Email Marketing vs Social Media Performance (2016-2019 Statistics)


Email or social media: which one is better? With so many consumers on social media these days, you may be wondering whether email marketing is still effective. In this post, we’ll share the 2016-2019 statistics and forecasts for email marketing vs social media performance.

Is Email Marketing Still Effective?

Over the past decade, social media visitors have grown at an exponential rate.

Social media infographic by Search Engine Journal

It is clear that social media is not just a fad, and that it is worth utilizing. In fact, 83% of marketers say that social media is important for their business.

In light of these trends, some marketers are wondering, is social media to replace email?

In this post, I’ve compiled the latest email marketing and social media statistics and forecasts. When you look at the actual effectiveness of email compared to social media, I think it’s perfectly clear how to integrate email and social media in your campaigns, in 2016 and beyond.

Let’s look at the overview of email compared to social media, and then we’ll explain what all of this means for you as an online marketer.

Overview: Email Marketing vs Social Media Performance Statistics

In the chart below, I’ve summarized the effectiveness of email marketing vs Facebook vs Twitter. The highest performing channels for each metric are highlighted in dark gray. (You can click on each stat if you want to take a peek at the source.)

Email Facebook Twitter
Total number of users 2.6 billion 1.7 billion 313 million
First online “check” of the day 58% 11% 2%
Use this channel at least daily 91% 57% 14%
Prefer this channel for permission-based promotional messages 77% 4% 1%
Most frequently used channel for personal messages 45% 12% 0%
Users check here for a deal from a company they know 44% 4%
Users who made a purchase as the result of a marketing message from this channel 66% 20% 6%
Customers Acquired 7% <1% 0%
Inbox Placement Rate/Organic Reach 79% 1-6% <1-30%
Open/Click-Through/Engagement Rate 18% OR / 3.7% CTR 0.07% 0.03%
Distribution of Global Content Sharing Activities 4% 57% 18%
Delivers an Excellent ROI 21% 15%
Customer Lifetime Value +12% +1% -23%
Ownership Full ownership Account can be terminated Account can be terminated

As you can see, email marketing is more effective than social media across the board, with just one exception (sharing).

Let’s take a closer look at these statistics, and see what all of this means for you…

Number of Email Users to Reach 2.9 Billion

In the third quarter of 2012, Facebook surpassed 1 billion active users. The current number is now 1.71 billion. That’s a huge user base, but still not as large as email.

Email is still the most widely used channel at 2.6 billion unique users worldwide. That number is expected to continue to grow, reaching over 2.9 billion by the end of 2019.


Not only does email have the largest user base overall, but it also has the largest user base of any age group.


Bottom Line: Email has the most users out of any age group.

Email vs Social Media Usage

Research from ExactTarget reports that the majority of consumers check their email first thing, before anything else online.


Additionally, these email-first individuals tend to be more task-oriented online than the people who start their day on Facebook or Twitter. In other words, they are more likely to approach online interactions with the goal of finding deals, promotions, or new product information.

When asked how often they use email vs social media, consumers clearly prefer email with 91% saying that they use email at least once per day.


So most consumers check their email first and use email more frequently than anything else. But what exactly do they like to use email for?

It turns out that 77% of consumers prefer email over social media for permission-based promotional messages. That’s great news for email marketers!


However, you might think that people prefer social media when it comes to personal communication. After all, that’s what social media was made for! But that is simply not the case.

Even when it comes to personal messages, consumers still prefer to use email.


Bottom Line (in the words of ExactTarget): “Email is not only alive– it’s the number one direct channel in terms of daily use and consumer preference for both personal and marketing communications.”

Which Drives More Sales: Email or Social Media?

As a marketer, you may fear that your subscribers will be upset with you for sending them “salesy” emails. But according to the ExactTarget survey, consumers actually feel that it is completely acceptable for marketers to send them promotional messages via email.

On the other hand, they feel it is far less acceptable for companies to send them promotional messages via social media.


Deals and discounts are important for driving sales, so where do consumers go to look for them? When people want to find a special deal, email is the go-to channel.

44% of users check their email for a deal from a company they know, whereas only 4% will go to Facebook.


So consumers are totally fine with receiving your promotional emails, and they actually want to find deals in their inbox. But do these promotional emails really work to drive sales?


66% of consumers state that they have made a purchase as the result of a marketing message they received by email.

On the flip side, only 20% of them have ever made a purchase resulting from a Facebook promotion, and a mere 6% ever purchased something resulting from a Twitter promotion.


Marketers confirm that email is definitely the best channel for generating sales. According to the latest McKinsey iConsumer survey, email is still a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media.


Bottom Line: Email marketing is the best way to make sales online, period.

(Check out our list of highly effective sales promotion examples for ideas.)

Which Has Greater Reach: Email or Social Media?

Although email is the best way to make sales, you might think that social media has the greater reach. However, it doesn’t.

Email reaches 79% of the people you send it to (this is the global, average inbox placement rate). On the other hand, Facebook’s organic reach has declined to about 1-6%, depending on your total number of fans.

That means only 1-6% of your Facebook fans will actually see your posts!

