Email Marketing vs. Social Media: Which is Better?

TLDR: Instead of focusing on which is better, learn how to combine the power of email and social media for a powerful marketing strategy.

Email marketing vs. social media.

“Email marketing is dead.”


“That social channel is old news.”

How many times have you heard phrases like this, pitting tried and true marketing channels against each other like gladiators gone to war?

I know my answer: too many to count. 

So called ‘experts’ have a bad habit of killing off marketing channels that have been around a while in favor of the ‘latest and greatest’ tactics and tools. 

But there’s a reason those older channels have been around so long. They work. 

This was the narrative that came on the scene when social media was just gaining popularity. Now that social media marketing is no longer new, we wanted to revisit the conversation of email marketing vs. social media, and explore how they’re different, how they’re similar, and how you can use them together to drive more awareness, engagement, and sales. 

Email marketing vs. social media: similarities and differences.

Email marketing and social media are both fantastic channels to engage your audience. While they both encourage two-way communication, the biggest difference is with email marketing – you own your list. You do not own your followers on social media. 

Even though your social following may be larger than your email list, there are more barriers to overcome with social media. For instance, social algorithms change all the time — which means it’s never guaranteed that your entire audience will see your message. 

And while it’s a scary thought, you also run the risk of a social platform shutting down and you losing all your followers. Think: Vine circa 2016. Those creators needed to rebuild their following elsewhere. Imagine if they grew their email list alongside their social audience…

Let’s break down a few more similarities and differences. 

How is email marketing different from social media?

One of the best things about social media is that it lets you reach new fans and audiences in a very public way. People can search for your topic or area of expertise and stumble upon your page at random or through a friend or family member referral.

But social media can get crowded. If you’re not investing in paid advertising, there’s a good chance your posts won’t get seen (let alone by the right people).

The good news? Engaging your audience is easy – all you have to do is add email to the mix!

The even better news? Your subscribers are likely to be more engaged because they opted in to hear from you.

You can set the timing and frequency of when you want to deliver content to your prospects. There’s no algorithm to work around. With email, it’s super easy to track who your content is reaching and how it performed. (And if you’re using a trusted email service provider, there’s no question about whether or not your content is actually getting delivered). 

Plus, according to emarketer.com, email marketing is the most effective channel for customer retention

 Email marketing is the most effective channel for customer retention

How are email marketing and social media alike?

Despite their differences, email and social media work better together.

Social media is a great way to reach new audiences and communities of people. Email is how to keep them engaged and nurture the relationship. It’s a win-win!

Plus, both social media and email marketing make great customer engagement channels. Stay competitive and use social media to provide quick responses to inquiring customers

Leverage both of their strengths to really amp up your marketing strategy as a whole.

3 social media strategies for email marketers

If you’ve been focusing on email marketing as your primary channel, here are some ideas to help you amplify your marketing on social media. 

  1. Invite them to your social media. Have a lot of email subscribers? Summon them to your Twitter feed. Big audience on Facebook? Request the pleasure of their company on your blog. Each person probably has one platform they’re most comfortable with. But they may initially encounter you on other channels. Give them the option to follow you where they prefer, or they may drop you altogether.
  2. Run a contest. Hold a contest related to your brand. You can do something as simple as asking for new product suggestions. Have your readers submit their answers either through email or social, wherever your audience is largest. Tell them you’ll announce the winners on the channel you’re trying to grow. Link to a place where they can sign up to meet you there!
  3. Incentivize engagement across channels. You may already have a large, active audience on Facebook or Twitter and be looking to grow your email subscriber list (or vise versa). Collect comments and requests from them on one medium and address them on the other. People who see your responses may click over to see what all the chatter is about.

Grow your email list with social media

So how do you get your followers to sign up for your email list? The answer is surprisingly easy!

You can share lead generating resources or content upgrades, like a webinar, PDF guide or ebook, as an incentive in exchange for their email address.

Another simple way to boost your list growth is to host a contest or giveaway with a valuable, relevant prize. Just remember to state that entrants will be added to your email list (or give them the option to opt-out).

If you’re wondering which social media platform is best for email list growth, there’s no one answer – it’s really dependent on where your audience is.

Twitter and LinkedIn are good places to start because they are the most “landing page” friendly. However, don’t overlook channels like Pinterest and Instagram. Both are really good places for finding new audiences through search.

If you’re willing to invest a little, Facebook ads are a great place to promote your list. You set the targeting and budget for your ads. You can also create lookalike audiences based on the profiles of your current email subscribers.

