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How to integrate email marketing with social media through storytelling

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6th Jun 2011
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Nick Heys discusses how integrated social media marketing can help companies shape their brand story and engage social communities.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) revealed in their latest 2010 Email Benchmarking Report that UK businesses are becoming more dependent on email to achieve their marketing goals with a huge shift towards social media integration with email. Email volumes continue to rise with UK marketers sending over 1.7 billion emails in the first half of 2010, an increase of 50% over the same period in 2009.
Even with email volumes rising, the report found that average open rates for email appear to be maintaining at 24% for retention emails. Clearly, email marketing as a direct marketing channel is increasing in popularity, especially with its ability to customise messages for different audiences and measuring return on investment combined with social media’s engagement opportunities.
So what are the trends we’re seeing in integrated email and social media? According to the DMA, a third of marketers are now making their emails shareable via Facebook and Twitter. But it’s not just this tactic which is needed – forward-thinking brands are now starting a conversation, building a social community of followers and fans around this, and empowering consumers to participate and shape the story they want to hear. This is the new art of storytelling.
Some of the most successful brand campaigns are those that have built communities online, driven people to specific promotions, and as a final step, directed traffic to the brand’s website. Look at Hallmark, who, rather than selling to its customers, has been reaching out to them asking them for their favourite 'Hallmark Moment' in honour of the company’s 100th birthday.
It was this concept of storytelling through integrated email and social media marketing that was the key to the success of the campaign. So, how can other brands adopt this approach to enhance and humanise their efforts?
Tip 1 – Building an engaged social media community enhanced by email marketing
  • First, monitor online conversations to find out where your audiences are engaging. Don’t follow the hype around certain social sites – follow your audience.
  • Consider launching a dedicated email marketing campaign encouraging existing customers to join your Facebook page or Twitter page to re-engage existing customers.
  • Provide clear benefits and incentives that will be available to the fans of this page. This type of campaign will produce an increased number of fans who see value in engaging with your brand and it will help you to start building social profiles of your customers.
  • Ensure your campaign drives quality followers, rather than a huge volume of fans.
  • Ensure your emails are optimised for social media sharing, carrying your content further via Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Tip 2 – Encourage customers to bring their stories to the community
  • Use the same channels as your customers and engage them where 'they want to be'.
  • Give your audience a reason to contribute – if you do this in the right way, your followers are more than likely to contribute their own stories, photos, and videos.
  • Filofax has spoken about how they are listening to their followers. By posing questions and asking for comments by email or via Facebook on specific themes, it has been able to uncover a huge array of customer stories and some surprisingly emotional ones. Stories revealed on Facebook are used in Filofax’s email newsletter to drive further engagement with the brand. Meanwhile on Twitter, Filofax can get instant feedback on a new idea and find out if there’s a new trend they can pick up on.
Tip 3 – Develop content but don’t dominate the conversation
  • Start a community story – bring together like-minded people and host an online event that brings passion to the brand, but isn’t based solely around the benefits of the product.
  • For example: Often many companies forget to go beyond the mail blasting and selling and fail to convert their brand messages into conversational material. A company that is bringing conversations to the brand is the whiskey maker Laphroaig. On their website they started the 'story of a community' – engaging people who enjoy the finer things in life and once a year the brand hosts a highly successful ‘online tasting session’ when members across the world can dial-in to share a drink and a story.
Tip 4 – Measure the impact of your integrated marketing campaigns
  • Collect customer feedback and use integrated email marketing and social media tools to gauge your impact and measure multi-channel responses.
  • Use this information to feed customised content based on the channel preferences of your customers.
What does the future hold?
Once your client base supports your brand, the story will deliver a clear path towards successful viral marketing through email and sharing on social media channels. This will be supported by an increasing number of software tools and services that measure the impact of integrated campaigns. The future of social media is an exciting chapter in storytelling. However, social media should be seen as more than a direct marketing channel with rich opportunities for revenue, but as a vehicle to revolutionise the relationships between brands and their audiences.

Nick Heys is CEO of Emailvision.

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