• September 1, 2012
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

What Email Marketers Can Learn from Social Media

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While more customers are interacting with businesses via social media, organizations should not lose sight of some of the established customer communication channels. What's more, they should apply one of the biggest lessons learned from social media interactions to improve engagement strategies on other channels.

Email, for example, has arguably been the most widely abused customer communication channel by marketers. Motivated largely by internally focused metrics (such as lead generation, return on investment, and revenue), marketers for years have inundated customers with generic emails, simply because it's a cheap and easy way to increase sales by a few percentage points.

Naturally, taking the cheap and easy way out comes with consequences. By focusing on the small percentage of customers who respond to generic email blasts, a marketer is ignoring a larger, long-term problem—how irrelevant emails affect the remaining customers and prospects. The best-case scenario: Customers and prospects simply ignore the company's messages. (Over time, though, this creates list fatigue, and recipients eventually tune the messages out.) The worst-case scenario is that they'll refuse to interact with the company and lambaste it on social networks.

Most marketers have been smart enough not to make the same mistake with social media. (It's amazing how the threat of a viral nightmare can keep opportunists at bay.) Instead, savvy social media marketers focus on building their social media influence by creating content that people will "like" or repost. What makes someone want to "like" or repost your message? The short answer is value. If your post provides genuine value to others—it could be in the form of tips, entertainment, or financial rewards—many will "like" or repost it.

The key difference between these social media messages and generic email blasts is that with the former, customers' and prospects' interests are considered first, before the company's. If list blasters were to approach email campaigns similarly, emails would be more relevant to customers and customers would respond more favorably. That's one of the main points in the cover story, "Avoid the Spam Folder," by Associate Editor Judith Aquino.

While losing emails to spam folders is not as scary as a social media nightmare that's gone viral, if ignored, spam folders can slowly become an email campaign killer. Learn how to avoid the spam folder by reading Judith's feature story. In it, one industry analyst offers some good advice. "A marketer's best strategy for avoiding spam filters or bulk folders is to create emails that people want to receive," the analyst states. "This means creating messages that meet user needs, not just blasting out messages that promote whatever a marketer has in mind that day."

One way to provide relevant messages is to create trigger-based emails. These messages can be delivered based on transactional, recurring, or threshold information. For example, a "thank you" or "order confirmation" email can be sent when someone makes a transaction. A recurring email could be a monthly newsletter or an annual contract renewal notification. And a threshold email could be sent when a customer spends a certain amount with the company.

By putting the customers' interests first, organizations can create personalized and relevant messages that deliver positive experiences. This will go a long way toward reinforcing trust with the company and its brand.

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