While social media will always generate more buzz and attention amongst marketers, it's hard to ignore the continued relevancy of email to the development of a successfully integrated campaign. The numbers don't lie. According to eMarketer, a recent report entitled the 2010 Lead Generation Optimization Key Trends Analysis from CSO Insights found that while marketers are putting more and more of their marketing budgets online, it is actually email, not social media, SEO nor online ads that remains the most effective lead generation program.
The rationale here may not actually lie solely in email's functionality—it might be that consumers still prefer to receive communications "the old fashioned way." A different eMarketer study found that e-mail remained the preferred retail promotion delivery method for nearly four in 10 U.S. consumers. In fact, only 9% of shoppers indicated an interest in receiving promotional messages on social media. Similarly in a recent AdAge column, Steve Rubel referenced an eConsultancy study of 1,400 U.S. consumers that found that 42% prefer to "receive ads for sales and specials via e-mail compared to just 3% who said the same for social-networking sites and 1% who preferred Twitter." Interesting stuff.
So what does this say? It certainly doesn't indicate that marketers should rethink putting their money into social media, but it does reflect a growing understanding that email remains a significant lead generator for marketers and one of (if not THE) preferred delivery method for smart phone-savvy consumers.
So what's next? The continued integration of the two, of course. Studies have found that 71% of marketers are already integrating social and email worldwide, mainly leveraging email to promote a social media presence and any associated promotion or offer.
But the real key here is the next phase of this congruent relationship. Where marketers have found difficulty launching viral campaigns organically within social channels, email continues to emerge an excellent delivery method for initiation. Alternatively, where email falls short in its ability to foster real-time engagement or interaction across different networks, companies are continuing to build tools that will improve the ability of users to share email content within their social networks or their social content within their email. Imagine building email newsletters within your social sites or managing your Twitter feed through your email dashboard. Again, interesting stuff.
At the end of the day, it's clear that the two channels will continue to merge. Our socially inclined instincts will continue to tip their hat to email's ability to disseminate compelling and dynamic content to well-targeted lists. Throw in the real-time analytics and tracking associated with email and it's clear to see why, as Rubel puts it, the two are "increasingly made for each other."