How the Big Social Networks Use Email to Encourage User Engagement

Filed as Features on August 1, 2012 12:47 pm

If you are an online marketer and you are not using email, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful tools for reaching customers and increasing engagement. Email is a means to reach the people most interested in your products or services in a deeply personal way. It’s a way to stay in constant contact with your most loyal customers, fans and supporters. However, email marketing can be very tricky. If it’s done well, it can attract new people to your business and make current customers even better. If done poorly, it can turn away people who were, previously, excited about you and your brand.

So who can you turn to for help in mastering email marketing? Social networks are among the largest email senders in terms of volume and have spent an incredible amount of time and resources honing their email marketing. However, this is effort and energy you can tap as you can learn a great deal from these networks without having to duplicate their investment. You just have to be willing to step back and study what they are doing and why.

Facebook

Pretty much everyone is familiar with Facebook’s email alerts and many people feel inundated by them. However, most of Facebook’s messages are short and to the point, giving only the information the user wants and nothing else.

Facebook puts its emphasis on immediacy and customization. Users, through Facebook, can select exactly the events they want to be alerted to and will only receive the emails they want. The result, however, is that most Facebook users seem to get more mail than they intended. Still, most tolerate this because they would rather be over-informed than under-informed about what is going on.

For marketers, Facebook showcases the importance of letting users choose what they want and providing the important information as soon as possible. This combination of choice and immediacy makes it easy for web developers to take advantage of market segmentation and ensure customers stay happy and engaged.

Twitter

Of the major social networks, Twitter is the newcomer to email marketing, only recently having launched a digest feature that highlights the most important stories and tweets from the past week.

Twitter’s emails focus on helping users find the content that is most popular but that might have been missed due to the short lifespan of most tweets. While the algorithm that Twitter uses is far from perfect, it’s an attempt by Twitter to fix a problem that many have with the service, namely that it moves so fast it’s inevitable even the most dedicated Twitter users will miss great content.

Email marketing in general is an excellent “second bite at the apple”, a chance to reach out and either fix a mistake or shore up a weakness. Whether it’s a need to go deeper into a topic or to cut through the clutter to find the relevant information, email is a great chance to fix a limitation with the rest of your Web presence and build stronger customer relationships.

Google+

Google+ has a weekly digest very similar to Twitter’s but, in addition to highlighting relevant content, it also recommends new users to follow and, most interestingly, offers the ability to add them to your circles directly in the message.   This is a stark reminder that email is not a static medium any more. HTML email has long been the norm, and that provides opportunities for you to encourage engagement directly in the email itself, including polls, contests and sharing tools directly in the message.

In short, there’s no reason to force subscribers to click through to your site to engage with your company, much of what they can do at your domain can be just as easily done in the email itself.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is similar to Facebook in that it is known for sending a large volume of email and also letting users customize what they want.

One of the specialties of LinkedIn, however, is giving customers information that they might not know they wanted, including job opportunities they might be interested in, connections that might be relevant and so forth. LinkedIn uses its knowledge about its members to provide them with tools and information they may not have known they wanted. However, even this comes with a choice as users can always scale back the emails they get to a weekly digest or, if they want, disable it completely.

This is an effect that almost any marketer can provide if they properly segment their audience and are able to know what their subscribers want better than themselves.

Pinterest

Finally, Pinterest may be the new kid on the block as far as social networks go, but its emails are profoundly visual in nature, presented more like a large sign than a small flyer. This not only plays to Pinterest’s strengths, but reminds marketers that email is a visual medium and should be treated similarly to Web design.

Pinteret’s emails are a good example of tying email marketing in with your other elements of your online presence, in particular your site, and in making emails visually striking. This makes them stand out when people are scrolling through their messages and makes them something people want to get in their inbox. In short, it’s important not to leave your design skills at the door when you email marketing and remember that email can be beautiful too.

All in all, each social network does certain things very well and those things depend heavily on the network itself and the audience it works with. Likewise, it’s best to focus your strengths accordingly, focusing on the traits that are best suited for your audience.

However, there’s no reason that your email marketing can’t learn at least some lessons from all of the networks. There’s no reason your email can’t be immediate like Facebook and beautiful like Pinterest, it’s just a matter of forming a good plan and then finding the time and energy to get it done. After all, there’s no real secret to good email marketing, it’s all about investing the resources needed to make it happen and that comes from watching what others are doing and making email a priority.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for pre shipment inspection companies around the globe, and who also consults for a neon sign store that offers custom neon signs for businesses and individuals.

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