requires someone who has the skill to do this, not just as a one off, but consistently. With employee turnover increasing in many companies, finding someone with the right skill set not just to do your social marketing, but to succeed at it, is challenging.

5 – ROI: The main focus of social media is on spreading awareness and building relationships. It works well for putting your message in front of a large audience and giving you the opportunity to start a dialogue with them. That said, it is an uphill battle and requires a lot of time and effort to get off the ground, and even more to stay up to date with developments and maintain a fully interactive social network. The returns seen from this will be delayed, hard to define, and in most cases will also be much smaller than other marketing methods – regardless of whether paid ads were deployed or not. If your focus is on reducing costs then social media is fantastic, however if your focus is ROI, then this channel should not be your first choice of communication vehicle.

Email – The Top 5 Pros

1 – Time to Produce: With the latest enhancements to email marketing in the form of HTML editors, creating beautiful newsletters has never been easier. With just a few clicks of the mouse anyone, regardless of technical / design experience, can create emails that wow.

2 – Tracking / Reporting: Email has always been one of the easiest marketing metrics to account for. Using Email Providers like Campaign Connex provide marketers with easy to digest statistics, usually portrayed in beautifully clear graphical reports. Accessing key statistics like A/B metrics, response rates, email client splits and geographical breakdowns provide fast answers to a marketing department’s questions.

3 – Traffic Sourcing: Email is a great way of notifying existing and prospective customers about new products being launched, new features being added and more. Driving traffic from these emails to your website is easy with email and you will be able to see the demonstrable impact of this through both email and Google reporting.

4 – Lead Generation: Email is still regarded as the most efficient and promising method for lead generation. With an average click through rate of 3% from campaigns, in comparison to 0.5% from tweets, email is demonstrably 6x more effective than social media at passing through traffic to a landing page / end goal. It therefore comes as no surprise that email is able to generate ROIs of 1:38 on average for campaigns executed – arguably the highest ROI of all marketing methods.

5 – Personalised Engagement: One of the key advantages of email marketing is personalisation. With today’s clever merge tags, you can input all manner of personalised snippets of information into emails to change the tone and message you are delivering. From details as simple as first names, through to more complex insights like preferred server hardware brands, adding in personalised text makes your audience believe that the message you have to provide is specific to them, and typically shows a much higher engagement rate. With the only limitations being placed on your data harvesting / splicing skills and tools, personalisation (especially when coupled with automation) is a fantastic way of communicating with your audience on mass in a way that social media can never match.

Email – The Top 5 Cons

1 – Getting Attention: Email is popular – that much is clear to everyone. The problem is that it is so popular – for every email that you send, your competitors will send one too. On top of that, each of your subscribers is probably subscribed to messages from 10-20+ companies (even more in some cases) that are all vying for attention each day with their newsletters and promotional e-shots. On top of this you have spammers, and other companies sending your subscribers emails. The bottom line – you need to stand out from the crowd, not an easy task – especially with only subject lines and pre-headers to help!

2 – Complex Deliverability Issues: In contrast to social media, email has rather complex deliverability issues that need to be addressed. Dealing with aspects such as Sender Reputations, avoiding Spam Triggers, blacklisting IPs and more can be enough to drive any marketer far away from email marketing. (FYI if this is something you struggle with, why not check out our handy guide?)

3 – Accessibility / Rendering Concerns: The shift has begun from the traditional method of creating HTML emails using applications like Dreamweaver and Expressions, through to using web application HTML builders like the one featured in Campaign Connex. With guarantees placed on the templates provided for ensuring mobile responsiveness and beautiful rendering across different clients, this takes the pressure off marketers. For those not using builders of this nature however, the pressure still stands, and even for those who are you can never be 100% unless templates are tested thoroughly – relying on more tools like litmus for inbox previews to ensure successful rendering and mobile responsiveness. This means marketers need to check to be sure that their providers offer these testing options, and ensure they undertake this testing prior to each and every launch to be safe.

4 – Frequency Pressures: With the amount of email being sent, marketers need to make sure they find a balance between sending too much email (and therefore spamming their audience, losing subscribers and gaining a bad reputation) and not sending enough (therefore losing their audience’s interest and their brand’s recognition). It is a tough world out there, and you need to be ready. (For tips on email frequency, why not view our blog post?)

5 – Audience Limitations: At the end of the day, whilst there are massively more active email accounts in the world than there are social accounts, email marketing does not have the same reach. This is often contested by other email providers, but we admit it – yes there are probably 10-20x more email accounts than there are social accounts, and yes the number is still growing. The flipside however, is that whilst this increases the number of accounts you COULD email, in most cases it does not increase the number you WILL. Email marketing relies on having a predefined list of recipients, and as a result your audience is limited to only those email accounts you have on said list – those who opted in to hear from you. In contrast social media allows you to access prospects who may never have heard of you at all, and bring them towards joining your mailing list.

So what do you think? Do you agree with our top 5 Pros and Cons of Social Media and Email? Which do you prefer, and why? Sound off in the comments below or email / tweet us with your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you!


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