Digital marketers are always comparing different marketing channels to identify one that yields better results.
And of course, social media marketing and email marketing have become goldmines when it comes to engaging target audiences to convert them into leads.
But those who see them as options are often confused as to which to leverage to achieve their marketing goals.
The big question is: Which should you choose between social media marketing and email marketing?
This guide will compare both of them from key marketing angles. In the end, you will decide which suits your marketing goals and also learn how to blend both to achieve better results.
What’s Social Media Marketing?
It refers to the process of creating content and promoting it on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc.
The content targets the audience in each of these platforms by identifying what resonates with them; tailoring it to suit their needs. The aim is to create brand awareness and generate leads that can convert into sales.
For example, video and image content move the needle on Instagram, which is a powerful visual platform.
The same content can’t do much on LinkedIn where storytelling, infographics, data visualization, and conversation is the way to go.
What’s Email Marketing?
This involves the use of email marketing services to attract a target audience and have them join your email list.
From there, you begin to nurture them with a series of emails that can be automated. And in that process, you build strong relationships that will make them consider your products and services as solutions to their problems.
Merits of Social Media Marketing
Wider audience reach: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter allow businesses to reach a wider audience. According to a study by Hootsuite, there are about 4.59 billion active social media users in 2022, and it’s expected to hit 5.85 billion in 2027.
While email users as of 2022 are 4 billion and are expected to hit 4.5 billion in 2025.
Easy connection: You can easily connect to new people every day without asking their permission to do so.
A follower or fan that likes your content can share it with their friends, who can also follow you. This isn’t true of email marketing, where you have to appeal to a target audience to subscribe to your email list.
Sharing content without annoying your audience: You can post content on social media platforms multiple times a day without annoying your audience. They come across it in their feed and decide whether to engage it or not.
It’s unlike email marketing, where a subscriber will get upset if you try to email them multiple times a day. Some of them will even unsubscribe without blinking an eye.
Advanced segmentation: Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have advanced segmentation options that you can apply during paid ads. For example, you can target the audience based on the following:
While email marketing services allow you to use segmentation features to tailor emails to certain subscribers, it doesn’t compare with the more details that social media marketing provides about a target audience.
Demerits of Social Media Marketing
Requires tools: You may need to invest in different social media marketing tools if you plan to scale your business and outdo your competitors. It isn’t like email marketing, where your email marketing software will provide all you need depending on the plan you’re in.
For example, you need a scheduling tool like Bulk.ly, a graphic design tool like Canva, AdEspresso for ads analysis, Socialbaker for making decisions based on your followers, Chatbots from SendPulse to automate conversations, etc.
Number of real users can be deceiving: There are many fake social media accounts, and these give false impressions when it comes to making key marketing decisions.
Scammers create multiple fake accounts, especially on Facebook, to defraud unsuspecting users.
Merits of Email Marketing
Higher chances of generating qualified leads: Since it allows for personalized communication, email marketing has a higher chance of converting a subscriber into a qualified lead. That’s why business coaches and course creators leverage it.
There are a lot of people who want to learn how to be self employed and earn legitimate income on their own. Through emails, you build trust and relationships which lead to them buying your products and services.
An audience who signs up on your email list gets frequent emails educating them on how your products can solve their problems. This is unlike social media, where it’s hard to personalize communication and keep up with nurturing.
And don’t forget that some of the followers you count on may be fake since scammers use social media accounts for criminal activities.
Analytics features that boost results: A/B testing is a common feature email marketing tools offer. You can analyze 2 or more different headlines, call-to-action buttons, and email content to see what works better.
It’s not the same with social media marketing unless you run paid ads which allows you to compare 2 different ads upon completion.
Your email marketing tool is enough: You are good to go with your email marketing software and won’t need to invest in other tools for email marketing purposes.
Demerits of Email Marketing
It isn’t easy to write email copy: For businesses that want to promote their products and services via email, it’s always a challenge to write email copy that can generate leads.
