Social marketing via e-mail, in one form or another, has been around for a while. Beginning about seven years ago, it was called viral marketing, and recipients were asked to forward e-mails to their friends and colleagues. However, it has faced challenges in the b-to-b world. ¶ “The reason is, it really didn't start a conversation,” said Ryan Deutsch, senior director-market strategy with StrongMail Systems. “It was very one-sided.”
E-mail combined with today's social networking offerings such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, however, is a whole different story, he said.
“We're seeing the idea of sharing to social really taking off. By clicking a link, people are sharing content in a place where it can start a dialogue or a series of replies. Businesses are now reaching and engaging influencers that they never would have touched in the past.”
Interested in taking your own e-mail marketing program to the social realm? Here are seven tips from Deutsch to help you get the most of your efforts.
1) Use your ESP's social marketing capabilities.
Today, most major ESPs (such as StrongMail and Silverpop) and e-mail software providers are making it easy to send your e-mails directly to your Facebook page, for example.
2) Create your own social network.
IBM Corp. has nearly 45 community sites that are available from the IBM.com home page. Site visitors can discuss IBM products and industry topics. These discussions create good fodder for e-newsletters, and they are also good seeding grounds for specific articles from new e-mail newsletters, both of which can create new opt-in sign-ups, Deutsch said. “These go beyond peer reviews or product rankings because they are spontaneous and fresh,” he added. “You can take this content and add a section to your e-newsletter devoted entirely to hot topics within the social environments you've created. We've found for our clients that these are some of the hottest and most clicked-on links in their newsletters.”
3) Add opt-in links to all marketing collateral.
If, for example, you post a new video on your Facebook page, make sure that video contains a link at the end so viewers can opt in. Once it's shared across a virtual network you'll be reaching hundreds if not thousands of prospective new customers. Give them a way to ask for more information.
4) Use your status to publicize your e-mail newsletter.
Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter all give users the option to publish information—in effect tease an announcement—as soon or as late as you want to, said Deutsche. “Once you know what you're writing, you can start talking about it on your social networking sites. Publish a status update the day before you send your newsletter out to remind people it's coming, and get them excited about it,” he said. “You can even send them to the corporate Web site ahead of time so they can sign up if they aren't already on your list.”
5) Change your layout.
If you're sending people from a social media site to your Web site or asking them to download a white paper or view a video, opt-in links must be extremely visible. “You can't bury the link at the bottom anymore,” Deutsch said. “If someone cares enough to check something out, you need to give them a very obvious way to stay engaged.”
6) Use the search functions.
You are already (hopefully) following your company and product names via Google e-mail alerts. You can do the same on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to gain market knowledge and good ammunition for e-mail marketing. “Twitter search, for example, allows you to follow everything that's mentioned about your company,” Deutsch said. Now you're hearing things you would never have access to. You can then, for example, take the good and the bad that's being said and respond to that in your e-mail marketing. For example, "Here's a tweet we heard about a complaint, and here's how we're going to fix it'.”
7) Be a joiner.
You can get more people interested in what you're saying by becoming a trusted source. By joining LinkedIn groups, and responding to questions, and joining Facebook groups and getting involved in discussions, you set your company up as a resource and an expert. “It's almost as if these groups are another complementary channel to your e-mail marketing,” Deutsch said.
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Originally published April 2, 2009