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Measuring up email and social media

Over the last few years we’ve been using social media in conjunction with our newsletters to converse with our community, update you on the latest updates to the goings on here at Cloud 9 and have some fun.

Despite email and social media being the two leading areas where businesses plan to increase their spend in 2010, and with 69% of businesses planning to integrate the two, there is very little information out there on how they measure up, let alone interact with one another.

Being the statistics-obsessed folks we are, we decided to get our hands dirty with Google Analytics and study the relationships that our site has with Twitter, Facebook and our newsletters. Along the way, we’ll also touch on some of the aspects of social media that aren’t so easy to measure.

Lets compare email and social media’s role:

As traffic-driving tools
As a means to attract new visitors to your site
As engagement-drivers


Using email and social media to drive traffic to your site

Depending on how much effort you put into your monthly newsletter or social media efforts, the capacity for each channel to drive traffic to your site can be quite variable. We found that a whole month of Facebook updates and tweets drives roughly half as much traffic to our site as our monthly newsletter does over the same period, meaning that the social media crowd (roughly 9% of this combined audience) generated 30% of resulting traffic from Facebook, Twitter and email:

site traffic breakdown explained

That said, it is difficult to separate follower traffic from what’s generated by retweets – being one of the very cool advantages of using Twitter. Another intangible is the propagation of fan page content and recommendations to Facebook feeds and pages – the traffic generated from this can’t be easily coupled to the fans you have.

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, email’s capacity to drive traffic has a long tail. Whereas the traffic from Twitter and Facebook comes in bursts lasting as long as it takes for the message to fall off the bottom of the feed (2-3 days), email continues to collect clicks and opens for days (if not weeks) to come. Using the example of our November newsletter, the proceeding 3 weeks drove as much traffic to the site as the first 48 hours after the send. In fact, we still received an outstanding 1,456 clicks through to our site from the newsletter in the third week!


What does this tell us?

  • Nurturing even a modest social media community can generate considerable traffic – on average, these followers and fans tend be more responsive than email subscribers, too. Is it because of the participatory nature of social media?
  • Email has a very long tail, so consider the timeliness of your message. If a subscriber returns to your email three weeks later, will they still want to click-through?


Using email and social media to attract new visitors to your site

Now that we’ve looked at the number of site visitors received from email and social media sources respectively, lets look at how many of these people had either never visited our site before, or haven’t dropped by in a long time. The results were surprising:


6% of email subscribers who had received our newsletter and consequently clicked through had not visited since March, 2009 (when we made significant changes to our Google Analytics tracking). A lesser percentage of new visits came from Twitter and Facebook respectively. Although these figures may not be indicative of genuinely “new” visits, they do show that a considerable number of subscribers, followers and fans had not visited our site in at least 8 months (if at all). Instead of unsubscribing or unfollowing, they simply hung around, then finally took action on a relevant tweet or newsletter.

What does this tell us?
Email is just as relevant a channel as social media for initiating a relationship and introducing new or lapsed visitors to your content. If you provide a more ways to connect to your brand, you may find that a significant part of your audience may be in touch with you via email or following your tweets, but never actually viewed your site!
Even if an email subscriber hasn’t responded to your email newsletter in the last few months, don’t dump them – segments of your list may be simply waiting for the right offer to come along.

Using email and social media to drive engagement
Once all these visitors arrive via email and social media channels, what do they do? We tallied the average number of pages each visitor went to after arriving at our site and found that on average, Facebook fans visited 1.7 pages more than email subscribers and 2.79 pages more than Twitter followers:

Measuring up email and social media 1

This also reflects what seems to be a loose relationship between the percentage of new site visitors and their willingness to explore a site. Also, from our own link-sharing experience on Twitter, it’s indicative of a tendency to click a link in a tweet in order to snappily read a single article, in opposition to the leisurely site experience that Facebook promotes.

What does this tell us?

  • Consider your landing pages and extended site experience – if it takes more than three pages to achieve a goal, you may have lost most of your Twitter visitors and certainly a lot of your email subscribers along the way.

We’re all in this together

Email, social media and your content should be viewed as a collaborative effort. When you integrate your channels (eg. Add an email signup form to Facebook, or links in your newsletter to your Twitter page), any one of your subscribers can be interacting with you across half a dozen social networking sites, plus receive your tweets and email newsletters on a regular basis. To say one channel is more successful than the other is misleading, when they ultimately flow into one another to create, in marketing speak, what is a multi-touch brand experience.

About this data
Email, Twitter and Facebook were chosen for this comparison as all three channels leverage the same content from our blog and gallery. Data was collected using Google Analytics over a one month period.

We’d love to know how you combine email and social media. Do you regularly use Twitter to promote your newsletter? Has your email resulted in more Facebook fans? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.

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