What Email Marketers Can Learn From Well-Managed Social Media Content

Last week, Mike May wrote a great post posing an important question: does a brand’s social media content make good email marketing content? Put another way, since social media is so effective at engaging customers, should email marketers pull copy directly from their Facebook timelines or Twitter feeds and plop it into their email campaigns? Mike makes an insightful case for why this isn’t a good idea, and his post sparked some thoughtful conversation in the comments about where a brand’s social media and email content should and shouldn’t overlap. 

I fully agree with Mike that what’s appropriate on a social media page doesn’t always make the most relevant or appropriate email copy. Your content strategy should be holistic, calling for serious consideration of how your customers want to engage with your brand across diverse platforms. In many cases, though, there is room for messaging overlap. 

Building on the conversation that Mike began, here are some thoughts on ways that the content you craft for our social media channels can reinforce, influence and – sometimes – repeat your email copy: 

  • Your social media presence can build anticipation for something you’ll later promote in an email. Urban Outfitters and Sephora, two brands with well-established presences on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest among other networks, both drum up expectations for yet-to-be-released products and offerings on their social media pages. While we don’t know for sure that Sephora’s Andy Warhol makeup or UO’s men’s catalog will appear in upcoming emails, it does seem pretty likely. If this happens, exact copy won’t be lifted from a social media site and dropped into an email campaign, but the messaging will be familiar to email subscribers who have engaged with the brands’ timelines or Pinterest boards. The “coming soon”-type message isn’t always as appropriate in email, where we want subscribers to have something to click on, so the buildup via social networking sites serves as reinforcement for email campaigns. In their Andy Warhol Facebook post, Sephora even invites customers to sign up for email to get notified when the product is announced, further supporting their email marketing efforts. 
  • The reactions of your subscribers to social media content can help you plan what to promote in email campaigns. Because social media allows you to post so much more frequently than you send emails, you can post potential email hero images or featured products on your Pinterest board or Facebook timeline to see how your most dedicated customers react. You can also learn more about your subscriber base by seeing who follows your brand and how they interact with your content – super valuable insights for your content strategy. 
  • Your carefully crafted email content can be repurposed on your social networking sites.

In his article, Mike questioned whether social media content should be repurposed in email. If we turn his question around – should email content show up on our social media pages? – the answer seems less sketchy. While you certainly don’t want the only content on your social media pages to be exact replicas of what has appeared elsewhere, often email messages can have a place among your other tweets, pins or posts. Take the hero of this Sephora email, featuring Lady Gaga’s new fragrance, which is also pinned to Pinterest. Though the copy is almost identical (just a little longer on Pinterest), the pin is amid so many others that it seems unlikely that customers would be irked by the repetition.

  • Your brand’s social media presence can share similar messages with a more human voice. 

Email marketing is an inherently less personal channel than social media because it very rarely elicits direct reactions from subscribers beyond the click. Subscribers don’t “comment” on your emails to let you know what they thought of them, and it’s harder to track whether they share the emails than it is across Pinterest pinboards. Because social media engages subscribers in more direct conversation, it presents an opportunity for your brand to take on a more personal, human voice. Sometimes, the same message shared across email and social media will sound a bit different. On their Facebook page, Urban Outfitters mentions the names of the models in the photographs (and the models have been known to pipe up in the photo comments from their own profiles). UO also has a whole “behind-the-scenes” pinboard featuring everything from meals that employees are eating to a running commentary on an employee’s dog. Whole Foods, while they might announce a store opening via email, does it in a more personal way – with a photo of real faces, a quick anecdote and expression of excitement from the scene – through a Facebook post. A word of caution, though: if your brand decides to go for these types of human touches, make sure that whoever pens the social media content knows the brand voice and can stay within the realm of appropriateness. (For an illustration of how this can go awry, see this post in which Gawker pokes fun at the Mars Rover’s Twitter account for an out-of-voice tweet.)

The takeaway, as is so often the case when it comes to social media, is that we need to take the time to test and learn how our customers interact with each platform in order to message across channels in relevant ways ...  whether that means repurposing messaging or not.

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2 comments about "What Email Marketers Can Learn From Well-Managed Social Media Content ".
  1. Arthur Einstein from Loyalty Builders , August 28, 2012 at 3:51 p.m.
    This post, together with Mike May's are just fascinatin. But remember that the underlying notion of re-purposing content was as a way to save time and money by grabbing social content and using it to AUTOMATICALLY generate email. It may be accomplished some day but I doubt it. Consumers are as changeable as the weather and the marketplace is a non-linear event. Until people themselves become automated we'll be creating content by using good information and good sense.
  2. Mark Carlson from SimpleFeed, Inc. , August 28, 2012 at 8:47 p.m.
    We are seeing success when companies mix in social elements such as a "tweet of the day." It promotes their social sites and leverages their content. Other companies struggle with content and use Facebook as their content aggregation hub. For these (generally non-ecommerce companies) automatically generating an email from their most popular Facebook posts is working fine.