Combine Social Media and E-Mail Marketing Follow these steps to extend the conversation and grow your audience.

By Gail Goodman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Right now online, your customers, clients, members and prospects are chatting up a storm. Whether they're tweeting on Twitter, posting on Facebook, forwarding YouTube videos or commenting on blogs, they're out there engaging in conversations and sharing information that's relevant to your business or cause.

Are you a part of that conversation?

If you're not, you may be missing out on opportunities to extend your marketing reach. Social media sites offer new ways to share your content, grow your audience and build customer relationships. In tandem with e-mail, they create a powerful marketing mix.

Social media and e-mail marketing work differently.
Social media gives public conversations a forum. Anyone with an opinion, content or a link to share can join the conversation. It's fast, fluid, timely and interactive. It's also fleeting. That's where social media and e-mail communications differ. Your posts on social media websites flow downstream with all the other messages. If you tweet in the morning and your customer logs on in the afternoon, that follower may miss out on what you had to say.

On the other hand, e-mail offers a more intimate level of contact with your customers. When someone opens your e-mail newsletter, you have a quiet moment of her time. You have her undivided attention. And your newsletter content has permanence, as readers can go back to it in their inboxes. And when you archive your e-mail campaigns in web page form, that content can live on forever. That adds to your business credibility and heft.

In short, social media is about sharing content and engaging in conversations. E-mail marketing takes those conversations--and the relationships you're building--to the next level of engagement.

Make the most of the social media and e-mail marketing mix.
E-mail and social media marketing can work together to build on what each does best. Here are five things you need to know so you can make the most of the social media and e-mail marketing mix:

  1. Be where your customers are. You won't know whether your customers are on social media sites, and which ones in particular, unless you test the waters and look for them. Different people prefer different means of getting their daily info and opinion fix. Millions like the streaming feed of Twitter. Others prefer the posts on Facebook. More professionally oriented people may use LinkedIn. You want to swim in the channels that are frequented by your customers and prospects.
  2. Use your e-mail list to build a social media presence. The big question we get from e-mail marketers is how to get that snowball rolling down the social media mountain. Here's the good news: The secret is your e-mail list. Use it to jump-start your social media presence by inviting your subscribers to follow you on Twitter and become your fan on Facebook. They will get the ball rolling for you. How do you engage prospects on social media websites? The same way as with e-mail marketing: valuable, relevant, interesting content.
  3. Repurpose content from your newsletter. Content is still king. That applies to social media, too. You don't need to create brand-new content to engage people on social networking sites. Instead, repurpose snippets of articles you've already created (or aggregated) for your e-mail newsletter. Think of these as "microcontent"--one tip, one idea, one article you found interesting. A teaser and a link back to your archived newsletter or blog is all the content you need to get started posting on social media sites.
  4. Invite people back to your website or blog. If your website is your online hub or headquarters, then think of social media sites as your satellites. They allow you to extend your business presence. When you post on social media, be sure to include frequent links back to your website, newsletter archive or blog, where interested people can learn more about your business. Then you can engage potential customers on a deeper level, away from the distractions of the social media world. Just be sure you're not always selling; social media is better-suited for sharing information and expertise.
  5. Ask for mailing list sign-ups on multiple channels. Use your e-mail list to build a presence on social media sites, then use your presence on the sites to invite even more people to sign up for your mailing list. Put a link to your sign-up form on multiple channels, including your website and Facebook fan page. Tweet about your newsletter articles on Twitter, linking readers back to your newsletter archive, where they can sign up for your mailing list.

E-mail marketing vs. social media marketing is not an either/or question. It's about doing everything possible to expand your audience and customer base. Tap into social media to engage customers in lively conversation. Then invite them back to your website, where they can learn more about your business and sign up for your newsletter. Your valuable content--and the knowledge you have about what engages your audience--is the glue that holds it all together.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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