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

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 post is for you.

Social media has become a major fixture in the online marketing landscape. It’s easy to see why—social media helps you grow your brand publicly, and it can gratifying to see people like and share your posts in real time.

Email marketing, on the other hand, has been around for quite a bit longer. On the surface, it may see 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 is even more effective than its social media counterparts.

Below you’ll find a rundown 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 a marketer, you want to get an ROI of 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 the results will depend largely on industry, Campaign Monitor provides the following benchmarks for email:

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

How Many People Can You Reach?

Of course, you want to get your 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. In fact, 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, of course, is that you can’t reach new emails that you haven’t already acquired like you can with Facebook Ads. 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, because there are simply too many updates to fit on an average news feed. On Facebook, for instance, you can only count on about 6% of your fan base seeing anything you post according to Social Ogilvy.

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.

[Image Source: Social Media Dashboard Template](https://agencyanalytics.com/dashboards/social-media-dashboard)

How Will Your Marketing be Received?

In general, people use social media for enjoyment 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 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 receiving 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 know in their inbox than in their news feed.

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. While it doesn’t look as if Facebook or its kin are going away anytime soon, we all remember what happened to MySpace. 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 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 often 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 at the top-of-funnel while simultaneously building your email list as a long-term asset.

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