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Social Media Marketing vs. Email Marketing: Who’s the Winner?

Social Media Marketing vs. Email Marketing: Who’s the Winner?

Email marketing has been around for a while.

The first recorded instance of email marketing occurred in 1978. Marketing manager Gary Thuerk sent an email to 400 users via Arpanet, a US Defense Department arm; Arpanet later formed the basis for the Internet as we know it now.

In this email, Thuerk crafted a short sales pitch for DECSYSTEM-20 machines. Perhaps due to the novelty of receiving a marketing message (rather than a boring work-related email) on their computers, Thuerk’s recipients were intrigued. As a result, DEC made $13 million in sales.

Email marketing vs social media

This is what a DECSYSTEM-20 looked like. Source: The Mary Sue

Today, it’s hard to imagine a world without emails. In 2018, an incredible 281 billion emails were sent each day (Radicati Group) and approximately 44% of them were work-related emails — this figure included marketing emails. But despite email marketing’s popularity, the medium is often neglected by marketers in favor of social media platforms. After all, social media is user-friendly, encourages community-building and has enormous reach — in fact, Statista predicts there will be around 2.77 billion social media users worldwide in 2019.

Social media definitely has a place in a marketer’s toolkit; after all, who doesn’t like hilarious cat videos and funny memes to brighten up an otherwise dull Monday at work? However, social media shouldn’t replace email marketing altogether. Why? Because email marketing is still a powerful way to reach your customers.

Here are 5 reasons why email marketing can be more effective than social media:

No annoying algorithms

Changes to algorithms on social media often cause backlashes. In the past, Facebook and Instagram displayed content chronologically; when they changed their algorithm so that posts appeared based on what they thought users wanted to see, there was an outcry. This algorithm change created headaches for marketers — what was the point of advertising limited time promotions on Instagram when users weren’t likely to see it for another seven days?

There are no such issues with email marketing. Customers receive everything they signed up to receive in chronological order alongside personal emails from friends and families.

Higher engagement rate

The instantaneous, and almost frantic, nature of social media allows people to create content and publish it on the go — this is handy and convenient for marketers. Because of this, however, people are less likely to think things through before clicking the ‘publish’ button on Instagram. Posts are often shallow, resulting in typically low engagement from users.

In contrast, it takes time to compose and send an email — this combined with the fact that the unsubscribe button is within easy reach forces marketers to develop authentic, high-quality content that is more likely to engage users, forming a deeper connection with them.

Greater control

There are rules that govern what you can or can’t post on social media. Posting an ad on Facebook requires adhering to a set of community standards, and you must then submit the ad to Facebook for approval. There are also specific spatial constraints to consider, from the number of pixels allowed in an image to how much text is permitted.

With emails, no third party can get between a sender and recipient. You have more freedom with image selection and you're free to write whatever you want, though we recommend getting up to speed with email marketing tips and best practices to optimize your conversion rate.

Allows you to track customer behaviors and journeys

Email marketing allows you to monitor your customers’ behavior in a way that social media cannot. Marketing automation software such as Autopilot does just that and enables you to design personalized email marketing journeys that treat every contact as a customer from the word go.

As you can see from the Autopilot email newsletter template below, marketers can easily see which users have not opened their emails. Marketers can then use this information to create a personalized follow-up email, specifically targeting those users. This is not possible on social media platforms because you cannot track who has or hasn’t seen your posts.