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This is a guest post by Jonathan Payne of MySocialGamePlan.com

The putrid smell of burning hashtags and @ symbols. Women and children screaming in terror. Hot, glowing embers falling from the Twitter logo as it slowly goes up in flames.

Okay, maybe I’m getting carried away, but wouldn’t it be horrible if you woke up tomorrow to the sight of Twitter turning into a pile of ashes?

Of course, the idea that Twitter is going away any time soon is a long shot, but it’s not an impossibility at all for your target market to begin shifting their attention away from one social network to another.

Why A Singular Focus on Social Networks May Come Back to Haunt You

If you have thousands of followers on Twitter, that’s fantastic, but realize you have no equity in Twitter.

Your control over the site amounts to 140 characters. You don’t have any significant control of its features, its users, or its future (unless maybe you’re Justin Bieber). The same could be said for Facebook, Google+, or any other social network.

It could all be gone tomorrow.

I’m not implying social networks are a terrible thing to spend some time on, because they certainly have their place. Yet, I wonder what will happen to those who have heavily invested only in social networking for no other reason than it’s — in the words of Jay Baer — “the Lady Gaga of marketing.”

Taking a step back, social media seems to be distracting many digital marketers and business owners from the most important tool in curating a lasting online community: email lists.

The Ferocious Competition for Attention

The following section is largely credited to Derek Halpern of Social Triggers. These observations are simply too good not to pass along and Derek is a genius when it comes to online marketing.

Consider two characteristics of social media:

  • How quickly your Twitter feed is updated.
  • Who you’re competing with when you make a Facebook update.

Even following as few as 500 people on Twitter will have your feed updating at a furious rate. Walk away for fifteen minutes and it’s no surprise to see hundreds of new updates when you get back. And that’s with a relatively small number of followers. Up that to a few thousand or tens of thousands…you get the picture.

Can you really count on a typical marketing message breaking through the noise in an environment like that?

Now, think about your Facebook page. Besides the fact that only a small portion of your fans see your updates by default, there’s one other tiny little thing.

Do you ever login to Facebook to keep an eye on your favorite brand of shoes or to see what your favorite sports team is up to during the offseason?

No? Good. Neither does anybody else.

People login to Facebook to keep in touch with their friends and families. They login to Facebook to “ooh and aww” at the 162 recently uploaded pictures of their friend’s sleeping baby (I still don’t understand this phenomenon!).

The point is, when you make a Facebook update, the chance of the average fan skipping updates from their friends and family, then stopping to pay attention to your message is slim.

Relying On Marketing Luck

Now sure, if you throw out enough tweets and Facebook updates, some of them will stick simply due to the odds and a little bit of luck.

But marketing has never been about luck or hoping your message makes it through. Marketing is about moving the emotions of your audience, and then proving your product appropriately amplifies or compresses those emotions. You can’t do either of those things if you don’t get people to even glance at your message first.

Your initial goal has to be getting your target audience to listen. Email takes the cake here.

The Advantages of Email Over Social Networks

Don’t get me wrong, email isn’t perfect either. You’re still banking on people stopping to read your subject line and clicking through to the email, but the fact of the matter is the competition of a typical inbox is much less fierce than a Facebook or Twitter feed.

In comparison to Twitter, most people simply don’t receive the same volume of messages to their inbox as they do on Twitter. You’re more likely to break through the noise, because there’s simply less noise to break through.

What about the comparison to Facebook? The typical Facebook feed moves much slower than Twitter, but does that necessarily mean your message is more likely to be noticed?

If you send out an email newsletter on a Monday morning, who is your main competitor in the typical inbox?

Work. Email from the boss. Email from coworkers. It’s probably not family or friends and, if it is, there’s likely less of that compared to Facebook.

If you’re anything like me, you’re dragging on Monday mornings and looking for any excuse that can be found in your inbox to hold off on working. Meaning you probably give more attention to messages you would otherwise ignore.

We can tack on a few more obvious points about email.

One, your email list is eternal. It’s not going to disappear unless you royally screw up with your subscribers. The same can’t be said for social networks…history often repeats itself in some form and markets are constantly, rapidly shifting in social media.

Two, it’s customary for emails to be very personalized. Even if you’re sending an email out to 3,000 people, there are still simple ways to personalize it and make it seem as though the message was written specifically for each reader. This affords you the opportunity to connect emotionally with your reader in a much easier way than on Facebook or Twitter where it’s still very much geared toward mass appeal.

Wrapping Things Up

The social networks of today are incredible forces. They’re pushing one of the most significant cultural shifts in history and this post isn’t intended to take anything away from that. As the owner of a social media management firm, I truly recognize the necessity of social networks and other social media beyond email.

I also recognize email — while old and boring in comparison to Facebook and Twitter — remains an absolute necessity to the success of any digital marketing strategy and it’s imperative that marketers and businesses view things in perspective instead of getting distracted by the newest shiny object.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to read some other viewpoints in the comments below!

Jonathan Payne (@SocialGamePlan) is the founder of MySocialGamePlan.com where he blogs about social media marketing primarily for small and medium sized brands.

Image Credit: DJ Transformer

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