Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Social Media: Will it Replace E-Mail?

It is becoming very apparent that e-mail marketing is firmly esconsed as an important element in our direct marketing arsenal. However, with the increasing popularity of social media sites such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, is e-mail marketing already becoming a dinosaur? Social media sites have become successful because of how they operate, letting users control their experiences, i.e., who they connect with (or not), when they choose to communicate, what information they decide that they want to see, etc.

However, e-mail is still an instrument that is used to reach out, gather information, and direct market your product or service. We think e-mail -- when done correctly -- is growing in popularity because people increasing want to be communicated with via this channel. And the younger segments (Millenials) of our population are definitely on board with this . . . just as they are the pioneers of social networking sites.

In a recent DM News article entitled, "The Impact of Social Media on E-Mail Marketing," this topic is discussed. Author Raghu Kakarala advises: "Rather than rush to the assumption that social media is killing e-mail, marketers should instead consider the principles driving interest in social media. They may discover that not only is there still a place for e-mail, but also an opportunity to leverage social media within their marketing programs." Kakarala does think that as social media becomes more mainstream, it will impact e-mail marketing: "As we increase our usage of social networks, our use of e-mail will inevitably decline, reducing the success of e-mail marketing campaigns. Marketers need to take the time to understand what sites their users are comfortable with and then evaluate marketing opportunities in those spaces."

The exciting part of this is that we have been awarded with another channel to use for direct marketing. And the beauty of social media is that it is built on the preferences of those who use the sites. What we have to do is to figure out how to best integrate this channel into our marketing mix -- and how to utilize other channels in concert with it. As Kakarala says, "This doesn’t mean e-mail is dead. Instead, marketers will be forced to think more strategically about their e-mail marketing programs, and then develop more segmented, relevant and personalized messages."

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