Email vs. Social: Can't we all just get along?

With "It Should Never Have Been Social Vs. Email", Chad White makes a wonderful distinction between what has become an "either/or" debate between the effectiveness of email vs. social media. As an expanding channel for direct marketers, social continues to both entice and frustrate. The 'rules of engagement' seem to change daily but the promise of 2 way interaction at a moment's notice is too intoxicating to ignore. So what to do? Well that depends on your goal. What business problems are we solving? Are we looking for deeper client engagement... snippets to keep our product/service top of mind? Are we wanting to deliver timely offers to get buyers in our doors, to our websites, or in our showrooms? Or do we need to fill the sales funnel and get more qualified prospects to consider us in the first place? Are we selling or are we marketing and do we know the difference?

I'm amazed at the number of clients who try the short-sighted approach of forcing direct marketing strategy into the social channel, only to be frustrated with having acquired a lot of followers but limited in the way to assign value. (An understandable strategy given social's cost compared to other marketing options.) Inevitably those same clients return asking if we can, "... get a list of people who 'like' certain brands and send them an email?" With social marketing, we appear to be somewhere around the mid-point of Gartner’s Hype Cycle (also mentioned in Mr. White's article), hovering somewhere between the 'Peak of Inflated Expectations' and the 'Trough of Disillusionment'.

This statement from Chad almost summarizes the symbiotic nature of social and email perfectly: "Since social and email are really more sequential elements of the sales funnel than simultaneous, competing elements, there are opportunities to listen and start conversations on social and then leverage insights from that into your email program." If wanting to engage in conversations with truly qualified and interested 'buyers' vs. 'window shoppers', then we need to first attract those who are wanting to be most engaged, indicating so via the content that attracted them in the first place. Email and Direct Mail take the prize there. Adding social to the CRM function for continuing sales/marketing efforts is a natural progression following initial engagement.