Social media has transformed both the production and consumption of content. Big, juicy stories break on Twitter. People turn to Facebook to learn about major world events (and comment on them endlessly). Digital media companies produce posts and videos specifically for social media (see: those addictive Facebook recipe videos).

Some statistics from Pew Research Center:

  • 30% of Americans get their news from Facebook
  • 10% of Americans get their news from YouTube
  • 8% of Americans get their news from Twitter
  • Half of American social media users have shared news-related content

But social media has its limits. The most powerful social media platforms have a deep understanding of user preferences and behavior, so they’re able to make sure each person sees the content they’re interested in. Cool, right? Yes and no: the problem is, you’re at the mercy of each platform’s opaque and ever-changing algorithms, which might or might not favor your content. Perhaps more importantly, you don’t get access to all the rich data these platforms collect, and you can’t use them to create your own personalized content recommendations. (For more on the subject, check out our CEO Nick Edwards’ post: How to Use Behavioral Data to Keep Your Content Relevant.)

That’s where email comes in. Though it’s less sexy than social, email’s ROI is easier to prove, and email gives you more control over your relationship with each reader. By leveraging the right technology, you can personalize every email the way Facebook personalizes every user’s news feed. Plus, the one-to-one nature of email makes it a better tool for retention. If getting a click on Facebook is the equivalent of having a flirtatious chat at a bar, getting a subscriber is the equivalent of being asked on a real date.

The magic happens when social and email work together. When a subscriber shares your content on social media, you know they’re in it for the long haul: it’s like finally meeting your new S.O.’s friends.

Using Social to Feed Email

Don’t try to acquire readers and subscribers on every single platform. Identify where your audience hangs out, and focus your efforts there, taking care to mirror their language and habits. For example, if your site focuses on recipes, building a presence on Pinterest will likely yield great results; if your site focuses on breaking news, though, you’re better off turning to Twitter.

Make it ridiculously easy for people to subscribe through your social channels. Create a Twitter lead generation card enticing people to subscribe, and pin it to the top of your profile page. At the end of your YouTube videos, include a link to your newsletter sign-up form. Create a CTA button on your Facebook page that links to that sign-up form, too — or create an entirely different form designed to appeal to your Facebook fans. You’ve got a lot of options.

Give your fans and followers sneak peaks of subscriber-only content. For maximum impact, create a highly shareable visual that introduces this piece of content. Make sure it’s something people are genuinely curious about: monitor social media trends and your own data to see which topics resonate with your audience.

Using Email to Feed Social

Encourage your most engaged subscribers to like or follow you on social media. Use dynamic segmentation to cull your power users, and send them an email encouraging them to access made-for-social content by liking you on Facebook (or following you on Instagram, or what have you). Alternatively, you can send the same kind of email to people who’ve been subscribers for a certain amount of time.  

Tailor your welcome email to the channel through which each subscriber arrived. It’s likely that your presence on each channel has a different flavor; keep subscribers’ experiences consistent by infusing your welcome email with that flavor as well. For example, subscribers who come in through Facebook can get a playful email, while subscribers who come in through LinkedIn can get that network’s top post. 

Reward (and entice) your sharers. Someone’s been sharing a lot? Awesome — you should thank them via email! You can even encourage them to share more with gamification techniques — e.g., “Thanks so much for sharing on Facebook! Share 2 more articles and unlock this premium piece of content.”   

Your readers aren’t discrete parts of a homogenous whole. Depending on how they found you, what they’re interested in, and how they prefer to engage, they all respond to different things. Connecting with readers through social media and email helps you give everyone the right experience — the kind that will make them stick around.

Want to take personalization further? Check out our eBook on machine learning for email marketers. 

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