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Social Media Marketing vs. Email Marketing: Comparing the Pros & Cons of Each Channel

Joe Kindness
Joe Kindness
Written by
Joe Kindness
Founder & CEO at AgencyAnalytics
Feb 17
Feb 17, 2021

The majority of marketers promote their business through both social media and email. Both are effective and you can get great results using either one, but which is more effective overall?

If you've ever wondered whether you should spend more of your time (and marketing budget) on social media or email marketing, this article is for you.

Social media has become a major fixture in the online marketing landscape. It's easy to see why—social media offers the ability to quickly reach new audiences around the world, and potentially go viral in the process.

Email marketing, on the other hand, has been around for quite a bit longer. On the surface, it may seem less exciting than social media. If you underestimate the power of email, however, you could be seriously missing out. Email is still very much alive, and it's not going away anytime soon. In many ways, email can be even more effective than its social media counterparts.

Below you'll find an overview of how social media and email stack up to each other in a few key areas, including ROI, reach, and more.

What Kind of ROI Can You Expect?

First things first, as an agency you want to see an ROI for marketing your efforts. In this section, we'll compare whether social media or email drives more customer engagement, click-throughs, and conversions.

In terms of overall performance, you may be surprised to find that email typically produces better results than social media. While results will differ largely based on industry, Campaign Monitor provides the following benchmarks for email marketing:

  • The average email open rate is between 15-25%
  • The average click-through rate of roughly 2.5%
  • The average click-to-open rate should be between 20-30%

Conversely, on Facebook you can expect a click-through rate of a measly 0.07%. This makes sense given that an email subscriber has already opted-in to your list and knows about your brand.

In terms of ROI, email marketing tends to have a significantly higher return than other channels as it's estimated that email generates $38 for every $1 spent—an astounding 3800% ROI. Social media comes in at a distant second place with an estimated average ROI of 28%.

How Many People Can You Reach?

Of course, you want to get your brand's message out to as many people as possible, so let's compare which channel offers a better reach for marketers.

On the one hand, email has been around much longer than social media so it naturally has a larger user base. Statista estimates that 4.1 billion people worldwide use e-mail. By contrast, Facebook, had roughly 2.8 billion monthly active users at the end of 2020.

The major catch with comparing these statistics is that you can't reach new emails that you haven't already acquired like you can with social media. If we're simply comparing organic reach on social vs. an email list, however, email tends to have a far greater reach. The reason for this, as you probably know, has to do with social media algorithms. Users don't see every single post, tweet, or pin from the people and businesses they follow. It's been known for a while now that organic reach is on a decline with social media, and it's estimated that you can only count on about 5.2% of your Facebook fan base seeing anything you post organically.

People also tend to check their email more frequently than they do social media. In fact, more than half of internet users (58%) check their email first thing in the morning—before looking at Facebook, doing a Google search, or even checking the weather—and almost 9 out of 10 email users check their inbox at least once a day. With numbers like that, the odds that your subscribers will see your marketing emails are pretty good.

One Area Where Social Does Come Ahead

Despite these statistics, social media does have one significant advantage over email: the ability to go viral. Your posts aren't restricted to your own network of followers. If someone shares your content, a certain number of their followers will see it too, which can often result in far more exposure than you'd get through email. That said, going viral isn't easy to do, so it's usually better not to count on that happening.

social-dashboardSocial Media Dashboard Template

How Will Your Marketing be Received?

In general, people use social media for pleasure whereas email is geared more towards business. Depending on the industry, this distinction can give email a major edge when it comes to marketing.

When it comes to marketing, it's better to treat social media as a place to connect with your audience rather than a place to directly push your product or service.

With email, it's a different story. Everyone on your email list has already opted in to receive promotions from you, so they're less likely to get annoyed. Of course, you've still got to be careful not to overwhelm your subscribers with promotions. In general, however, people will be more receptive to marketing materials from brands they trust in their inbox than in their news feed.

email-integrationEmail Marketing Report Template

Security and Targeting

When it comes to security, email beats social media hands down. You own your email list, meaning no one can decide to take it away from you on a whim. The same can't be said for your list of followers on social media. There's also always a small risk that a platform might shut your account down. Even if social media marketing is your main strategy, you should still have an email list to fall back on.

Targeting is another major thing to consider. The better-targeted your marketing materials are, the more successful you'll be. With email, you can segment your list as many ways as you want to target specific demographics. Paid social media ads also offer sophisticated options for controlling who sees your promotions. Organic social media, on the other hand, has little to no targeting potential, since you don't have much control over who sees your posts.

The Takeaway

Does all of this mean you shouldn't bother with social media marketing? Not at all. Email marketing might be a stronger marketing approach overall, but social media is still a great option to grow your audience and build your list in the first place.

The bottom line is that both social media marketing and email marketing are well worth your time and effort. If you had to pick one over the other simply in terms of ROI, though, email marketing is typically the better choice. Fortunately, you don't have to choose between the two. The best online marketing strategy is a diversified mix of both organic and paid ads on social while simultaneously building your email list as a long-term asset.

Joe Kindness
Joe Kindness
Written by
Joe Kindness
Founder & CEO at AgencyAnalytics
Joe started his career as a developer and since has created many internet businesses. He has now moved on to the position of CEO and has enjoyed all the challenges it has brought.

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