As marketers have you ever wondered which digital marketing channel – email vs social media – fits your marketing strategy better? They both have their pros and cons, however, is your success defined by the use of just one or would it be best to utilise both to grow your business?

“If social media is the cocktail party, email marketing is the ‘meet up for coffee’. The original one to one channel.” – Erik Harbison

You’ve heard the phrase: “One size fits all.” Well, in this case – it doesn’t. We’ve said it over and over again, but it bears repeating – marketing is ever-evolving. Different marketers have more than one channel at their disposal to appeal to customers. From email through social media to paid ads on different platforms, all are potential techniques for growing customer engagement. However, when it comes to email marketing vs social media, marketers have to develop a carefully thought-through strategy to reach the desired business goals. 

In this article, we’ll answer the following email marketing vs social media questions:

  1. Where’s your targeted audience at?
  2. Which marketing channel do customers prefer?
  3. Which channel brings in the money?

Ready to dive in?

As a professional ESP, we have our own point of view when it comes to email marketing vs social media – can you guess? However, personal opinion aside, we’ve decided to take a dive into the pros, cons and opportunities of both marketing strategies from a non-prejudiced perspective.

Background Stories

Social media

As of April 2020, almost 4.6 billion of the global community are active internet users, which equates to 59% of the global population, 3.81 billion are active social media users with 3.76 billion being active mobile social media ones. 

With these stats in mind, blasting your social media audience and getting marvellous organic reach seems like a nice walk in the park. However, back in 2019, for users to set their eyes on your awesomely-crafted social pages and posts, you had to invest money. Without doing so, there wouldn’t be any reach (or at least not one that is satisfying) and with no reach, there would be no engagement. 

We are definitely not saying that organic social media posts have no place in your marketing strategy. But, since social media platforms became a pay-to-play world, they are not as effective as they were in the past. Not to mention, social media platforms’ policies of prioritising content supported by… you guessed it – money.

Furthermore, your followers on social media are not owned by you. They are owned by social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Additionally, marketers can’t simply export and then import their followers from one social media platform to another – though it would’ve been nice. And the worst part, social media giants can decide to delete your account – without even a warning –  costing you those hard-earned hundreds or thousands of followers. However, don’t annihilate the importance of social media in your marketing strategy.

Email marketing

Lately, a ton of EmailOut’s friends and employees have done a “digital detox”. They’ve dropped their Facebook addiction, stopped checking Twitter obsessively and went Insta-cold turkey. Do you know what wasn’t part of that detox? Their email. Why? Because they might actually miss something important.

With approximately 3.9 billion global email users in 2019 and a prediction for this statistic to grow to around 4.5 billion in 2024, marketers have solid proof that people don’t just quit email. This marketing channel is here to stay. Oh, should we also remind you that social media relies on email, anyway? While social media is an important part of any online marketing mix, the original email address a person uses to open all those social media accounts is always going to be the holy grail

Ah, let’s not forget social media platforms’ infuriating habit of changing their algorithms without notice, or making things pay-to-play without warning, or restricting your ability to connect with an audience you’ve spent years painstakingly building.

That can’t happen when you have a legitimate, never-bought email list. There are no middlemen or gatekeepers here, preventing you from getting in touch with leads, or with people who have expressly stated that they want to hear from you. If you’re using the best ESP, you’ll never have to pay simply to speak to people you’ve already done the hard work enlisting.

In short, your email list is yours. If an ESP closes, you can easily export your email list and move to a different provider. However, with email, there’s one crucially important element marketers must be vigilant about – deliverability. Don’t panic. All you need to do to ensure your email will reach the subscribers’ inbox is periodically cleaning your email list and maintaining a positive sender reputation.

The Marketing Channel Preferred By Users Is… 

Setting aside our point of view on the matter, which channel do you think is the preferred communication path businesses take – email or social media?

According to our friends at Smart Insights, emails see 50 to 100 times the click-through rate than Facebook and Twitter combined. Furthermore, email marketing is about ten times cheaper than Facebook ads – especially with EmailOut. Not to mention that – 

a) 59% of B2B marketers state that email is their most effective tool for revenue generation;
b) 74% of people prefer email for B2C interactions and to top it off; and,
c) email marketing has an ROI of 42:1

If the latter three alone is not proof enough of the power of email marketing then you, our dear marketer friends, are probably doing marketing (slightly) wrong.

Ah, we almost forgot to mention one of the biggest cons of email marketing – having your email marked as spam. Your recipients are probably already overwhelmed by numerous marketing emails bombarding their inbox. Don’t let yours be one of them. The easiest ways to do so is by – 

a) establishing an emailing frequency;
b) ensuring your emails meet the recipients’ objectives; and
c) delivering helpful, relevant content.

Since we promised a non-biased opinion on the matter of email marketing vs social media, it’s only fair to give you some social media stats – 

a) active social media users divided into three categories – millennials (90.4%), Gen X (77.5%) and Baby Boomers (48.2%);
b) 73% of marketers state that social media marketing has been ‘somewhat effective’ for their business;
c) 71% of customers having a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend it to their friends and family; and,
d) 9% of users prefer brands to contact them via social media.

As you can see, both email marketing and social media have pros and cons. However, what they actually offer marketers is an opportunity. With 60% of consumers preferring to receive promo campaigns via email, compared to 20% via social media, don’t focus your marketing efforts on only one channel, combine them. Allow them to complement each other. The end result will surely transcend your initial assessment.

The Channel Bringing In The Money Is… 

The stats we already presented are proof enough your email program is more valuable than most of the other digital marketing channels out there. With an ROI of 42:1, can you really find an argument strong enough to ignore email? 

With that said, can you measure social media’s ROI? Can you even guess what it is? No one can and no one knows. It’s a difficult task considering different businesses measure and track ROI differently, which makes it even trickier to associate revenue. 

Sure, over 50% of consumers say social media influences their purchasing decisions. However, that only happens after they got an email from a brand about a revolutionary new product or a time-efficient innovative service. Once they’ve opened and clicked-through through from the email, then and only then, do they check the brand’s social media profile(s). Thus, negating the power of social media is not the way to go. It might not lead to direct sales like email marketing does, however, it does have an important role in the overall online marketing mix.

Which marketing channel to choose depends entirely on your business’s goals. Social media is the preferred channel when your goal is bigger reach and the occasional higher engagement, while email marketing is your best option for driving sales.

So, we won’t tell you which marketing channel is the best or the most effective or the most profitable. Why? Because no matter how many stats we throw your way or how persuasive we can be, you can only judge the quality of something by trying it yourself. 

As the saying goes: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Unless you try it, you’ll never know.

Final Thoughts

We can never predict where social media platforms will be in the next few years. Remember MySpace, Google+, Friendster or Twitter’s Vine? How about all those privacy scandals surrounding Facebook?

To some, email might seem like the old-times internet dial-up connection – outdated. However, this marketing channel has an advantage that social media couldn’t possibly offer – longevity.

There is a time and place for every marketing channel. Thus, instead of relying heavily on just one, utilise as many as you can (just think your strategy through) and allow them to support each other. 

Email marketing vs social media might feel like two strategies on opposing teams, however, combining them will undeniably bring benefits to your overall marketing strategy. After all, they are two of the most powerful and effective digital marketing channels. Used together they are an unstoppable marketing force.

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) Deliver real returns with an effective social media strategy
2) Useful social media marketing hacks
3) 2020 Email list building techniques
4) Email engagement and deliverability
5) Improving your sender reputation
6) Email marketing stats 2020

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