This morning I saw an interesting question on LinkedIn from José María Gil about the role of email marketing and social media platforms to "build your brand." It was a question I know a lot of people struggle with as they seek for ways to capitalize on the growing adoption of social media, so I decided to post the question and answer here.
Here's the question (modified for formatting):
However, since the moment you need an email address to sign up for any social network, that is completely false. Email and social media are good friends and not enemies. Both of them have an important and different role within our online marketing strategy.
I see social networks as a party, where you meet a lot of people and get in a lot of conversations. That is a really good way to build a community and to find an audience. But, the people that really care about what you do, is the people who are going to sign up to your email list, and the people you are going to start a more direct and personalized relationship with, engaging them with the value given through your emails.
What do you think?
The cost of entry is low, but cost of effectiveness may be steep
With the current social media platforms available, new entrants into this market need to be something more than parties where people can "interact with a brand."
Typically, they don't care about the brand, and they don't care about the problems or needs of the company. They just want something that rewards them for their time, or else they'll not feel compelled to give it, email or not.
Thus, social media sites must provide some unique value that people can't get on Facebook or Myspace, and with new apps being added to these two growing platforms that generate revenue, the cost of entry is constantly increasing. It pays to be a first mover.
However, it is possible to build a reasonably priced platform that addresses the needs of a niche audience, and email marketing (if you can really call it that) can and probably should play a critical role in building relationships. The goal, though, isn't necessarily to build a relationship between the brand and the individual, but rather to help them build relationships within the platform.
This requires a lot of restraint, because the temptation is to put some backwards sales techniques to use and try to keep convincing the users that your platform is the best platform and they should abandon what they're already doing.
Instead, hosts need to be fairly passive and message users when something has happened that they've asked to be notified about. (LinkedIn, for instance, lets you know when your profile isn't complete, or when someone attempts to connect with you).
The message must be simple and to the point. Make it (in a friendly way -- or whatever way showcases a likable personality) and get out of the way.
Hope this helps! - Cam Beck