I recently recorded a Next Stage Business radio show with email expert Jeff Ferrazzo from Constant Contact on how social media and email can work together to provide a powerful marketing combination for businesses.
When Jeff and I met beforehand to talk about our agenda for the show, something occurred to me…
I was way outta my league.
Practically everything I’ve ever read on this subject comes at it from Jeff’s area of expertise — how to “socialize your email,” (that is, how to use your existing email presence as the foundation for building a social media footprint). This makes sense, since most businesses have some sort of email list, but are still very new to the social space.
Problem was, my job for the show was to talk about how to “email-ize your social,” (Yes, I totally acknowledge that this is a ridiculous-sounding phrase) and that is a subject that I’ve rarely heard anything about.
A lot of social media research, case studies and blog posts act as if social media is kind of like heaven – once you get there, pretty much all of your business’ needs will be met and you’ll be in a state of marketing nirvana.
But that’s not really true.
Social can’t do it all. As much as we social media types don’t like to admit it, email is still really stinkin cool and plays a huge role in the marketing mix.
For example, our company, Kane Consulting, has a wide social footprint, but a rinky-dink email list. This means that we’re perpetually participating in giant “cocktail party” conversations instead of having the luxury of pulling prospects in closer through email for more of a private “dinner party.”
So what advice can we give companies like mine that started with social, but are stuck when it comes to building an email presence after the fact?
In an effort to answer this question, I did some homework, drilled Jeff a bunch (Thanks Jeff. I’m kind of a pain, aren’t I?) and put my thinking cap on.
Here’s what I came up with. If you got other ideas, I’d love to hear about them in the comments of this post.
1. Save the good stuff.
Many of your social media contacts may be quite content to remain just that. Why should they join your email list when they already feel like they know your every move from following you on Twitter or getting your Fan Page updates in their feed?
So, just as you may have gotten in the practice of jotting down good ideas for future blog posts, to remedy this problem, start thinking about flagging some of your news as “special stuff” that only gets shared via your email marketing. And then be sure to let your social peeps know that, by not being on the email list, they’re only hearing part of the story.
For instance, we leak our KaneCo business book picks via social media, but you’ve got to be on our email list to get the first crack at registering for each book’s discussion salon.
2. Curate conversations.
Social media moves fast and there’s a lot that your supporters may miss. Your email marketing offers a great opportunity for you to summarize the social conversations, not just that your firm has engaged in, but those that are occurring on the social web as a whole.
Share links of your favorite posts on topics (even…gasp…if they are not your own). Give your analysis on the latest industry debates happening in the social space. Define, explain and summarize the latest trends and developments in your industry that you see pop up in social media.
Don’t just rely on aggregation to barf out an industry-specific paper.li for this purpose. Go the extra mile and really curate for quality.
3. Aggregate and answer questions.
Did someone tweet you a doozy of a question or leave a thought provoking one on your blog post? Seeing a trend in the social space of people asking the same question over and over?
Instead of just responding in the social channel in which questions are received or discovered, also share and answer them in your email newsletter.
If the question (and, ideally, your answer) is a good one, it gives you yet another opportunity to demonstrate superior customer/client service and overall thought-leadership.
To keep the cycle of communication moving, after you’ve answered the question in your email marketing, invite your readers to continue the conversation about the topic back in your social channel(s). This strategy can both recharge the social conversation among your existing social community and entice email readers to take the leap and join the community too.
4. Map a path.
If you are running a promotion or campaign on one of your social platforms, as part of your planning process, make sure you lay a visible breadcrumb trail to ultimately lead those social participants back to your email sign up form.
This can feel a little like “bait and switch,” but the reality is that, if people are getting something for nothing (or for very little effort on their part) from a company, they won’t find it unreasonable to be asked for an email address as part of the bargain.
So whether you’re offering a coupon to people who tweet a certain hashtag or giving a prize for your 2,000th Facebook Fan, integrate email into the participation of the campaign or redemption of the reward and then track accordingly.
5. Segment for social.
You can segment your email lists oodles of ways. As you start to convert people from your social lists to your email lists, flag these people so you know where they came from and segment your content accordingly.
Got a special Facebook promo that you’re planning? How about leaking it to the segment of your email list that is comprised of Facebook Fans first? Or, take the opposite approach and promote it first to the segment of your email list that aren’t current Facebook Fans as a way of encouraging them to connect with you there too.
Want to synopsize a Twitter conversation on a hot issue? How about only sharing it with the segment of your list that came from Twitter, as these people may have more of a context for understanding a hashtag-heavy play-by-play?
As social dashboards become more technically savvy, watch for them to develop the functionality to facilitate this process of building and “socially-segmenting” email lists. This will likely be a service you’ll have to pay for, but the information you can mine will be worth the cost.
I am forever forgetting to actually ask people to join our email list and just rely on a passive form on our website to do the work for me (no wonder our list is rinky-dink).
If you have this problem too, start to audit your social presence and participation and make sure you’re making it as easy as possible for your social contacts to join your insider community.
Tweet a request for people to sign up for your email newsletter. Create a custom landing page for your Facebook Fan Page that includes an email sign up form. Make sure the option is visible and easy to access on your blog.
Ultimately the radio show and this blog post were both a great exercise for me. As a social media consultant, I need to not only help business get involved with social media, but also do a better job of helping integrate that social presence back into their marketing efforts as a whole.
It’s also served as a wake up call that I need to rethink my own company’s approach to email marketing. While news on what KaneCo is up to is relevant, it’s likely not the kind of compelling content that is serving a real need for our community of supporters.
So watch for some big changes from Kane Consulting in 2011 as we continue to explore, learn and push the envelope on connecting and collaborating between email and social media.
Of course, the best way to be part of all the action is to join our email list first.