Email is the workhorse for many marketing teams. According to a 2019 Econsultancy survey, email is the most effective marketing channel, while social media came in fifth. With sticky subscribers and reliable revenue, email does have a more established value than social media, but social can’t be topped for its engagement factor. Rather than determining a winner between these two channels, these differences offer the perfect case for combining them.
At a time when marketers have limited resources to create new content, social posts and user-generated content can be a welcome addition to email marketing campaigns and newsletters. Email and social media can also be used to cross-promote, creating two sticky channels that drive home important messages. What’s more, while everyone is at home and online more than usual, marketers can get creative with new forms of social engagement over email, too.
Newsletter publishers should take a page from the digital publisher’s playbook, embedding real social media posts into their content to create more engagement. More than one-third of all article pages online now contain social embeds. From popular memes to heartwarming posts, social content adds immediate interest in an article without a lot of heavy lifting. The same is true for email newsletters, where social content can spice up a tired template.
Marketers can start by simply searching Pinterest and Instagram for well-shot images to highlight from customers and fans. ‘Wichcraft, the NYC sandwich chain, shares social posts of customers enjoying their food in their “simplest of pleasures” email campaign, which encourages some fresh air time at lunch. BistroMD uses a real-time Instagram social feed that features healthy meals customers receive as part of their plan. These examples serve as stand-ins for professionally shot content and also add a level of authenticity that’s hard to copy with slick marketing imagery.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau notes that numerous studies indicate authenticity is key for people to trust brands, and UGC is among the top-rated content online. The UGC posted on a marketer’s social channels offers a particularly important element as customers are finding their way through the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people are transacting online more than before, and they’re shifting their habits and brand loyalty. It’s better to be a brand that online customers can relate to than to be generic and forgettable.
The furniture retailer Made.com created a campaign in April called “Stay Grounded,” which included a collection of photos from customers’ own homes on Instagram. The photos offer the perfect mix of inspiration and authenticity. Made.com promoted it in a newsletter campaign that encourages subscribers to vote on their favorite images. The online pet- and house-sitting site TrustedHousesitters features Instagram pictures in its conversion emails to engage with potential members, particularly Housesitters. Potential customers love the inspirational pictures of pets and homes in their email campaigns, which they pair with educational messaging about house sitting and info about how TrustedHousesitters works.
Now is the time to sign people up for, well, everything. Customers are open to new online experiences in 2020, and it’s important that marketers give that to them. Many email templates fail to offer the very basics in cross promotion.
The email footer is the easiest place to start. For example, West Elm has a nicely designed email footer with links and icons for each social channel where fans can follow, like, and share. Even better is when brands build social calls to action within the email itself or when special social instructions add more engagement. For example, L.L.Bean doesn’t ask people just to sign up for its social channels but also to add the simple but effective suggestion to “Share Your Adventures” with #BeanOutsider.
It’s also important to add email newsletter sign-up links to relevant social media posts. Marketers can repost elements of their newsletter to promote it on Instagram, for example, with a link or call-out to get more content by signing up for email.
Social and email can also be used together to promote online events or to drive engagement in brand-new ways. Since the start of the pandemic, many marketers have had to get creative to add ways to engage with customers virtually, and email and social media can help. For example, Taubman Centers adds some extra fun to subscribers’ inboxes with Spotify playlists. GrubHub offers discounts to people that sign up for virtual concerts on their own YouTube channel with promotions in their newsletters.
This unusual time will not last forever, but people’s habits will be changed forever. Now is the time to make an extra effort to capture new subscribers and create new ways to engage. Marketers also have a unique opportunity to forge new relationships online, when people are craving authenticity and something new. The unique value of email and social media marketing combine to help marketers make these important connections.