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.
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.)
|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%|
|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.
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:
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.