The Digital Leverage Effect of Social Media and Email Marketing Integration

Earlier this month I read an interesting post by Karen Talavera on The eMail Guide blog, a great resource for those who want to be kept well informed of every new development in the email marketing world. It made me think more than I already do about the role of content, e-mail marketing and social media from a cross-channel perspective. I wrote a post about it on my blog. Here it is.

It seems that Karen and I are kindred spirits; her profile describes her as ‘passionate about integrating email, social media, content marketing, and more’, to create what she calls ‘online synchronicity’.
And, as chance would have it, cross-channel social media, and content and email marketing are also my passion… for the simple reason that in reality people use a variety of channels simultaneously and so should we, as marketers. And it’s all about people, right? Moreover, it’s becoming more and more clear that if properly aligned (we want to prevent our customers from becoming overwhelmed with messages, remember?), all channels can reinforce one another if they are aligned in function of the reader and customer experience.

Introducing “digital leverage”

Karen shared an interesting concept in her post, titled “Content+eMail+social = digital leverage”.  The “influence” which we all so enjoy discussing in this time of social media but, more importantly, the individual impact of communication channels – those carriers of interactions and content – actually do not matter this much. What matters more is ‘leverage’.

Leverage may seem the same as influence, but it’s not. Karen begins with several definitions of ‘leverage’, but I’d like to write down one myself. Not leverage in the financial sense, but in the general sense: ‘when a small influence is used to achieve great effect’.  Replace ‘a small influence’ in this context with ‘small integrated influences’. Leverage is far more encompassing than influence. It’s a combination of various factors which combined result in a bigger effect.

We’re all going blind staring at ‘influencers’ and the impact of all the channels we use for marketing purposes. However, we need to abandon that vision. This is not to say that we should do away with marketing activities such as email marketing, social media marketing (which is, as I often say, actually a collective name for many social innovations in the area of SEO, customer service, community marketing, PR, management, customer relationship management, the way we sell, the way we conduct business, etc.) or content marketing. It is in fact the opposite: we will continue to need specialists in various specific areas.

However, despite these specializations, integration is key in success. Here is why:


First of all, the way we integrate and combine the carriers of content and interactions, should depend on the customer, prospect, fan etc.

The mutual strengthening of integrated channels:

Secondly, it depends on the reinforced effect of the various channels which lead to the ‘leverage’ effect.

Customer experience and perceived value as guiding principles

The businesses that are going to make it are not the ones who know how to make good use of social media, or whatever. The ones who are going to make it are the ones who are intelligent, customer and data driven, and know how to combine moments of interaction into relevant dialogue, in a personal and value adding way.

Karen’s post is about some of these things and some others, but basically what she writes is the same thing. Her post also provides a few examples which you can read her.

Perhaps the most important conclusion one can draw from her post is this: “it’s not about working harder, but about working smarter”. I couldn’t agree more. Smart businesses will be working in an integrated, holistic and cross-channel way, with the ‘customer experience’ and his perceived value as the most important guiding principle. This goes as well for the content, the channels and the way we combine them. Forget the best day to do this or the best frequency to do that. Let the customer, recipient, follower, fan etc. call the shots.

This way, integrated interaction efforts result in a real and significant leverage effect.

Three immediate implications of working in an integrated and synchronized marketing way:

  1. Organizational implications:
    This approach requires cross-departmental cooperation with respect to value (for company and customer), fine-tuning, synchronizing, collaborating, messaging, data gathering, defining cross-channel and business-wide metrics, and of course optimizing conversion through consistency in content, experience, etc. But most of all, it requires a customer oriented vision. Again, customer-centricity is key.
  2. Implications regarding communication channels and (social) media:
    As a business you don’t have to be everywhere and use every channel you can to interact with people. This may seem obvious, right? In reality, you need the channels that are relevant for your (future) customers and deliver a good average ROI (some channels deliver more, some less but you have to innovate and look at the overall integrated impact, again ‘leverage’). The reason why I mention this, however, is that – when it comes to social media – I often hear people say; “it’s so much work, it’s so difficult, we don’t know where to start”, etc. But this is often an excuse to avoid having to get involved in social media marketing. Social media, in the interaction channel sense, today have to be part of the integrated effort because people use them period. Maybe it would be less “difficult” if businesses looked at it from the cross-channel perspective.
  3. Implications regarding content, metrics and conversion:
    I said it twice before in this post: channels and media are carriers of content and interactions. It is obvious that from a conversion viewpoint these interactions and the content you share should be relevant for the people you interact with. But their “content” (feedback, comments, replies) are equally key to optimize all the other interactions. In order to measure all this, you need metrics that can be used in a cross-channel way (also remember the need for a closed loop of content and customer data). But you also need to be able to adapt your content in function of, besides the needs, the channels!

Think it over; I’m curious about your opinion.