Social Media Is Killing Email, And Other Myths

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Have you heard? Email is dead. Social media did it in, or so the story goes. Twitter and Facebook, blog comments and photo sharing are the way everyone will communicate.

I don’t buy it. When was the last time you logged into MySpace to view recent phone activity, or pay a critical bill? Do you really think your MeetUp friends care what time the cable guy will be at your house? Social networks do some things well. Managing critical transactional communications is not one of them.

Reality check No. 1. While social media gets all the attention, 1.3 billion people use email around the world, more than half of them every day. Facebook’s got 200 million active users, Twitter about 14 million.

Reality check No. 2. Take a look at your inbox. Does it look dead to you?

The truth is, email is more robust and relevant than ever. Email was the first social medium and remains the most widely used. Most of us combine email with calendars and contact lists, send pictures and make dinner plans, archive documents and keep track of drafts and deadlines. To many of us, me included, “Inbox Zero” marks the end of my day.

Integrated into a complete customer care suite, and enhanced with personalization and intelligent targeting, email inserts your company into the everyday flow of a customer’s life. A good transactional email campaign doesn’t feel like an intrusion, a sales pitch or spam. It’s a useful interaction – an easy way to pay a bill, make an appointment or confirm an order.

Through an email campaign, you have the opportunity to demonstrate that you know your customer. Don’t offer a service he already buys – or worse yet, at a “new customers only” rate that’s cheaper than what he’s paying. Don’t insult customers with poorly targeted ads that assume that every middle-aged person needs Jennifer Aniston’s wrinkle cure.

A Marketing Sherpa study showed that 75 percent of recipients will open a transactional email like a bill reminder, compared to 45 percent for a marketing message. Once it’s open, if the email transaction is straightforward and relevant, your customer is more likely to extend the conversation. “Did you know you can save 20 percent by switching to bundled services? Here are three pay-per-view movies you might like.” It’s an up-sell that doesn’t look like an up-sell.

According to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2008 “Power of Direct” study, email marketing delivers $45.06 for every dollar spent, compared to $19.94 for other online tactics. Trackable, segmentable, easily connected to customer history and relevant promotions, good email campaigns cut costs, increase ROI and improve customer satisfaction.

So don’t fear social media’s impact on email. Make your social media efforts as cohesive and well-integrated to brand as your email marketing, and use the vibrancy of social media to add energy to your reliable, cost-effective transactional email campaigns.

chad dunavant
csg systems
Chad Dunavant is Executive Director, Product Management, at CSG Systems in Englewood, Colo.

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