So if you aren’t good at writing email copy, that’s a headache that an email copy expert who does remote online jobs will handle for a fee.
Learning curve: There’s a learning curve that can overwhelm you as a beginner in email marketing.
Your audience is sensitive: Emailing your list every day is a turn-off that can make them unsubscribe.
Now you know the merits and demerits of both marketing channels, let’s compare them based on key marketing goals.
1. Viral Content
Social media beats email marketing when it comes to making your content go viral. The good thing is that your content isn’t restricted only to your network.
Other users who aren’t your followers can discover, and share it with their own audience. And the algorithms favor content with many shares and reposts, hence the reason it boosts it to go viral.
Sharing emails isn’t common. At best, you can forward it to another person who you have their email address. In some cases, it lands in the spam folder because it sounds unsolicited.
So digital marketers hoping to get their content viral using email are wasting time. Even an email list of 50k subscribers can’t do it, since the ability for a new audience to discover it on their own isn’t there.
A study by Optinmonster has it that 60% of consumers subscribe to the email list of brands knowing that they will receive promotional emails. This is not true of 20% of followers of brands on social media.
Deals, discounts, and coupons which are promotional baits that convert leads to sales work better on personalized emails which brands send to target customers.
Social media users often find it spammy when brands slide into their DM will promotional content.
The chances of making sales are only high when there’s a conversation that a user initiates and is promptly followed up by automated responses that chatbots trigger.
3. Prompt Interaction
Some can even send a DM and get automated responses from chatbots.
This is not true of email, where a subscriber may take time to check their inbox, and open your email before thinking of replying if they have reason to do so.
4. Return On Investment (ROI)
For every $1 you spend on email marketing, it yields $44 in return. That’s 4400% ROI. This can’t be said of social media marketing, where marketers make profit using different strategies.
A strategy that yielded result on Facebook might fail on LinkedIn and Twitter.
From the comparison made above, you can deduce that both digital marketing channels have their good and bad sides. And it boils down to your marketing goals.
Coming thus far, which should you go for?
Social media marketing is preferable if you want to create robust awareness for your business, interact with your audience and expand your network.
You can leverage it to make your valuable content go viral, which in turn boosts your presence on any of the platforms you are on.
Using it to generate leads requires automating the process, which involves the use of social media marketing tools.
You can also invest in paid ads to tap into the target audience who platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn have studied based on their behavior.
This is expensive, and the result sometimes can fall short of your expectation.
Count on email marketing to generate marketing qualified leads which you can easily warm up and convert to sales.
Of course, a target audience that subscribed to your email list expects promotional emails. And it’s up to you to play your game well and ensure your email campaigns yield positive results.
Combining Social Media and Email Marketing is a Powerful Strategy
Although social media and email marketing are different marketing channels, blending both is a strategy you should consider.
You can integrate social media into your email marketing to build more email lists.
Leverage those viral posts on Facebook and LinkedIn to attract more target audiences to your email list.
I understand social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook frown at links because it drives users away from their platform. You can add the link in the comments so that it won’t affect the visibility and reach of the post.
And don’t forget that nothing goes for nothing, so be prepared to offer freebies like e-books, checklists, and guides in exchange for emails. Announce it in the post to entice your social media audience to subscribe.
Another way is to add a sign-up form to your social media fan page. Users who click on it will see the embedded email form to join your email list.
Email marketing tools like Mailchimp supports this:
Even social media videos, especially on Instagram, can be a tool to build email lists.
For instance, you can use a video maker software to create Instagram stories and add links to your sign-up form.
A compelling call to action can push a target audience who derived value from your video to join your email list.
Below is an example from Tylerjmccall:
Quick Review Social Media vs Email Marketing
The key takeaway here is that both email marketing and social media marketing have their pros and cons depending on what you want.
But the most interesting thing is that you can combine them to achieve awesome results.
Social media marketing is okay for brand awareness and audience engagement.
Email marketing helps you build relationships with potential customers, which is key to making sales. Integrating both is a formidable strategy many digital marketers and brands use.