If you’ve been following the marketing blogs this week, you’ve probably caught wind of Custora’s [fascinating] report on the “ROI” of major interactive tactics. To sum up a lot of great data: when it comes to directly attributable sales, email is crushing it and nearing PPC results, while social is [seemingly] negligible across the board. It’s a statement that’s probably well timed as social has become so “in” that an outside might just think interactive ads have lost their spark. But, no matter how many times people say they know someone giving up on email, it’s clearly not going anywhere for the mas market today.
That said, and as important a reminder as it may be, it’s an insight that should hardly be earth shattering… email has always been about buying and the doomsday implications many are drawing for social, they just don’t account for how it all works.
Social is not about creating the direct sale.
Every time there’s marketing report pushed out it’s performed by measuring equally, as if all tactics work the same. But they are quite clearly not the same; email may have the return but it doesn’t scale in the way of TV, TV doesn’t track like search, and organic can’t be tweaked like paid. Even with the same goal in mind, each tactic has its own strengths and limitations. Social goes even further, often stepping outside the research path, to inspire in a way that’s analogous to TV but with the benefit of interaction and, quite notably, validation. You don’t go to Facebook to figure out what to buy that day.
Social followers are not [just] in it for the deal.
When someone signs up for email it’s pretty clear what they expect in the email they’ll be getting each morning: an easy way to get connected to a brand they want to buy from with a deal, exclusive or release as their “gimmie”. However, as we research deeper into social media behavior it’s clear that while people still crave deals on Twitter / Facebook / whatever, the reason they follow a brand is often because they just like it or even to let friends know they do. You don’t have to care for what a brand posts to click follow.
Like word of mouth, social referrals don’t adhere to tracking funnels.
To say that social doesn’t drive sales akin to saying that word of mouth doesn’t influence purchases. Clearly people trust [and in many cases demand] user generated content along their purchasing path. Whether it’s reviews, a friend’s comments or just general “social” chatter, it has to be there. In fact, it’s content from others that matters the most, that brands should aspire to get well over their own posts, but this content is created by people in conversational forms, not marketing. As such it is usually link free and often privacy blocked out of sight entirely. You don’t have to click a link to be influenced.
Social is not your traditional marketing channel and certainly not the replacement to them.
The role of social should be thought of as an aid [or hindrance] in the entire buying process; a critical leg that can be at almost any point in the path from awareness in seeing that awesome new Model S a friend posted to final checks looking at reviews on those new Gunnar glasses. Regardless of what part social enters at, it’s about providing a validation brands can not offer on their own and that supports every channel out there, email included.
You can’t expect results while skipping on credibility anymore than you can expect them skipping on visibility but as this report clearly reminds us, hype should not dictate focus either and it would be equally foolish to dump everything into social while email collects dust.