Integrating Social: More Than Just Adding Content To Your Emails

by , Jun 13, 2011, 4:30 PM
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For a very long time I hated social media. Brands flocked to gain followers and fans, but to what end? It felt like the early days of email, when companies put forth initiative after initiative to capture email addresses, without much thought to how they would use them. The key difference though, is that companies could always generate ROI from email addresses by sending out an email. It has never been as clear how a company could possibly use a "like" to drive ROI.

Until recently, email and social integration has been a tactical afterthought. Advice on how to add social to email has ranged from the tactical "add a like button" to the also tactical "add customer-generated content." Yes, these are smart things to do. But email can do so much more. And so my discontent with social media continued.

Things are starting to change, though. As social media continues to gain momentum, people are becoming more open to sharing their interests and wants with the general public. Companies are starting to tackle the huge task of making sense out of mountains of raw, unstructured data. This data has the potential to enable businesses to truly listen. Not just to a click or an open (which stretches the definition of "listening" nearly to the breaking point), but to an ongoing stream of information about specific interests that (may) translate into ROI. And to be clear, we're not just talking about social listening trends, but individually attributable and actionable data. As consumers become accustomed to having this public information used, they will become more receptive to seeing their needs, wants, interests and desires fed back to them across multiple channels - even marketing channels.

Aside from the smart but tactical suggestions we're already all familiar with, there are three things every email marketer should do today to pave the way to true integration with social.

1.     Make friends with the social team at your company. Just as you work with the search engine marketing team to understand how to integrate search terms into your emails, you need to start understanding what customers are saying right before they decide they need you. The social team has been developing expertise in social listening tools for some time. Rather than developing the same skills yourself, tap into their knowledge and keep your focus on using the data rather than interpreting it. Those trigger phrases may translate into triggered emails - or possibly trigger a much larger campaign.

2.     Identify a partner for initial tests. When customers announce to their social media friends that they want what your company provides, it's difficult to take that unstructured data and turn it into actionable flags in your database. It is unlikely that your in-house analytics team has this expertise yet - almost no one does - or that they have the time to develop it. Look around at your company's vendors. Find out which ones focus on analytics, customer data, or data warehousing, and ask whether they're working on any initiatives to parse social data. If they are, ask how you can partner with them on some early tests. These tests will give you some great learnings, and make it easier to get even more funding for your programs in the next budget cycle.

3.     Make privacy a priority. Your ability to take advantage of what your customers say in the very public social space is entirely dependent on your customers' trust in your company's ability to keep their information private. There is a very real and justified concern about privacy that threatens to derail social marketing. Find out who the privacy advocates are in your company and lend them your support. In return, you'll get the information you need to understand the privacy concerns of your customers without spending a lot of time following the issue.

One last thing: start developing your social media strategy. It's finally time to move beyond the "like" button, and start thinking about data: one of the things email does best. You may just come to like social media for what it does for your email program.

0 comments on "Integrating Social: More Than Just Adding Content To Your Emails".

  1. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive
    commented on: June 14, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.

    Gretchen,

    Great article....but I would like to add one thing here. The use of the word "integration" should not be taken lightly. Integrations are hard. Integrations cost money and time. Integrations usually go sideways a few times.

    Heck..some companies are still struggling with the concepts of social presence vs. social sharing in emails vs the "like" button. Companies need to have a "sit down" with all parties involved and having influence into the email programs and determine what "integration" of social and email really means to them.

    Once companies decide on the core of how email and social are going to play in the sandbox going forward, then and an only then can they talk about "integration".

    Amen on the privacy point sister....love it.

    Andrew

  2. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc.
    commented on: June 15, 2011 at 5:01 p.m.

    This seems to have been a swing and a miss for me. My point was that email and social have been little more than a bunch of content so far. In fact, there is a huge opportunity to use data from social to drive triggered emails and increasingly relevant messaging. However, no one has yet nailed the data parsing issue - and it's not an easy one! Before we can take advantage of social, we need to be able to parse the data.

    It's all about the data Kordek. ALL about the data. Any company that loses sight of that is going to be playing in a tiny sandbox instead of the big wide world.

    Glad you liked the article. More on this later.

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