Commentary

Should Digital Audience Growth Objective be Quantity or Quality?

According to ExactTarget, who published the 2009 Email List Growth Study, an in-depth examination of marketers’ top subscriber growth tactics, direct digital marketing has expanded far beyond email to include previously untapped channels like mobile and social media. The current study and report updates the findings about the strategies and tactics of successful audience development.

The Audience Growth Survey looks at audience growth across email, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and mobile app marketing. A total of 395 digital markters completed the survey between April and August, 2013, with jurisdiction in email, social media, mobile and executive oversight.

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Marketing Areas Involved On A Regular Basis

Involvement

% of Respondents

Email

91%

Social Media

66%

Mobile

37%

Executive Oversight

28%

Source: Exact Target Audience Growth Survey, November 2013

When assessing their own priorities for growing new digital audiences across email, social media, and mobile channels, marketers tended to rate quality as more important than quantity when acquiring new audiences.

As shown in the chart below, email and mobile channels highlight the importance of ROI as another important measure of effectiveness. For email marketers, overall ROI and quality of subscribers rated as equally important measurements.

In the two mobile channels studied, SMS and mobile apps, overall ROI, not quality, was the most important gauge of audience growth effectiveness. This preference for ROI could demonstrate that mobile marketers are relying on more measurable tactics to determine the value of these newer channels.

Most Important Measurement to Gauge Effectiveness (% of Respondents)

Channel

Quality Of Audience Members Added

Quantity Of Audience Members Added

Overall ROI

Email

41%

12%

41%

Facebook

38%

28%

22%

Twitter

43%

27%

17%

SMS

28%

19%

32%

Mobile App

21%

27%

34%

Source: Exact Target Audience Growth Survey, November 2013

Reviewing tactics for cross-channel audience growth, the elusive “silver bullet” never materialized, says the report. There is no guaranteed, one-size-fits- all tactic to grow the size, quality, and ROI of the audience.

91% of survey respondents reported being involved with email marketing on a regular basis. More marketers prioritize selling as a primary objective for email marketing than for social media and mobile channels. As selling is tied to overall ROI, this is consistent with the 41% of email marketers who identify overall ROI as the most important measurement to gauge effectiveness of their email program.

In addition to using email to drive sales, email marketers understand the channel’s ability to prime subscribers for future purchases by generating leads and driving brand awareness, demonstrated in the 41% of email marketers who also identify the quality of subscribers as their most important gauge of email subscriber growth effectiveness. 

Top Email Marketing Objectives

Objective

% of Respondents

Sell products/services

64%

Generate leads

52

Drive site traffic

51

Drive brand awareness

51

Gain customer insight/improve retention

34

Provide service/support

16

Source: Exact Target Audience Growth Survey, November 2013

 The All Tactics Considered: Email chart demonstrates the complexity of defining the “best” email subscriber growth tactics. If a tactic is popular among marketers, but its reported effectiveness is mediocre or low, can it be considered a “top” tactic, asks the report. Alternately, if a tactic receives a high effectiveness rating but few marketers actually use it, can it be considered one of the best?

Some of the most popular tactics for subscriber growth don’t have the highest effectiveness ratings, but rather may be widely used because they’re so easy to implement. These subscriber growth tactics may not drive vast amounts of high quality leads, but they don’t require much time or money, says the report. These tactics include:

  • General email sign-up form on website (74% use, 42% rate effective)
  • Sign-up requests specific to different sections on website (52% use, 45% rate effective)
  • Email capture via Facebook (45% use, 31% rate effective)

Tactics such as inbound call center requests and in-store loyalty program acquisition are high in reported effectiveness, but are used by a relatively small group of marketers because they require a call center or brick-and-mortar location that not all brands have. In this offline category, these are the top performers that drive email subscriber growth:

  • Capture email during inbound sales calls (23% use, 71% rate effective) and service calls (23% use, 63% rate effective)
  • Acquire email for loyalty program registration in-store (18% use, 67% rate effective)
  • Sales associate requests email during check-out process (20% use, 57% rate effective)
  • Email acquisition tied to emailed receipt or ticket delivery (13% use, 55% rate effective) 

