By Rogier van der Veen, UK business development manager
Clang by E-Village (www.createaclang.com)

As commentators analyse the significance of Facebook’s ‘social inbox’ following its launch in mid-November, we are reminding digital marketers that email marketing and social media both have a place in the marketing mix.

This comes at a time when the profiles of communities such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn continue to grow, resulting in suggestions that email is outdated and no longer a tool to be taken seriously. However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of email are greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by the following facts:

•Email now accounts for 17 percent of digital marketing budget, up from 14 percent in 2009. (Econsultancy's Email Marketing Industry Census 2010).

•36 percent of consumers are prompted into making an online purchase as a result of receiving an email, and 27 percent report that an email was the cause of an offline purchase. (Econsultancy, ‘How We Shop in 2010: Habits and Motivations of UK Consumers’).

However, the enduring effectiveness of email marketing does not mean that digital marketers should regard social media as ‘hype’ or just the latest fad of which consumers will soon tire. We believe that people also expect their favourite brands to have a social media profile.

Although social media and email marketing are often pitted against each other, the reality is that the two channels go hand-in-hand (starting with the fact that most social networking sites require an active email address to open an account). Therefore they should be considered as powerful tools that complement each other in the ongoing quest for customer engagement.

But despite all the advances in technology, what cannot be underestimated is that communication will always be about the relationships between people. And people care far more about finding each other and having conversations than the channel(s) that they use to do this. Successful marketers understand that, ultimately, their role is to facilitate that dialogue, whether it is through email or social media - or whatever new innovative medium is just over the horizon.

We offer the following tips for implementing a strategy that ensures email marketing and social media are working together for maximum effectiveness:

•Define realistic goals and devise a strategy that will enable these to be met. Ensure these are understood throughout the organisation.

•Be present on social networks, following and contributing to relevant discussions, etc (but always remembering to keep the tone ‘non-salesy’).

•Ensure the email marketing platform enables integration, making it easy for recipients to share some or all of the content via social networks.

•Create accessible processes, for example by embedding ‘sharing icons’ in emails that encourage recipients to also follow on Twitter, post on Facebook, etc. Equally, make it easy for people finding the website via a social media site to sign up to the newsletter, for example.

•Engage with followers and fans on social media sites by actively asking for feedback, such as requesting their participation in the selection of topics to be covered in the email newsletter.

•Remember that there is no substitute for compelling content when it comes to engaging an audience, whether they are email recipients, Twitter followers or Facebook fans.

For more information on this topic, E-Village’s white paper, ‘Why email marketers should embrace social media’, is available to download for free from: http://www.createaclang.com/en/Downloads/