Facebook Ads: Improved E-mail Marketing

This is a guest post by SocialCode CEO Laura O’Shaughnessy. SocialCode is a digital agency and Washington Post Co. subsidiary that focuses on social media marketing and advertising.

While helping Fortune 500 brands understand how to realize the most value from social media advertising — on Facebook, specifically — I’ve often found that it’s helpful to compare this method of advertising with a more tenured marketing technique, one with which more people are familiar. Facebook advertising is in many ways like traditional email marketing, only with more perks. Here’s how.

When trying to wrap your head around advertising on Facebook, it helps to think that you are still taking the basic steps necessary to run a successful email campaign, including:

Grooming Target Lists. Like email marketing, on Facebook brands are still building out target lists to nurture and activate over time. Only instead of actual mailing lists complete with email addresses, physical addresses and phone numbers, they instead have social communities. And now, thanks to social intelligence and profiling capabilities, advertisers are able to learn more about this list than ever before—not only general demographics, but what other brands they like, how they behave, what their interests are, what they read, how they live.

Reaching Those Who Matter. Thanks to Facebook EdgeRank score (the relevancy score Facebook uses to determine what shows up in a user’s news feed), users are often not prominent in one another’s news feed. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is because you have not interacted with that person or page in quite some time. For brands, this means that in order for fans to see its posts, it must sponsor the most relevant ones to (a) ensure they are displayed and (b) to drive engagement. This seems like a hardship, but is really no different than inboxing during email campaigns. Remember how you always have to avoid those spam folders and test different subject lines to maximize open rates? With Facebook, advertisers also analyze who is not seeing their messages and work to improve those exposure rates.

Tracking Engagement. Likewise, while analyzing who did not open an email, any good email marketer is also looking at the overall open rate percentage, total number of opens vs. number of contacts who opened, and percentage of those who clicked through. Facebook is no different, only now after a brand’s message has gone out advertisers track its performance with likes, shares, sponsored stories and so forth. They still analyze the performance of the content once it has left their hands to find out who is engaged, how they can improve the content and if the message is resonating with their target audience.

So while the basic tactics of email marketing still stand steadfast in the Facebook ad world, there are a few aspects that make Facebook ads a bit more worth the while. For example:

Contacts are Cheap. While traditionally gathering information about an email target can be quite pricey —sometimes up to $10 each—now all brands need is a Facebook click or ‘like’ and they’ve acquired a new contact for their list for a fraction of the price—or free!

The Earned Media Component. On Facebook once a message is sent out, it doesn’t stop there. There is the possibility that it will be spread virally by fans, and friends of fans, garnering it even more attention. In the email marketing world there is no one to push through content once it is in the inbox, but once an ad hits the newsfeed, the possibilities are endless.

There is No Barrier to Entry. Facebook content is well displayed within users’ newsfeeds. Fans are instantly exposed to a page post ad without having to click ‘open’ first. While many recipients may not even see an email, your Facebook fans have a much better chance of viewing the ad content, even if they don’t act.

While Facebook has some distinct advantages over email, it is not meant to replace the email channel; email still allows a marketer to communicate more detailed or complex brand messages. However, there is strong case for leveraging the two in tandem, as we’ve seen with the recent launch of Facebook’s Custom Audience Targeting—where advertisers can target tailored messages to specific segments of their database on Facebook. Results of our early tests of this targeting capability have shown exponentially higher click-through and engagement rates.

A marriage between Facebook and email is also the perfect way for marketers to learn about their existing target lists: where they need to make changes, who is most engaged, do targets and those engaging match-up, who they can reach via social that they haven’t been able to pin down via email? We’re sure these two channels will continue to progress together—melding traditional marketing techniques with timely social intelligence to perfect the art of digital marketing.

Laura O’Shaughnessy founded SocialCode to provide brands with the tools needed to build valuable communities. She works with clients on innovative ways to achieve their marketing goals using social media. Previous to SocialCode, she ran Business Development and Product Strategy for the Slate Group, focusing on advertising product development and strategic partnerships. 

Prior to joining The Washington Post Company, Laura worked for several DC-based consumer technology companies where her purview spanned from the business planning and partner development to the management and execution of large search engine and acquisition marketing campaigns. Laura holds an M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Chicago.

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