Do your email subscribers use social media? Let me ask this a different way. Is anyone not using social media?

Like email, social media is a powerful marketing tool. This is especially true today as consumers expect more of a personal and engaging relationship with a brand, as opposed to just a transactional one.

Social media offers the perfect opportunity to build one, but many retailers struggle with how to blend their social and email marketing efforts. Across the industry, this is mostly still a work in progress.

If you need to get started or are still feeling your way through this new joint effort, consider these five ways to begin incorporating social media into your email marketing:

1. Begin collecting content

Start collecting user-generated content. People connect with people, not stock models. Ask followers and email subscribers to post photos that include your products to your social sites. There are a few ways to ask for this information.

You can include a banner in your emails to make the request, advertise it on your social sites and weave it into your triggered messages, such as a post-purchase email series. It doesn’t matter how you ask, just ask.


2. Sell socially

With content in hand, you can add it to your emails. For example, instead of sending an email showing the stock photo of a new dress, show a picture of a real customer wearing the dress.

Even if you prefer to use the stock photo, you can insert a social feed with those shared images as a secondary section to reinforce the message.

Alternatively, instead of sending emails containing user-generated content, consider using it for testimonials. You can socially quote customers talking about the product(s) you are highlighting.

In this example from Ann Taylor, they use these social comments (Read more...) part of their email. You can use these testimonials to share how your product solves a problem, comment on the clarity of your 1K Ultra HD TV, or even describe the uniqueness of your new blend of coffee .


3. Run a contest

Create a contest that uses both social sites and your email program. A scavenger hunt works great for this.

The hunt could include clues that lead subscribers from one social site to another, with email delivering either the first or final clue to encourage subscriptions. Give the contest a special hashtag to promote interaction between your site and subscribers.

With a contest like this, don’t waste the list growth opportunity. Advertise the contest on your social sites in advance, letting followers know the first clue will be coming via email. Alternatively, make the final step in the hunt a call to sign up for your emails. Either way, encourage players to subscribe.

4. Be social and ask

Social is one half of social media, and one way to be social is to ask questions.

Include a question of the week or day in your emails, like in the example below, asking subscribers to answer on social using a special hashtag. But be mindful of how the answer will populate on various platforms.

For instance, Instagram will generate an image with the answer, whereas Twitter may or may not include one. Don’t forget to interact with those who post. Thank them and respond to their comments. Make it a genuine two-way communication.


Depending on the products you sell, you may be able to tap into some emotion. For instance, if you sell wedding-related items, encourage followers to share wedding and honeymoon pictures and posts as a way to keep them connected to your brand through to a first anniversary.

This type of emotional engagement makes people feel more connected to your brand and may even increase customer loyalty.

5. Listen and observe

If you ask a question, be ready to listen. Create emails around some of your most popular social posts. You know these posts have resonated well with your audience, and you should look to maximize this potential engagement opportunity. These messages don’t necessarily have to be product-focused either.

Consider a series, such as a welcome or post-purchase series, where you send brand engagement messages that reinforce your overall value to the subscriber. This emotionally engaging content would be a natural fit within those series.

The days of one-way communication between retailers and consumers are gone. Finding ways to create or strengthen a connection across channels can be the difference between a one-time purchaser and a loyal brand advocate.

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