Time was when companies would accumulate large email lists so they could write to these people, updating them about their offerings and promotions. In fact, we still come across a lot of companies who think in terms of creating an “email database”.
So for long since the Internet was recognized as a means to reach your prospects, email has lived and thrived. That one great way to have your brand message delivered directly to your prospect, in her email box, which she was certainly going to see. At such a low cost. And which is how, companies and brands started using email a lot.
Till the point of time that email was also discovered by few others: those that wanted to sell you Viagra, those who promised to get you rich quickly, and others that offered to deliver free porn to your desktop! With junk and spam coming into the email system, users got wary, stopped accepting many emails and suddenly, email became a dirty word, for sending out brand messages.
As we meet and talk to clients and prospects, there are many who want to drive traffic to their website and the website alone, even while using our services to generate Social Media engagement. They feel that the website is “theirs” with their brand name etc., and which is where the traffic should be ultimately driven. And where they can then pick up the email addresses of these visitors!
Well, I think they need to understand a few new realities:
- People get just way too much email, and most users filter email and block spam. And there is every chance that your email may not really reach the customer.
- People are very concerned about leaving behind their email ids at sites now. So the genuine customers and prospects may not even be in your email list.
- This also means that when you drive traffic only to your website, it may be that one-off visit, but you lose the customer thereafter, as she did not leave behind any of her contact details.
- It is the new world of convergence, and of using multiple devices to access the Internet. In scenarios like these, what is really important? To have your brand message reach your prospect and get read. Does it matter how that happens?
- The other comfort that a mailing list used to give earlier was the possible reuse of that list, to reach the customer again, after a while. Well, on email in fact, people are less tolerant now. I will get into my email box, only that information which I really want to see. Anyone else sending email to me, and that too repeatedly, is taking up my time and attention, and is therefore not welcome!
So what options do brands have now, to deliver their message to their prospects and customers? If not email, then what?
Consider the option of a Facebook Fan page.
You create one for your brand. You populate it with good content. You also put out images and videos there. You are subtle in your marketing messages. You genuinely show the human face of your brand. You actually converse with your customers. And in doing all these, you pick up “fans”. Those folks on Facebook who tell you that ‘they like what you are putting up out there, and will not mind your occasional updates coming on to their Facebook walls’.
Permission marketing, anyone?
Why is this working at this time?
Clearly, the nature of the medium teaches brands, and they comply as well, to keep their messages small, simple, friendly and subtle. As against that weapon of the HTML email that marketers had got in their hands, with Flash and what not, and which was blatantly pushy. And which consumers wanted nothing of.
So the simplicity of the Facebook update works well.
Then again, the brand is not expected to push too many updates, too often. As soon as a brand tries to overdo this, for the user who has her Facebook wall full of one brand’s updates, it takes only a click to withdraw her fan-dom for the brand. Email also offered the “unsubscribe” option in such cases, but too often it did not work, and it was also in the hands of the sender of the email, to stop sending those emails to you. In case of Facebook, the control is in the hands of the user herself. And if any brand still finds a way to abuse the system (say, by pushing “messages”), then big brother Facebook is quick to the rescue of the user.
So getting occasional updates and not too many, is also a good thing.
Facebook fans may become fans of many things. At this time, not many are un-fanning themselves that often. In other words, for a brand, if they acquire say, 10,000 fans, that is nearly as good, or perhaps better than acquiring 10,000 email addresses. With those 10,000 fans, even if you do not know much about them, you are able to reach them with your updates when you have something useful to tell them. They are usually around and don’t leave you. Unlike the email addresses which change every once in a while, a user’s Facebook account is normally not changing that frequently. And the other advantage is the viral aspect. Today, we have gone past the early stage of email usage, where we would forward good emails to long mailing lists of our friends. So an email is perhaps going to reach only that one individual to whom it is sent. On the other hand, a good Facebook update like a video is easily “shared”, and suddenly you get a possible viral surge on your fans list.
I have told many of our clients that they should not be obsessed with driving traffic to their website. Their Facebook page is as much “theirs” as their website. If they drive traffic to the website, but the user does not leave behind an email address, there will still be an effort to reach him the next time. On the other hand, if you drive traffic to a good Facebook page and manage to get the user to click a simple button and become your fan, you have reach to him for a long time.
So as long as Facebook rules ensure that companies remain disciplined on this front, till then, Facebook’s your new email! That one way to get to your prospects and customers, in a permission marketing mode.
And what about Twitter then? Is having Twitter followers also the same thing? I guess not. To penetrate a user’s mindshare on Twitter, amidst tons of tweets flowing past him continuously, takes more than getting the person to just follow you. With filtering concepts like groups and lists emerging, the user will have to pick your account and put it in a list that he “wants to see” for sure, and then only, does it become the equivalent of the Facebook case.
What do you think? Do you agree that Facebook’s your new email? Any other experiences that you have had? Please share in comments below.