All Tactics Considered (% of Email Marketers)

Tactic

% Using

% Report Effective

Require email to create an account on website

57%

70%

Sign-up requests specific to different sections on website

52

45

Registration with immediate incentive

50

63

Email capture via Facebook

45

31

Promote content via social media that requires email registration to access39

59

 

Drive online loyalty program registration requiring email

35

58

Paid search advertisement that drives to landing page with email opt-in

27

50

Capture email during inbound sales calls

23

71

Capture email during inbound customer service calls

23

63

Sales associates request email as part of check-out process

20

57

Email acquisition tied to loyalty program registration promoted in-store

18

57

Require email to register mobile app

13

55

Email acquisition tied to emailed receipt or ticket delivery

13

55

Option to opt into email when viewing content on mobile app

12

59

Paid mobile ads

12

41

Source: Exact Target Audience Growth Survey, November 2013

70% of marketers surveyed reported being involved with social media marketing on a regular basis. When we polled these social media marketers on the importance of various social channels to their overall marketing strategy, Facebook was rated as slightly more important: 

  • 60% of social media marketers rank Facebook as important to their overall marketing. 
  • 52% of social media marketers rank Twitter as important to their overall marketing.

Both Facebook and Twitter are first and foremost brand awareness tools. Social media marketers don’t prioritize selling and generating leads as much as driving brand awareness and site traffic. 38% of Facebook marketers and 43% of Twitter marketers say that adding quality fans and followers, respectively, are the most important measures of effectiveness for their audience growth efforts.

Top Social Media Marketing Objectives

Objective

Facebook

Twitter

Drive brand awareness

77%

70%

Drive site traffic

55

58

Gain customer insight/ improve retention

44

28

Generate leads

36

35

Provide service/support

22

22

Sell products/services

26

19

Source: Exact Target Audience Growth Survey, November 2013

The two most commonly used Facebook tactics are not overwhelmingly effective, according to Facebook marketers. These tactics are:

  • Including a Facebook Like button or link on a company’s website/blog (93% use, 46% rate effective) or
  • On emails/newsletters (70% use, 35% rate effective)

Community involvement tactics capitalize on Facebook’s interactive nature and are found to be highly effective, though fewer Facebook marketers employ these tactics. The best-performing community involvement Facebook tactics are:

  • Organic growth (58% use, 67% rate effective)
  • Working with influencers/bloggers (33% use, 56% rate effective)
  • Facebook contests requiring fans to submit their own content/ creative entry (36% use, 54% rate effective)

Other underutilized tactics with reports of high effectiveness may provide great opportunities for growing the fan base:

  • Facebook ads: display ads (non-Sponsored Stories) (30% use, 52% rate effective)
  • Answering customer service questions on Facebook (34% use, 69% rate effective)
  • Directing people to Facebook for customer support (17% use, 50% rate effective)
  • Regularly offering FAQs and how-tos in Facebook content (29% use, 50% rate effective) The “likes” have it. When marketers directly request a “like” as part of a giveaway or contest, they report much greater effectiveness in fan growth:
  • Product/prize giveaways with required “like” (39% use, 70% rate effective)
  • Product/prize giveaways with no “like” required (31% use, 46% rate effective)

Facebook marketers reported the fan growth tactics they used and whether they found the tactics effective. Comparing both the use and effectiveness of a tactic provides a holistic perspective on the “best” methods of fan growth. Some tactics may be popular, but only result in moderate effectiveness, while others may be reported as largely effective but only among a small number of marketers.

The Audience Growth Survey report concludes by noting that, though there are a myriad of ways to grow the proprietary audiences available, the question is, which tactics work best for both your brand and target audience? The data in this summary should spark some ideas, says the report, but ultimately, audience growth is a matter of testing what tactics will get your brand the largest, most responsive audience possible.

For more information from Exact Target, and access to the PDF Audience Growth Survey, please visit here.

 

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