Which one's better to connect with your small biz clients? Good thing we don't have to choose! But if I had to bet on social media or email for marketing purposes, my money's on email…still.
Because online marketing channels integrate with each other better than ever, assessing their separate effectiveness is becoming increasingly difficult. But at the end of the day, email is the heavy lifter.
Here's an eye-opening marketing fact for you: Email is bringing in $40.56 for every dollar spent on it in 2011, compared to catalogs' ROI of $7.30, search's return of $22.24, Internet display advertising's return of $19.72 and mobile's return of $10.51. – Direct Marketing Association "Power of Direct" (2011)
The most important fact you must understand about online marketing is this:
it boils down to your list.
Think of online marketing like pioneering a new land. You know of the Homestead Act of 1862, in which the US government offered ownership of 160-acre parcels of land to any man with the balls to go claim it and farm it…"Free soil."
If you could get there and if you could produce something (you had to, to survive) then you OWNED it. Property ownership; a beautiful thing! The deal was sweet because the land was free… But it didn't come easy.
The Internet's like that. Except that online, real estate is unlimited. Your imagination isn't confined to the continent west of the Mississippi.
So we're in this vast world known as the Internet and we're all trying to do business here in one way or another. That's a fact.
In my estimation, social media leads the charge. Social media speculates and goes in search of greener pastures, and a better life. Social media arranges the tour; it says, "Follow me!" and lunges ahead, cape flying.
But Email is the one that puts up the tents at the end of a long day and builds the fire. Email is the muscle; it carries the luggage.
For all of email's benefits, social media will drive the online marketplace in the coming years. The mind-boggling growth of Facebook and the quick adoption of Pinterest and LinkedIn prove that people crave and rely on social connections for business and networking. Experts like Mari Smith, Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, Gary Vaynerchuck and Sandi Krakowski — social media mavens, all — sing the praises of social media for building huge businesses.
Yet email plays a crucial role in the social media landscape… and it's here to stay.
The #1 difference between email and social media in a nutshell, is ownership of your list.
Your list is the reason email rules. Opt-ins are your closest peeps. Closer than followers, fans and friends in social media.
Your list is "Your Castle"
Let's keep with the property rights theme. Why was the homestead act successful? Because it promised land ownership for every man who had the strength and vision enough to pack up his family and brave the unknown to go get it. If you've ever been to the midwest (where my family is from) you will meet some of the heartiest stock of people on the planet. Those people were tough — the ones that survived — because they were driven to own something they had to work for.
Reality check: you don't own your Facebook account. Every time Facebook changes its privacy settings or devises a new rule for business pages, you're at the mercy of Facebook. Which is fine because FACEBOOK IS FREE. So while you reap the benefits, and explore all the nifty ways to use apps to make your Facebook business presence more profitable and fun, you still have to play by Facebook's rules.
At the end of the day, you don't own anything on your social media accounts. You own your content but when you share it, it's up for grabs. And you certainly don't own your account in a real sense… It is public (don't kid yourself that you have any privacy there) and anyone can freely use anything they find there. Furthermore, the content you share and the thousands of friends and followers you have today could disappear tomorrow and you'd have no access to it, nor recourse to complain.
Furthermore, consider this: Only 17% of consumers say they're more likely to buy after becoming a FAN on Facebook. – ExactTarget "Facebook X-Factors" (2010)
So if you are relying on this massive public platform (that you don't even own) to build your entire business, congratulations and good luck.
To buffer this harsh reality, why not utilize social media to build your OWN list?
Ask people to join your email list through an iframe app on your Facebook business page.
On social sites likle LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to direct people to your website where an opt-in form is clearly visible, so that you have another channel to communicate with your most engaged fans.
If you are a natural person-to-person networker, use business cards to invite people to the place where your business is clearly stated and where you control your domain — literally — online.
If you don't have an authentically collected, opted-in, and engaged business email list, you may live to regret it. Your list is your #1 resource. It's the heavy lifter of your online business.
Don't make the mistake of looking at your list as a "commodity," however. As an email marketer one of the first things I ask customers is "how big is your list?" as if size realistically tells me anything at all. The real truth is that size doesn't matter as much as quality. If a list was purchased or shared, frankly it lacks the quality of smaller home grown varieties.
Interact with email subscribers just as you would your social media followers, but place a slightly different value on these folks and reward them accordingly. Remember that they've traded something personal (an email address) in exchange for your messages.
If you really want your business to work, you need to engage your list; that fire-building, rock-hauling quiet one over there. The rewards are huge.