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The Great Debate: Email Marketing vs. Social Media

Chocolate or vanilla? Cup or cone? Email marketing or social media?

This hotly contested question has been debated amongst marketing professionals for years now, especially with the meteoric rise of social media. While the average consumer may assume that email marketing is a dying practice, their behaviors and preferences say otherwise.

When comparing the return on investment of email marketing and social media, the statistics are telling. A recent study by OptInMonster crunches the numbers for us: while the difference between total email and social media users is relatively “small” (3.8 billion to 3.4 billion, respectively), the conversion rate from email is 6.05% versus the social media conversion rate which is 1.9%. Consumers habits also favor email marketing: 58% of people check email first thing in the morning versus 14% that first check social media. When asked about how consumers want to receive promotional messages, 60% reported they subscribe to a brand’s email list to receive promotions compared to the 20% who choose to follow brands on social media for promotional messaging.

But look beyond the numbers, and logic makes an even stronger argument as to why email marketing is still the more reliable channel for delivering results.

Unlike social media, email marketing gives you the power to own your customer data. Social platforms offer little to no transparency when it comes to the integrity of their information, while you harness the power to verify and maintain all data points with your own email lists. By having complete control over your own customer data, it means that no one knows your customers as well as you do, and no one can take that control away from you.

Secondly, email marketers have a leg up in communicating directly to an engaged audience because subscribers actually WANT their emails. Unlike social media marketing, which generally features broad messaging that can easily be blocked or ignored, email marketing can take advantage of segmentation and personalization to develop individualized relationships with consumers.

But while email reigns supreme as the stronger marketing channel, it should not totally replace social media strategy and should instead be paired with it for optimal results. Work to develop a social media plan that speaks to your audience, drives traffic to your website, and builds brand recognition. Then, email marketing can deliver targeted messages to your subscribers that ultimately turn them into loyal customers. Used in coordination with one another, email marketing and social media can deliver the stellar ROI you seek.