Related: The experts at Sendible answer your questions about social media marketing. 

Build a powerful marketing strategy

Now that you understand the benefits of both social media and email marketing, it’s time to create the perfect marketing strategy for you.

Need more help getting started with email marketing? Get the full experience by checking out How to Grow Your Business With Email Marketing

8 Comments

  1. Aaron Schulman

    2/15/2011 1:22 pm

    Great post- simple yet straight to the point. Reminds me of a book I read several years ago “Who moved my Cheese” and the reality in this book is about being flexible and adapting to change.

    We just started a contest and are using Twitter and Facebook to get involvement. The gist of this contest is that we are building a new affiliate product site based on acoustic guitar reviews and we are going to be inviting people to simply do 3 things to potentially win prizes.

    They have to login, give feedback on choosing which logo they think fits the brand the best, then they will have to share their post or the contest via a tweet, blog post, or facebook (their choice). The contest details are here: http://www.aimadvantage.com/content/strumview-contest.

    Any suggestions as to how we can make it easier or more streamlined? Thanks – this blogpost is so timely as this is the first contest we are running on this site.

  2. Amanda Gagnon

    2/15/2011 4:53 pm

    Aaron ~ I’m glad the post was helpful! Your contest looks good. My suggestions would be:

    1. Combine your first “what you will get” part with the second “what you will get” part later on

    2. Change your “all you need to have” section to a “just take these steps” section and explain the steps to registering

    Good luck~

  3. Jayne

    2/15/2011 5:17 pm

    I have a question about sending newsletters to Facebook. While it is obviously a good idea, would this affect the number of actual email subscriptions to the newsletter. They may think they don’t need to sign up for my newsletter and that they will just see my news on facebook when they choose. What strategies do you suggest for this?

    Also I am still not sure why AWeber doesn’t include forward to a friend buttons. It’s serving the subscribers well. As a subscriber to many newsletters I use this function often.

  4. Amanda Gagnon

    2/16/2011 9:19 am

    Jayne ~ The trick is to only post a newsletter to Facebook occasionally (not every one) and to include an invitation to subscribe so if people like what they see, they can get all the newsletters you won’t be posting.

    As for forward-to-a-friend buttons, we encourage directly forwarding instead – here’s why!

  5. Paul Patzloff

    2/20/2011 12:24 pm

    A nice balanced thought process here.
    Thanks

  6. Damon

    2/22/2011 10:47 am

    You make very good points. I find that to truly make the best use of your online properties you need to be banging multiple marketing avenues. Email marketing and PPC works better with brand awareness and social marketing helps provide this.

    With online businesses we can forget how precarious of a leg we stand on by relying too heavily on only one or two marketing channels. With SEM and SEO, Google and Bing can shut you down in a heartbeat and there goes a BIG block of traffic. I touched on this some here:

    http://cartmetrix.com/blog/2010/the-true-value-in-ppc/

    Thinking now in the context of email marketing and social marketing, it’s worth noting that one of the major value points of email marketing is that you can take your list with you. You’ve spent years and dollars to build your list and that is something that you can truly own that you don’t get with Twitter, Facebook, Adwords, adCenter, Google or Bing.

    Should your email marketing supplier go away or stop providing value, you can take your list elsewhere and continue on. No one company owns you and controls a core aspect of your business.

  7. Jarom Adair

    9/15/2011 2:09 pm

    I’m very active in social media, and I get everybody on my email list first.

    If you visit my facebook page, the first thing I do is try to get you on my email list. If I find you through twitter or youtube, the first thing I do is invite you to join my email list.

    Email, despite spam filters and open rates, is still the most universal way to easily keep in touch with everybody. You can’t reliably send your facebook fans a message, chances that your twitter followers see your tweet is incredibly slim, and getting any kind of critical mass of subscribers on youtube is slow going, but email has high deliverability and is waiting there for your subscriber to open it at their convenience.

    Once I get somebody on my email list I can invite them to subscribe to all my other media channels, but everybody goes through my email list first.

  8. Chuck Bartok

    12/3/2020 5:18 pm

    Great article, as always.
    Have effectively used eMail marketing since 2005 with AWeber.
    BUT now that social media is on the scene we use it like a fine tuned tool to send people to our websites, where they find it to their benefit to sign-up for updates.
    We are only looking for the “chosen few who truly want to hear MORE.
    So we are not as concerned about quantity as we are quality.
    We love our 50+% open rate with most around 80+%
    Thanks agin for sharing great information