Although email remains a more effective marketing tool than Facebook or Twitter, the current online landscape is informed in many key ways by social media. Users go to their favorite networking sites to share practically every detail of their lives, from important events like getting engaged to more everyday occurrences – what album they're listening to, for instance, or the healthy breakfast they made themselves that morning. On these social platforms, people follow other users who post content that is relevant to them in some way, whether it be from a friend with similar interests or a business that specializes in products they might use.
It's natural, then, that when the customers on your email contact list read your messages, they want to feel that information of value is being shared with them. Far from overshadowing email, social media offers marketers lessons in how to effectively frame their promotional campaigns to create engaged customers.
Email engagement on the rise
Marketers will have to work hard to achieve that goal, of course, but research suggests that consumers are becoming more and more willing to be won over by marketing emails. Epsilon's Q2 2013 North American Email Trends and Benchmarks report revealed that 51 percent of email list subscribers were active during the second quarter of this year.
Just over half may not sound like much, but it represents a steady increase from previous quarters. Email activity registered at 50.1 percent in Q1 2013 and and 49.9 percent in Q4 2012. Meanwhile, the overall email open rate in Q2 was 28.5 percent, an 11.5 percent increase over the same period in 2012.
These statistics come as positive news for marketers – but the need to stay vigilant and active in promoting engagement among email list subscribers remains pressing.
"Engagement is not a linear process; it's a continual loop that requires a lot of work, but yields loyal customers with higher lifetime values," noted Judy Loschen, Epsilon's vice president of digital analytics.
The yin and yang of the subject line
There are many tools at your disposal as you bolster your efforts to create a more active customer base. It's always a good idea to perform simple A/B list tests on promotional messages and vary certain factors of the email's design and content between the two segments. One of the most crucial email components to experiment with and perfect is the subject line.
Shuba Srinivasan, a marketing professor at Boston University, spoke with CRM Buyer about the importance of subject lines as a determining factor in consumers' first impressions of the brand.
"They need to be inviting enough to not give away the whole email, concise enough that they fit on the screen of all devices and clear enough that people know why you're sending an email," Srinivasan told the news source.
Consider spending some extra time with your subject lines in an effort to achieve the kind of delicate balance that Srinivasan outlined: If you give away too little, you could risk customer confusion, while a flat or strictly informational subject line might result in boredom and disengagement.
Be smart about segmentation
The "likes," retweets and other interactive components of social media make a wider set of consumer information readily available – and often, marketers can leverage that information to create more narrowly segmented email marketing lists.
In a column for Business 2 Community, Krista Bunskoek from email marketing solutions vendor Wishpond gave a helpful example of how marketers can utilize social media data.
"Your business includes online movie rentals. Segment your movie product emails to targeted Facebook fans who like movies (or even get more personalized with particular genres of movies)," Bunskoek wrote.
With analytics tools that process information from social sites, any marketer should be able to implement strategies like this one.