Mobile Marketing or Social Media Marketing - Which Goes Better with Email Marketing?

Integrated Marketing

Some email marketers see the rise of social media marketing and mobile communications as a threat to the dominance of email marketing. Not so! Each channel can integrate with your email marketing program to expand its reach and ROI.

But, which channel should you choose? You could opt to spread your messages via social media marketing- Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. Or, should you first add mobile marketing and optimize your email messages for viewing on mobile devices?

The answer, as it is with so many aspects of marketing, is "It depends." There's no single solution that meets all market needs. Each one can help you build your brand, acquire and retain more customers and deepen engagement.

In the end, base your decision on the type of people you market to, (customers, subscribers, users or prospects) and what you hope to accomplish with your campaigns.

Knowing and understanding your target audience - who they are, their wants and needs, where they hang out (virtually speaking) - is your first step when creating an effective marketing initiative.

Adding Mobile to Email Marketing

Integrating mobile marketing with email marketing means your subscribers will likely see your messages faster, whether they access their inboxes from a mobile browser or respond to a well-crafted text message.

Your mobile messages can also tout the benefits of your email marketing program and help you build a bigger mailing list.

Mobile marketing is also more heavily regulated and requires opt-in, which takes care of the permission angle that's less strict in email, at least for U.S. marketers. And consumers are becoming more receptive to it. A 2009 Juniper Research report predicted mobile coupon redemption could reach $6 billion by 2014. Redemption rates also can be higher than those for either paper or email coupons.

An example: Suppose you market to a younger and female consumer audience: teenagers and young adults who rely on texting on a continuous basis.

With this group, integrating an email marketing campaign with a strong short-code messaging system (SMS) makes sense. These consumers aren't always near a desktop or laptop computer to read and send email, but their phones are always in their pockets.

One campaign sought to build the company brand on mobile devices, targeting it to younger office workers. Mobile users who entered a sweepstakes saw a screen that invited them to opt in for offers and newsletters by texting "yes" to a custom short-code number that spelled out part of the company name.

For more detailed information about integrating mobile and email marketing, read our new guide: SMS + Email Marketing How-to Guide.

Adding Social Media to Email Marketing

Social media marketing can extend the reach, authority and shelf life of your email marketing program. When your subscribers post your email messages to their social networks, they broaden your exposure to new viewers and indirectly endorse your message. Your messages also live longer as they spread through your subscribers' networks.

An example: When your market skews toward professionals in a tight market vertical who coalesce around a social networking community, using social media to extend your reach to prospects makes sense.

Customers and prospects in this market niche are likely to be on their computers more often than their phones. These professionals, who often are experts or aspiring to advance in their fields, use social networking to get and give advice, share experiences and connect with their peers in highly focused groups such as LinkedIn or trade-specific forums.

Here, you can consider a strategy that calls for your company to participate in online groups, contributing valuable information rather than self-seeking promotion. (Recommended On Demand Webcast: Enhance Your Email With Social Media Marketing)

The Best Solution: "Tri-Messaging" (Email + Mobile + Social Media)

Email marketing as a channel has tremendous flexibility. That's one of its great virtues and one of the reasons it continues to reign over all other marketing channels for ROI ($43.62 returned per dollar spent in 2009 according to the Direct Marketing Association).

However, the digital messaging world has changed in the last few years. You can miss out on lucrative opportunities if you limit your marketing program to email marketing alone, or complement it with just one channel.

Many of your email-using customers access their social networks on their mobile phones, so they're already tri-messaging. You need to remain ahead of the game to provide the best user experience.

With tri-messaging, you can tap into the lucrative synergy that happens when you create a core email marketing program with social and mobile components.

Tri-messaging in Action: Airline Marketing

Email Marketing: An airline sends, via its regular email newsletter, an offer for a vacation package to Hawaii. The newsletter also includes prominent links inviting subscribers to become fans on its Facebook fan page and to follow the company on Twitter.

Social Media Marketing: Its Facebook fan page posts the vacation package offer, tourist information and photos of Hawaii. The Twitter account posts the offer, links to additional information and uses a hashtag and keyword (#HawaiiGetaway, for example) to extend the offer's reach.

Mobile Marketing: The airline sends an SMS alert to subscribers letting them know the package offer is either almost sold out or has only 24 hours left.

Managing the Costs of Social Media and Mobile Marketing Integration

Both social media and mobile marketing cost time (and, in some cases, money) to set up, maintain and monitor.

  • Social media marketing: You can join networks such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter without cost. Your major expense comes in the human resource it takes to set up your presence, joining and continuing conversations with participants, and monitoring your effectiveness with analytics programs that track your company's reputation in the social sphere.

    Solution: Ensure a specific employee has the responsibility to manage your efforts. If your marketing department is stretched to its limits now, "outsource" the work to an employee "fan" who is passionate about your company and its products and is already active in social media. Eventually your efforts will become significant and rewarding enough that you will want to formalize more dedicated ownership.

    Third-party applications for Twitter and content-sharing services such as ShareThis offer free tools to help you track comments. Other monitoring applications can be integrated with your Web analytics to track effectiveness. (Recommended On Demand Webcast: Social Media Marketing: CPR for Email Marketers in a Challenging Economy)

  • Mobile marketing: As with email marketing, building a mobile marketing program takes dedication and perseverance.

    Although mobile users are receptive to relevant marketing offers, they'll be just as likely to revolt against high message volume or irrelevant messages.

    Also, mobile messages require even more attention to rendering. Repurposing an image-laden email message can backfire if the images don't render or if the reader has to work too hard to find your offer or value proposition.

    Solution: Offer a mobile opt in on your registration page along with email subscriptions. Use the lowest common denominator for mobile marketing: SMS (text) messaging, to ensure that any device can receive the message properly. Promote your mobile program to your current subscriber or customer base via regular newsletters, special mailings and mentions in transactional email messages. (Recommended On Demand Webcast: Using Mobile for Email Campaigns: A Primer)


By taking a tri-messaging approach, marketers can gain the maximum synergies from their online marketing efforts.