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Email Marketing vs Social Media: Is There a Winner?

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This article was last updated on July 14, 2021

If you are a marketing person you have probably already asked yourself which marketing channel is worth your efforts more – email marketing or social media. With this article we will try to help you make up your mind.

We will compare the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and will try to help you figure out which channel is more appropriate for your goals. From the start we agree that the world of marketing is not all black and white, and a wise marketer will always try to master every tool available, so he could gain maximum results for his brand, product or service.

Obviously we are much more involved in email marketing, but we promise to do our best to take a neutral stand and analyse the topic objectively.

1. Distinctive Features

As a starter, here is a list of the main features that each channel offers. Read them carefully and decide which of them fit best your company objectives.

Email Marketing

  • Allows access to your clients’ most personal online storage – their inbox;
  • Offers comprehensive analytics tools;
  • Data enables you to profile subscribers;
  • Reasonable pricing (smaller campaigns are sometimes free of charge);
  • Strong content will generate leads from your current subscribers;
  • Requires opt-in (i.e. express of interest in your product), which is why it is so effective;
  • The older and more proven form of digital marketing;
  • According to Get Response average email marketing open rate for all industries is 21.73%.

Social Media

  • Allows for laser targeting (by location, age, interests, etc);
  • The copy is shorter, lighter and more entertaining;
  • It costs $0 to post on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest;
  • Keeps fans educated and informed on a real-time, day-to-day basis;
  • Great for generating brand awareness;
  • Helps improve search engine ranking;
  • According to Social Ogilvy the average organic reach on Facebook is 6%;
  • According to Marketing Land the average organic reach on Twitter is just 2%.

2. Reach

Although it is easier to post a message on Facebook or Twitter than to have your email delivered to the user’s inbox, there are a couple of facts you have to consider.

Email Marketing

Once you reach the client’s inbox 1 in every 5 users is going to open and read your email. If they like it, they will be eagerly expecting your emails and will become loyal clients.

This is why it is very important that you keep spam filters in mind when preparing your campaigns. Filter carefully your distribution list and don’t be too pushy with your sales copy.

Social Media

Everyone may post on Facebook or Twitter for free, but did you know that the number of your Facebook fans who actually see your post (i.e. your organic reach) is only 6%?

At any point in time Facebook have 1500 stories to choose from when displaying a message on a user’s newsfeed. It’s no surprise then that your company’s posts aren’t making the cut amongst photos and posts of friends and colleagues.

Let’s Put This In Perspective

If you run an email marketing campaign with 1,000 email subscribers and you post the same message on Facebook and Twitter, with 1,000 subscribers in each media, your result will lay somewhere within these lines:

  • 217 email subscribers will open your email;
  • around 60 Facebook fans will see your post;
  • 40 Twitter followers will see your tweet.

It is true that the email marketing requires more time and resources (for designing and coding the email), but the results exceed by far those on social media.

3. Engagement Rates

When launching a marketing campaign your main goal is to capture the user’s attention and prompt him to take a certain action.

Email Marketing

When a subscriber opens your email, he will focus fully on it even for just few seconds. This is the moment when the strength and relevance of the content kicks in. If your content is interesting or important for your subscriber, he will continue to read and will eventually follow the links from the email to your website.

With email marketing you have few seconds of your client’s full, undivided attention to score a conversion. However, the quality of your copy and the validity of your offer are the keys to the conversion.

Social Media

It is harder to catch user’s attention on social media, as you are competing with so many distractions. The user’s screen is usually full with status updates, images and comments from friends, colleagues and relatives that are much more interesting for him. Along with that, there are other companies displaying their ads on that same screen, which increases the general noise even more. Your message should be very distinctive or of high importance to the user, so he could see it and act upon it.

However, social media posts have two very important advantages – they live much longer and they can go viral in no time. A twitter fan browsing your posts may get to messages from previous weeks and even months and engage with them. On another hand, if a few Facebook followers with 10,000 followers each likes or shares your post it may potentially reach 100,000 people, increasing immensely the chance for an even broader reach.

4. Converse and Build Credibility with Social Media

Social media will help your brand to stay in touch with your fans and clients on day-to-day basis. The approach in social media is lighter and more entertaining and helps keeping the conversation with your audience alive. This in return gives your brand the credibility it needs to lead the user to more formal actions like subscribing to your Newsletter, setting up an account on your website or making a purchase.

5. Email Marketing is Better for Direct Sales and B2B Communication

Email on another hand is a much stronger sales tool and is preferred for B2B communication

Email marketing allows you to send e-commerce emails with product details, pricing and shipment options. This way your subscribers are served with a direct product offer and a clear way to take an action. Company officials and decision makers communicate via email and eventually hang out on social media in their spare time. That is why it is advisable to connect with them via email.

An important aspect of email marketing is that you have your subscribers’ consent to email them. When people opt in for an email, they express interest in your products, meaning that they are already bought in. The email copy is longer, more thought through and it is beneficial if it tells an interesting story. The story telling/sales copy ratio needs to be carefully balanced.


It is obvious that there are value and benefits in both marketing approaches. Social media helps you keeping the daily, casual conversation, where email marketing is much more effective in delivering a direct offer to the client’s attention.

We recommend that you avoid choosing one over the other, but rather create a strategy that meets your clients wherever they are. After all the end game is called Conversion and we have to learn how to influence prospects’ decisions over multiple marketing channels.

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