Sean Donahue

Make Email and Social Media Work Together: Interview with Sergio Balegno

Whenever a new technology or channel emerges on the marketing landscape, debate inevitably follows over its impact on traditional tactics. Not surprisingly, the rise of social media marketing has sparked questions over whether these channels will diminish the importance of email as a means to reach customers and prospects.

I recently raised the topic with Sergio Balegno, one of MarketingSherpa’s senior analysts and the author of our 2009 Social Media Marketing & PR Benchmark Guide. Sergio also moderated a panel discussion on Tuesday, March 17, at Sherpa’s Email Marketing Summit, titled “Long Live Email: Enabling the Continued Success of Social Marketing.”

Here’s his take on the issue:

There’s been debate about social media channels potentially diminishing the impact of email marketing, but are the two tactics complementary?

They are overwhelmingly complementary. When we asked marketers for their opinions on several statements about social media marketing, 97% said they agree that social media will complement other marketing tactics, such as email, rather than displacing them – which is an incredible amount.

On the other hand, when we asked whether marketers believed social media would replace email as the primary method of communication, only 12% agreed with that statement.

This is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

How do the two channels enhance each other?

The strength of social media is its reach. One message can exponentially, virally grow to reach a very large audience. However, it’s very difficult for marketers to get permission to send messages to those users.

On other hand, email is very targeted and it has huge advantage in permission and acceptability of messaging. Email becomes the channel for social media to communicate with the market and social media becomes the channel for email to extend it reach.

Your session at the Email Marketing Summit highlighted tactics for integrating email and social media marketing. Can you give us an example of how marketers are combining the two channels?

One tactic is something that email service providers have rolled out literally within the last year, and most others will have shortly if they haven’t released it yet. I presented with a marketer who has tested their ESP’s “share with your social network” program.

These systems allow your subscribers to select a link on your email messages to share that email on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, or wherever you have an account. When they do that, it becomes a message on their personal page, and sites like Facebook will then send updates to all of that person’s contacts.

So your email is going out to all your subscriber’s contacts, and it is being provided by someone they know, which gives it some credibility. That has an amazing amount of value to it.

The data is only from the past four months, so we’re still in the early stages to say just how valuable, but this marketer tells me that it’s showing promise.

It sounds like one of the most important things for marketers to do is begin finding techniques like that and begin testing the opportunities.

Yes. There’s the perception that social media is a low-cost tactic. And it does have a low cost in terms of capital investment, but there is a high cost associated with the human capital required to implement these tactics. This is one area where it takes dedicated people to use the channels, map the processes, and develop expertise to train their staff.

I can remember a decade and a half ago, when the Web first started showing up on the horizon, and technologies typically had a five-year cycle. You could sit back and wait for evolving technologies to prove themselves before getting on board.

But in the last few years, technology cycles have gotten so fast that if you don’t get on board while something is emerging, by the time you do you’re competing with people who are experts at it. They’re already at the maturity stage, and getting ready to test what’s next down the line.

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Email Marketing, Marketing



  1. April 8th, 2009 at 13:22 | #1

    Totally agree about the “high cost” of human capital. People thing electronic marketing is free — it’s not.

    And, the more tools you can use to leverage your time investment to get maximum exposure in the various media — the better.

    JP Maroney
    aka “Mr. Monetizer”

  1. July 14th, 2010 at 20:36 | #1