January 07, 2010
How To

Email and Social Media Integration: 5 Strategies to Grow Audiences and Design Campaigns

SUMMARY: Email subscribers and social media followers are among a marketer’s best assets -- they represent consumers who want to communicate with your brand. But they don’t necessarily want the same types of information.

See how a consumer marketing team supplemented a strong email marketing program with social media tactics that grew audiences in both channels and delivered triple-digit traffic increases to specific Web content. Includes strategies for:
o Surveying audiences
o Tailoring messages for each group
o Designing multi-channel campaigns
In 80 years, cookware and cake-decorating accessory company Wilton has grown a loyal customer base that looks to the brand for creative baking, decorating and party planning tips. Eric Erwin, EVP Marketing & Product Development, Wilton, could see proof of this engagement in his team’s email newsletter clickthrough rates, which average 20%-30%.

But with the emergence of social media, the team realized that consumers had more ways to interact with one another and share ideas. It was no longer sufficient to simply push out content and try to control the flow of conversations.

Instead, the team has supplemented its email marketing tactics with a social media strategy that includes a blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed. These efforts allow them to interact with consumers wherever they congregate.

"We’ve been able to engage and insert ourselves in a conversation with folks starting to organize themselves around their own interests," says Erwin.

Along the way, they learned several important lessons about how email and social media can work together to keep consumers engaged with the brand, and support the team’s promotional goals.

Here are five key strategies the team used to integrate social media and email marketing:

Strategy #1. Survey audience to determine email and social habits

At first, the team assumed there would be significant overlap between their opt-in database and their social media followers. To measure crossover between channels, they conducted several surveys:

- First, the team surveyed their email newsletter subscribers to ask which social media sites they used.

- Then, they conducted separate surveys on their Facebook page and Twitter feed to ask the audience about newsletter subscriptions and social media habits.

The results surprised them. The overlap between audiences was not as great as they expected:
o About 50% of the team’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers subscribed to the Wilton.com newsletter
o About 5% of the team’s Facebook fans were following the company on Twitter
o About 40% of the team’s Twitter followers were also Facebook fans

Strategy #2. Develop different messages for each audience

The team's next question was whether email and social media audiences responded to the same type of information. Again, they were surprised by the results.

The team assumed that their Facebook fans would be similar to their newsletter subscribers: highly engaged consumers who have taken in-person decorating classes and purchased several books and other products.

But, by monitoring Facebook discussions, they realized that fans were a different group. Facebook fans tended to be less engaged with Wilton products -- most had never taken a class, for example. Instead, they had come to the Facebook page because of their interest in baking and cake/cookie decorating.

In response, the team adjusted their messaging strategy to appeal to the different characteristics of their opt-in database and social media followers:

- Newsletter subscribers are most interested in "how-to" content, such as party planning ideas, baking projects, and decorating tips. Product-specific promotions in the email newsletters tended to get a much lower response rate.

"Email subscribers want ideas, maybe because they have products already," says Erwin.

- By contrast, social media followers who don’t know the company as well had a greater interest in new product announcements. So product-focused messages to those groups were better received.

Strategy #3. Use email to grow social media audience, and vice versa

Because there wasn’t a significant overlap between email subscribers and the social media audience, the team developed cross-channel list-building campaigns.

Here are two ways they encouraged their audience to participate in multiple channels:

- Email promotion to gain Facebook fans

The team used their email newsletter to boost awareness of the Facebook page. They added buttons to their email newsletter to encourage subscribers to follow the brand on Facebook, and saw a 325% increase in new Facebook fans on the day they sent the newsletter.

- Facebook promotion to gain newsletter subscribers

The team also tested the effect of promoting the email newsletter to Facebook fans. They created a Facebook wall post that encouraged fans to opt-in, and saw a 225% increase in newsletter subscriptions compared to the average daily sign-up rate.

Strategy #4. Coordinate multi-channel promotions for product launches

Each year, one of the team’s biggest campaigns focuses on the annual Wilton Yearbook -- a collection of cake designs, decorating tips and party planning ideas released each June.

Last year, the team used its email and social media channels for a coordinated product launch campaign:

- They used their Facebook page to promote the upcoming release, including a post one week prior to launch encouraging fans to guess what cake design would be on the cover.

Then, they monitored conversations about the Yearbook and responded to customer questions, such as where to purchase the book.

- They used their Twitter account to provide previews of content before the release, such as the teaser campaign to guess the book’s cover.

- Upon release, they conducted a traditional email campaign to promote the book.

The multi-channel campaign doubled traffic to the Yearbook page on Wilton.com compared to 2008, and helped generate a 65% increase in sales year over year.

"We created a dialog prior to product being released," says Erwin. "We did not take a heavy-handed email approach and hammer our opt-in database over and over again."

Strategy #5. Stagger messages over time and across channels for seasonal campaigns

Holidays are major promotional opportunities for Erwin and his team. The integration of email and social media allowed them to stagger their promotions over time leading up to significant dates.

For example, this past Halloween the team coordinated a month-long series of promotions that offered party tips, cookie- and cake-decorating ideas and product promotions in several channels:

- They created Halloween party-planning videos that they posted to YouTube, their own blog, and their Facebook page.

- They used Twitter to promote Halloween baking ideas and specific products, such as cookie cutters. Then, on Halloween, the sent a tweet encouraging customers to post photos of their creations on the Wilton Facebook page.

- The made Halloween the theme of their October email newsletter, offering ideas for cookie, cake and cupcake decorations.

By combining email and social media promotions, they generated a 120% increase in Halloween product views on Wilton.com

"People have far more choices in life, and they just want to have relevant information come to them," says Erwin. "We let people find the migration point to the brand that’s most convenient for them."

Useful links related to this article

Learn more about integrating email and social media at MarketingSherpa’s 2010 Email Summit in Miami, Jan. 20-22:

Creative Samples from Wilton’s email and social media campaigns

Shay Digital: Manages the team’s email and social media strategy

Wilton’s Facebook page

Wilton’s Twitter feed


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