Someone has to take the reins of your company’s social media strategy. It might as well be you. In fact, if you’re already managing the company’s email program, it really ought to be you.
Email marketers are uniquely qualified to succeed in social media because of the similarities between the two channels. The tactical execution is very different of course. Here are the principal tactical differences between email and social:
Ambient Atmosphere: The work inbox is still perceived largely as a place of business, even when personal messages occasionally infiltrate. But Facebook, Twitter and other social channels are more, well, social. The surrounding content creates a different atmosphere, and requires your messages to alter their tone or content in order to be effective.
Message Length: While email copy is getting shorter, marketers still have more real estate to work with than they do in social channels. Crafting tight, clear and engaging messages in one or two sentences for Facebook and Twitter is a new skill for email marketers, who traditionally compose in longer paragraphs or shorter subject lines.
Content Objectives: Most emails are composed around a call-to-action designed to compel subscribers to click a link, buy a product, register for a conference or perform some other action with an immediate benefit to the sending company. Social media differs in that the principal objectives are not always so direct-response related, but are instead organized around engagement. This affects the type of content as well, with questions, photos, polls, video and conversations frequently replacing calls-to-action in social channels.
Message Frequency: A brand can post on Facebook three to five times daily, and tweet even more frequently than that. The inbox is not nearly so tolerant of frequency, as every message to land there must be sorted, read, saved, deleted or otherwise triaged. Social messages are transient; if a fan or follower does not deal with or even see them, they do not pile up like emails.
Note that the operative word describing the differences here is tactical. The way to execute across email and social is different, but the channels spring from the same strategic similarity:
Email and Social are the only Permission-Based Channels.
Think about what that means. Email marketers have spent years earning permission to enter the inbox of the thousands or even millions of subscribers they rely on in order to move their businesses forward. Setting aside list buying (and I wish everyone would set aside list buying, frankly) there is simply no way to buy an audience’s attention in email, in the way that you can with advertising or direct mail, for example. Email marketers have learned that earning permission, turning it into attention, and ultimately building anticipation is a function of respect – respecting the attention that a subscriber has lent and not abusing it with too frequent or untargeted messages.
Email marketers not only understand the rules of permission, attention, anticipation and respect; for them it is simply second nature. Because social media is similarly permission-based, email marketers already possess the strategic underpinnings required to be successful there. They may not yet know how to write an effective engagement-driving post on Facebook, or which content strategy for Twitter takes full advantage of their brand’s assets in order to deliver value to an audience. But they do recognize that engagement and delivering value are the critical components here, not merely interrupting and announcing.
As you build out your brand’s social media strategy, remember that your roots in email give you a competitive advantage. Like you do with email, remain focused on delivering value with the content you create, and respecting the attention you have been given instead of taking advantage of it.