Email Marketing in a Mobile, Social Media World

    September 24, 2009
    Chris Crum

It is an interesting time for email marketing right now. Though it is still a quite effective medium for marketers, there are many challenges to deal with. This was the subject of a session moderated by David Daniels of Forrester Research at the summit in Las Vegas this week.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for email marketing campaigns? Comment here.

Email contributes to the overload of information that Internet users face on a daily basis. The web is not as simple as it used to be. People have more information coming at them than ever before, be it from social networks, RSS feeds, email, or whatever. Spam continues to plague inboxes (not that these other channels are immune), and that complicates things even more. Now add to that, the increasing use of the mobile web. One may assume that social networks are taking over or even replacing email, but one would be wrong.

David Daniels Email is not dying because of social media. "Email is still a key tool in social communication," says Daniels. "Understanding audience engagement is key."

Email portability adoption is increasing. For example, just this week Google launched email syncing for Gmail to smartphones (meaning iPhone users can get their gmail accounts synced between their iPhone and their PC). This will make it easier for iPhone users to keep up with their accounts on the go.

Daniels suggests using SMS (text messaging) as an opt-in point for email subscriptions, as well as rendering and supporting the call to action.

Considering that people have their phones with them pretty much at all times, email marketers shouldn’t be overlooking mobile. Consider these stats that Daniels provides:

– 25% of email subscribers provide website recommendations
– 20% online buyers post on average 9 product reviews a year
– 77% of the online population find those reviews more useful than the info the company provides

While social media may not be replacing email, it’s obviously still growing rapidly. You may have heard that Facebook alone just surpassed the 300 million-user milestone a couple weeks ago. That’s close to the same amount of people that make up the entire population of the United States, to put that into perspective.

Many companies are utilizing social media and integrating it into their email marketing campaigns. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be doing the same. Incorporate Facebook pages, Twitter, and/or MySpace accounts into campaigns. You can further engage with customers, and in turn keep interest in your emails going.

The key is to stay relevant to users. According to Daniels, "relevance empowered" mailings deliver more top and bottom line improvement than broadcast. He gave a few recommendations for implementation:

– For one, become an advocate for change, and address your organization’s readiness to embrace it.

– Secondly, understand the value of subscribers, and focus on their behaviors.

– He says to make it easy for consumers to share info with a lot of people quickly, but to learn about specific social behaviors of customers before creating your social strategy.

– And last, but not least, to "test, test, test."

I’ll add a couple of my own cents, and suggest that once your email campaign is integrated into social media, it becomes fair game for going viral and for being found in real-time searches. Essentially, your campaign can be taken from the inboxes of subscribers and expanded out onto the real-time web.

Email marketers shouldn’t fear social media. They should embrace it. Of course, campaigns will need to be compelling enough to get people to want to share them.

WebProNews reporter Abby Johnson contributed to this article from in Las Vegas.

Do you integrate social media into your email marketing campaigns? Tell us about your results.