In order to increase your organic reach on Facebook, people have to actually engage with your posts, and this can be difficult to accomplish. But with email, you can increase your inbox placement rate simply by following best practices to make sure your emails don’t go in the spam box.

Twitter’s organic reach is more variable, but the highest reach is reported to be somewhere around 30%. That’s better than Facebook, but still pretty poor in comparison to email.

Bottom line: Email has far greater reach than social media.

Social Media is Better for Sharing

There is one area where social media outperforms email, and that is sharing.

57% of global content sharing activities occurred via Facebook and 18% occurred via Twitter, whereas email only accounted for 4%.


That’s a pretty huge difference. And the reason is simple– social media is built for mass sharing, whereas email is not.

Bottom Line: Most people don’t share emails. They share via social media.

Email Marketing ROI vs Social Media ROI

When asked what is the most important measurement to gauge the effectiveness of any given channel, most marketers agreed that the overall return on investment (ROI) is the most important.


So which yields the greatest ROI: email marketing, or social media?

A 2016 study by GetResponse found that email marketing clearly delivers the highest overall ROI (social media came in second).


They also asked marketers what they thought the greatest benefit of email marketing is. Most of them said lead generation first, with improved sales being the second greatest benefit, and improved conversion rates third.


The reason email has a higher ROI and is better for generating leads could be partially because customers acquired through email have a higher lifetime value than those acquired through social media.

Custora found that customers acquired by email have 12% higher lifetime value than average, whereas customers acquired through Facebook have only 1% higher lifetime value than average. Interestingly, customers acquired through Twitter tend to be worth about 23% less than average.


Bottom line: For the greatest ROI, focus on generating more email leads.

The Issue of Ownership

Finally, any discussion about email marketing vs social media would not be complete without mentioning the important issue of ownership.

With email marketing, you fully own your list of prospects. But with Facebook, Twitter, or any platform that is not your own, your list of prospects could be taken away from you at any time.

If you read the Terms of Service for Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find that your account can be terminated at their sole discretion.



Bottom line: Get social media followers to join your email list.

Conclusion: Email is Not Dead!

Email is still the number one channel that consumers use to communicate with brands online. There is absolutely no reason to ditch email for social media marketing.

That being said, comparing email vs social media is like comparing apples vs oranges… social media and email marketing aren’t mutually exclusive. Smart marketers use the two together.

Here’s how to integrate email and social media:

Social media should be used for driving traffic to your website. You can do that organically by making your content go viral, or by paying for social media ads.

Email marketing should be used for generating leads, driving sales and increasing customer retention.

Simply put, you should use social media to drive visitors to your website, where you can convert those visitors into subscribers.

What are your thoughts on email vs social media marketing? We’d love to know! Share them in the comments below.

Mary Fernandez
Mary Fernandez is a professional blogger. When she’s not at her desk, you can usually find Mary exploring sunny San Diego, CA with her laptop, husband, and three kids in tow.


  1. Thats a great article. Can we expect a similar type of article soon comparing Adword and facebook paid adv (SEM vs SMM). Thanx.

  2. Please, you have not specified the source of email forecast table (2015-2019)

    1. Hey Antonio! You’ll find the sources by clicking on each of the statistics in the overview section. Here’s the source for that particular table: Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019.

  3. Christian Bossert February 6, 2017 at 8:38 am

    In the title you’ve written “2016-2019 Statistics” but you’re using many from 2012, 2013 etc. Some of them may still be valuable but I think they give the wrong picture.

    1. Hi Christian, let’s just assume that the stats prior to 2016 are all “out of date” (those stats are less important anyway). If you just look at the total number of users and the open/click-through/engagement rates, email outperforms social media. It’s also the highest in terms of overall ROI.

      Of course, if you have other stats which show otherwise, please let us know!

      1. This is an excellent article and clearly demonstrates the power of email and where marketers should be spending their budget. I own a global email marketing agency Digital Fire. Mary please do drop me an email.

        1. Sharon Hurley Hall February 5, 2018 at 4:13 am

          Glad you found the article useful, Thomas. You might also enjoy our expert roundup on email marketing mistakes. 🙂

  4. Simon Pilcher July 5, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Thats a brilliant blog post and so useful for me. I’m the marketing manager for a small business and my MD is pushing me to use social media… A LOT! But when I ask him for his goals he doesn’t know!

    With the information you’ve shared, it helps me to build my case to not just focus on social media and to build our opt-in email subscribers.

    So thank you!

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall July 6, 2017 at 8:12 am

      Glad to help, Simon. 🙂 Our article on growing your email list with social media might also help.

  5. Mohamed Abdelsamae August 27, 2017 at 4:42 am

    It’s really useful article, Thanks a lot.
    For having more benefit, how can I get same statistics based on national country where I’m working in a product serving mainly the local base customers.

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall August 28, 2017 at 5:40 am

      GetResponse has some email marketing benchmarks for different countries, Mohamed. You can also find more detail on email marketing in our article: Is Email Marketing Dead?.

  6. Just stumbled onto this…. and it validates my observations.. Just wanted to say thank you! 🙂

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall December 13, 2017 at 4:21 am

      You’re most welcome, Ed, and we’re glad you found the data useful. 🙂 Check out our other email marketing stats roundup where we answer the question: is email marketing dead?

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