Email vs. social: Which works best for B2C?

If you’re a busy professional with a digital company, you’ve likely lamented a thousand times over where to focus your limited resources. Email marketing and social media are two marketing tactics with a bundle of buzz, but which will give you the most efficient and effective results?

Email and social media are two completely different beasts and could serve two separate purposes in your overall strategy. To narrow your focus, we have to first get clear on what you’re after.

That said, keep in mind that it is not necessary to choose one or the other; each has its own place, and benefits and should be used in tandem to expand your business to new audiences and levels of success. But it’s always advantageous to have a core focus and know which modalities bring the most bang for your business buck.

Email marketing is a powerful mainstay

Email marketing is the little engine that could. It’s one of the only evergreen strategies that has worked since the web first landed.

This year, the number of worldwide email users will grow to over 3.7 billion, according to a 2017 report from The Radicati Group. By 2021, that number will climb to over 4.1 billion.

Gmail alone touts over 1 billion of those users.

When we compare this figure to the reach of social media, roughly 2.5 billion users, it is clear that email takes this round. According to Statista, social adoption will only increase to 2.95 billion by 2020 — still a far cry from email’s reach.

It’s this massive potential that has allowed email marketing and campaign management services like GetResponse to thrive and incorporate other powerful features like webinar solutions, custom landing pages and automation elements.

Additionally, one of the most significant benefits that email holds over social is that communications will reach their intended recipients about 90 percent of the time.

Email marketing, however, is not as easy as it seems.

First, the 3.7 billion email users are not all accessible the way they are on social media.

Moreover, email lists need to be carefully refined to only reach the most interested and qualified prospects; that means you can’t just buy a list of digital addresses and expect your email blasts to turn a profit; emails lists must primarily include people who actually want to hear from you.

Another downfall is that emails have to jump through a variety of hoops before safely landing in a person’s inbox. While most people will end up receiving your communications, poor email designs and content can cause messages to be labeled as spam. That takes all your efforts and tosses them into the digital trash bin. This is quite the double whammy when you consider the challenges associated with building an email list and gaining new subscribers.

For B2C emails, however, one of the biggest troubles is getting to know your audience well enough to tailor communications that will convert; companies need to understand their customers’ habits and tendencies in order to segment them properly and recommend relevant deals or products.

Additionally, B2C brands need to study their open rates to gain insights on the most beneficial times to send communications, so that a consumer is more likely to convert.

And for consumer-facing companies, in particular, email elements such as compelling copy, relevant calls to action, feature placement and the ever-imperative mobile optimization are critical challenges.

Without all these elements in place, the chances of recipients opening an email, clicking a contained link, and making a purchase from the web store are nil.

Social media has marketing superpowers

Social media has become a cultural phenomenon, evolving into a deep-rooted marketing necessity around the time that the Web 2.0 revolution began.

In that period, social media platforms have matured and transformed to become a marketer’s best friend.

All of the major players in the space now support hyper-targeted advertising, entertaining and dynamic content, massive reach capabilities and a variety of advertising channels for marketers to leverage. Most platforms also incorporate social selling opportunities like Facebook’s “shop” sections and Instagram’s shoppable posts.

These kinds of features allow businesses to seamlessly offer consumers products with unparalleled convenience.

Social media also helps propagate brand awareness in a way that has never been possible. Businesses can post blogs, updates, videos and other forms of content that users can then share with their friends, who share with their friends and so on.

This not only keeps consumers educated in real time but also pulls more prospects into marketing funnels by generating more awareness/interest, and even produces the potential for content to go viral.

As a natural byproduct, social media’s uploaded content and discoverability also tend to drive increased levels of traffic to websites, potentially leading to more conversions and higher rankings in the SERPs.

And did I mention that social media is 100 percent free to use? If you aren’t leveraging paid ads, that is.

But as you well know, there are some massive social pain points that must be considered.

Organic reach on social media has been declining at alarming rates over the past several years in accordance with various algorithm updates. Late last year, it was uncovered that publishers saw a 52 percent decrease in organic reach over the course of 2016.

Just three months later, The Wall Street Journal published a piece revealing that Facebook had come clean on miscalculating organic reach in the Page Insights dashboard:

…Facebook found that it had been over counting how many people were exposed to marketers’ organic posts, meaning regular posts that weren’t paid ads, because it was adding up the daily reach over certain periods without accounting for repeat visitors. The corrected metric on average will be about 33 percent lower for the seven-day period and 55 percent lower for the 28-day period…

But even if a brand’s posts are seen by the intended audience, it takes far more nurturing to turn social crowds into customers. This often equates to inflated expenditures relating to social ads, images, tools, content and other educational or sales-related materials.

And since 78 percent of consumers read reviews before buying, your brand’s page reviews had better be stellar if you have any hope of gaining a new customer.

Setting aside social media’s increasingly “pay to play” environment and other challenges, one of the final downsides to social is how businesses manage their social existence.

All too often, brands spread themselves far too thin by trying to participate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn and other popular networks. Without a refined strategy, it’s extremely easy to get lost in the digital noise.

Which channel should you use?

As far as B2C organizations are concerned, email is going to be a more beneficial and prosperous method for driving more sales and cultivating loyalty among consumers. Considering that emails will land in a customer’s inbox more times than not, it’s essential to study your audience and deliver more personalized messages, send communications at the right times and structure emails to allow for the most engagement and conversions possible.

While email is more fruitful for B2C, social still does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of generating awareness, website visits, increased email subscribers and brand loyalty as consumers continue to engage with a company.

If you can only do one, email is your champion. If you can do both, then you have a recipe for continually building, nurturing and converting leads in an exponentially powerful way.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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