Channel Chauvinism: Is Social Really Gaining On Email?

Social is closing the gap on email. That is a thesis of “Shifting the Buyer’s Journey: How to Optimize for Social Selling,” a study by Bambu by Sprout Social.

Specifically, the study states that social is gaining as a tool used for outreach by sales representatives.

But this idea is not fully supported by the survey. Sales reps are more likely to use the phone than email or social. Of the individuals polled, in fact, 56.1% had been reached out to by phone, 51.7% by email and only 26.3% via social.

That figure for social is “a relatively small number compared to traditional channels like phone, email or direct mail," the study concedes.

As in many reports, of course, there is a gap between what marketers do and what customers want. For example, 46.4% of the consumers prefer email when someone is pitching them. It’s the clear No. 1 choice.  

Social is next, at 38.5%. Telephone is welcomed by only 8.5%. Although "56.1% of people said they have heard from a sales rep via the phone, companies haven’t gotten the message,” the study notes. 



The numbers for social are touted as a breakthrough -- “for the first time, 39% say social is their preference,” according to the research. 

The study adds that 91.8% of millennials are more likely than older people to engage with a sales rep on social. And it reveals that millennials are 45.2% more likely to prefer social than folks in other generations.

But the percentages remain a mystery. What were the results last year?

Anyway, if there is a threatening channel, it’s neither of those: It’s good old direct mail. The survey shows that snail mail is third among the most popular channels, chosen by 32.1%. It also happens to be the third-most used medium by sales reps, cited by 40.3%. 

And this ties in with a recent study in the UK by Royal Mail. When asked how they prefer to receive confidential account information, 51% of consumers said by post versus 35% for email.

This is based largely on trust. Compared with email, direct mail is seen as formal, important, believable, personalized and secure. The only selection that email tops is that it is quick.

Although by lesser numbers, the report shows that an email-direct mail combination scores best on virtually all those traits.

That’s the key point: these channels should be used together.

Does a sales rep want to call someone? Send an email first, or as a follow-up. You can’t tie up your phone time with every little thing that might occur. And use social to pull in subscribers for your email newsletter.

But let’s close with some direct mail findings from the Royal Mail study. This should give pause to the channel chauvinists: 

  • (Direct mail) makes me feel valued — 70% (vs. 30% for email)
  • It gives me a better impression of the company — 70% (vs. 30% for email)
  • I appreciate being sent — 59% (41% for email)
  • I’m likely to give it my full attention — 65% (35% for email)
  • It’s likely to grab my attention — 55% (45% for email)

Get it? Beter call your printer. 

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