Commercial TV took 13 years to reach 50 million households; it took Facebook just a year to hit the 50 million user mark. More than a billion people now log into Facebook every day. It took Twitter 9 months to touch 50 million users. 

The number of worldwide email accounts is projected to increase from over 2.9 billion in 2010, to over 3.8 billion by 2014. However, social networking currently represents the fastest-growing communication technology among both consumers and business users which are projected to grow to over 3.6 billion accounts by 2014.

But email marketing is far from dead!

One of the reasons email marketing is not going away too soon? It is just more profitable! According to a 2011 study by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), email marketing yields a return of $40.56 per dollar spent, compared with $22.24 for search, $12.71 for social networking and $10.51 for mobile. In fact, the DMA’s 2016 estimate pegs email marketing’s ROI at $35.02 per dollar compared with social’s $13.43. (Source: article written by Vineet Manghani, Cognizant.)

Unveiling the full potential of Social requires an “integrative” mindset. It demands marketers to think in a very one-to-one way across both mass and personalised media.  And this requires marketing to create a “campaign backbone” that leverages the rich data that consumers are producing as they wade through their “social life.”

Over the last few years, the Facebooks, Googles and Amazons of the world have leveraged Big Data to create such a “campaign backbone.” This allows these companies to improve their decision-making based on the infrastructure technology and analytics-related software they have been developing and talk to consumers in a far more “real time” fashion. Every year organizations collect more and more data on customer touch points.  Technology advances are allowing for the storage and analysis of data that just five years ago wouldn’t have been possible.

Companies need to look at social and traditional email as a part of a more integrated data-based marketing strategy.

So how does this impact the "good old email” as a campaign?

email marketing marry social media

In his book Permission Marketing, Seth Godin referred to email marketing as “the most personal advertising medium in history." That was 1999. Maybe we need to listen to that message to reinvent email marketing.

In my view, that reinvention is about how data can form a central part of how marketing campaigns are designed. And in that transformation, email strategies can leverage a plethora of data -- the humble “customer check-ins” for Foursquare being an example.

Social media check-ins provide marketers an unprecedented view into the lives of their customers and prospects. Knowing location, and understanding actual behaviours, creates opportunities to captivate an audience with greater relevance during moments when they are most receptive.

Here are a few examples of how social, instead of killing emails, makes them a far more powerful medium:

Use check-ins as triggers.

Good timing of a message always gets you a far better response. The intent and the timing are clearly signalled by the check-in. Check-ins also create opportunities to communicate with customers when they’re not in your store, but nearby, which is a great time to send a special offer.

Improve segmentation with behavioural data.

Check-ins are a window into your customers’ lives, enabling a deeper understanding of where they go and what they do. By analysing check-in data you can categorise and segment customers based on who shops at department stores versus who is a high-end fashion consumer, for instance. But this requires marketers to create a Big Data environment which can process and analyse this data at speed.

Extend the definition of check-in.

Typically, check-ins are an explicit act of using a location-based application to identify where you are. The term "soft check-in," which is an "implied" check-in from social media such as Twitter and Facebook, is now emerging.

For example, if someone tweets they just finished eating a "McBurger," it’s a pretty good assumption they are dining at the McBurger fast food chain. And, of course, there are the more obvious Facebook or Twitter posts such as "Standing in line to see Sky Fall," the popular James Bond movie.

Using a natural language-filtering algorithm that extracts presence extends the number of check-ins marketers can exploit to engage with people and acquire customer information.

So to summarize:

  1. Mastering this new animal, social media, requires a different breed of people and process due to its real-time nature. Marketers need to marry real-time interactions with traditional marketing campaigns and analytics. Silos need to be broken so that marketers don’t think brand, digital and campaign differently but rather run a strategic thread and integrate the customer engagement.
  2. Email needs to leverage customer intelligence and drive highly relevant communications to customers. Big Data allows you to do that at scale and speed.
  3. Email needs to be integrated with social and a larger brand strategy to maximise impact.