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Using Email to Promote Social Channels: A Real-World Example

Ryan McNally
by: Ryan McNally (@RyanMcNally39)
02 August 2013

Ever since the first corporate social network page went live, marketers have been salivating at the prospect of combining email’s power of conversion with social’s power of conversation. But the actual task of effectively cross-promoting the two channels has proven more challenging than just dropping a few social-follow buttons into an email.

The problem is today’s consumers are a lot like you and me when it comes to social: already overwhelmed by the volume of information in their feeds. And that makes them wary of adding still more content to their social streams.

Given this challenge, some marketers have come to view the crossing of the email and social streams with a level of caution and trepidation akin to what Ghostbuster Harold Ramis described to his compadres Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd:

Even without the threat of total protonic reversal, many marketers have resolved themselves to a conservative approach to mixing email and social — simply placing a few social icons in the email header and footer and hoping for the best. While that’s a good basic starter practice, getting someone to “like” or “follow” you on a social network often takes a little more prompting – and a lot more strategic thought and energy.

So, how might you construct an email built specifically around growing your social presence? To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at an awesome King Arthur Flour email that dropped in my inbox a few weeks ago and pull out some key takeaways.

King Arthur Flour emailGo Narrow, Not Wide

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr. Many businesses have a presence on at least a half-dozen social networks, so the temptation may be to promote all of them when creating your special one-off email. But if you’re like most businesses, you’re probably dedicating most of your social network resources on a few strategic networks, while giving others just a token effort.

That’s why less is more here – by highlighting a few choice networks where you have strong presence, you’re putting your best foot forward. In King Arthur Flour’s case, it chose to zero in on three key networks – Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram – and then looked through its postings to find the ones with the most engagement to feature in the email.

Convey the Benefits

Start with the basics: Why should recipients choose to follow your social network out of the bazillions out there? In this email, King Arthur Flour does an excellent job of concisely outlining two strong value propositions. The subject line, witty header (“bake connected”) and opening sentence convey the first – becoming part of a community of bakers. The second sentence drives home the other key benefit: getting real-time tips from King Arthur bakers.

Avoid Gimmicks

Did you notice what’s missing from this email? That’s right, no mention of discounts or freebies. As a result, you can bet the new followers King Arthur generates from this message will be high-quality customers who are there because they’re interested in the content.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with using the promise of discounts and sales info to entice customers to like your social page — in fact, these types of notifications are a key reason many customers follow businesses on social networks. But as with your email program, try to strike a balance. Tease the promotional content if applicable, but also sell the promise of content that delights, surprises, educates and builds community.

Use Visuals

To paraphrase a common mantra in the filmmaking world, “Show, don’t just tell.” In other words, while you’re communicating the benefits of your social pages within your body copy, consider making the messaging even more powerful by grabbing screen shots from your social pages and displaying them within your email, as King Arthur Flour has done here.

It’s true the products or services you’re marketing may not be as visually appealing as a mouth-watering cupcake, bowl of gelato or slice of pie. But you might be surprised at the impact that a few simple graphics can have in the context of a sample social network feed.

Back up the Big Talk

Maintaining a strong social media presence requires a combination of many things: a carefully thought out strategy; automation tools that help scale your efforts and provide critical analytics; and enthusiastic employees focused on making your social network pages a fun and rewarding place for customers to interact.

In King Arthur Flour’s case, its Social Media Coordinator Aime Schwartz posts updates to the company’s Pinterest boards and works with two content producers to keep the interactions moving on Facebook — posting recipes, events and conversation starters. “We also have several people throughout the company that update Instagram, including our bakery staff, test kitchen bakers and public relations team,” says Tracy Taylor, King Arthur’s senior Web producer, email and operations.  “Our amazing Customer Support team also hops on Twitter and Facebook to talk directly our customers throughout the day.”

So, before you set up an email specifically geared toward touting your social pages, make sure you’re putting in the necessary effort to create a top-notch customer experience on these social networks.

See Awesome Results

A well-constructed email backed up by a strong social media presence can drive some serious engagement. As a result of its July social promo email, King Arthur Flour tallied 2,000 new likes on Pinterest, 800 new likes on Facebook and 200 new followers on Instagram.

So next time you’re thinking about crossing the email and social streams, don’t be scared.  You may not score a triumph on par with vanquishing the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, but you should see a notable uptick in your company’s social followers and interactions.

Related Resources:
1) Blog: “What to Automate and What to Humanize in the Social Media World
2) Video: “Using Social to Build Trust
3) Blog: “Tim Duncan, Sports Illustrated and the Perils of Broad Segmentation


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