Social media lets us connect with literally everyone. It gives us continuous information right to our feeds with everything from how to get your baby to sleep to how to build a car. If it’s even a little interesting, it gets shared on social media. This might make you surmise that social media is the ultimate marketing tool. Stuff gets shared and can go “viral”, thus making you believe in the infinite power of social media to transmit information.

Which is better?

Many people believe that all you need is a good following and your business will thrive on social media. With hundreds, thousands, even millions of followers, your ability to market to the masses is already set in stone. Or is it? In an article written for Forbes Jeff Cornwall, an entrepreneur, says, “Although social media is ideal for promotion and building awareness, it does not always work well to get customers to act”.

Basically, people are sharing, liking and retweeting, but they aren’t buying. A recent U.K. study found that 64% of people would stop what they are doing to click on an email link from a retailer. On the flipside, only 10% would do so after seeing a link on social media. The researchers from the study summed it up that email marketing was far more effective in driving online shopping than social media.

But, can you really put all of your dollars towards email and hope for the best with social media? The answer to this may not be so clear cut. In an article for Direct Marketing News, Eric Krattenstein, CMO of email marketing for Mailify says “With email marketing, you can do more with less”. Email lets you produce good, well-thought-out content that engages readers, even if you have quite a few less subscribers on email than you do followers on social media. A study by HostPapa found that 75% of adults, even in the coveted 18-29 year-old group use email as their preferred communication method.

But, many marketers believe that while email does lead to more conversions, it can’t be done alone. The new, general consensus is that social media and email need to work together to bring the best possible results.

Pros and cons

Marketing Tech Blog put together an interesting infographic that listed the pros and cons of each channel and their results showed:

  • Email lists are easy to create, but so is accumulating likes and followers
  • There is easy integration with customers, but social media creates opportunities to network and engage
  • Both are low cost
  • Email generates repeat business while social media generates brand awareness
  • Email has incredible ROI but social media is catching up
  • Email is the most popular online activity, and social media is actually one of the least popular
  • Email wins when it comes to click-through, open and bounce rates
  • Email also wins for conversions
  • Social media wins when it comes to shared content

Working together

While studies may show that email marketing surpasses social media as a marketing tool, there is no reason why they can’t work together to provide a harmonious and complete package. As was said, social media is great for promotion and awareness of your brand, which means it would be a perfect way to drive consumers to your email newsletters, where they can subscribe and become more reliable customers. Social media is an effective traffic driver and then email is the closer. An article in Adweek stated “Email and social work best when not in competition with one another”. Krattenstein says “The channel of the future will be one that’s some sort of hybrid of all the channels”.

Douglas Kerr, writing for Marketing Tech Blog believes email is a push medium, whereas social is a pull medium. The two work together, pushing and pulling to get their customers to act. He says “as prospects find you on social media and subscribe to your email, you can push them a message down the road that drives them to a conversion”.

Answering the question about which channel is “better” all depends on how you define better. Rather than pit the two against each other, the clear answer is letting them work together to give you an overall better marketing strategy.

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