Study: Email Beats the Pants Off of Social Networks for Marketing

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From the “Research that Makes Spammers Giddy” department, Jordan McCollum over at Marketing Pilgrim points to an interesting new study from Ball State University’s Center for Media Design and ExactTarget. The study, Messaging Behaviors, Preferences, and Personas looked at how different groups of people interact with media and which sales channels work best to reach them.

The researchers found that almost universally, direct mail and email marketing were far more persuasive at getting people to make purchases than any sort of social network advertising.

“One of the key findings in this research is that 18- to 34-year-olds claim they are more likely to be influenced to make purchases based on email marketing messages and direct mail than marketing messages on social networks,” Mike Bloxham, the director of insight and research at Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, said in a press release. “It is too easy to assume that the media consumers choose for their own news, information and entertainment are, by default, the best media to use for marketing messages. This is a dangerous assumption to make in a time when consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their level of control over their media experiences.”

That’s terrible news for social networks. They’re the preferred hangouts for those in many of the market segments that the study looked at, including teens, college students, and “young homemakers,” but sales messages on social sites just don’t resonate with consumers. In some cases, advertising on social networks is actually offensive to users, who feel that it is a violation of what they look at as private sales channels. It’s also bad news for our inboxes, as this sort of study validates spam as a effective tool for unscrupulous marketers.

Some key findings from the study below about their six persona types:

  • Wired Consumers – 20% have subscribed for marketing communications via SMS, which is a higher rate than any other group. However, they only want to be bothered with urgent customer service issues, not sales pitches.
  • Young Homemakers – More than 50% use social networks and SMS, but respond better to direct mail and email marketing.
  • Retired Consumers – 81% have purchased online and 94% have been influenced by some form of direct marketing to make a purchase. Read: the target market for sleazy spammers.
  • College Students – The study found that college students are very spam-savvy and thus think that private communication channels such as SMS and social networks should be off limits for marketers. This is perhaps the most valuable demographic, but good luck reaching them where they live.
  • Teens – Use social networking more than any other group but surprisingly, they’re more likely to make a purchase from direct mail, followed by email, SMS and then social network sites.
  • Established Professionals – Among the members of this group, women are more likely than men to use new digital media channels such as IM, SMS and social networking, but both genders are heavy online shoppers, with 92% having made an Internet purchase.

Where do you fall among those groupings? Are you more likely to respond to a direct sales pitch, email marketing, or marketing that comes via social channels like IM or social networks? Should social networks be off limits for marketers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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  • http://www.lortab-weight-loss.org jisusss

    So,i think that email marketing messages will become importantly in the social networks for Marketing!

  • http://adamteece.com/blog/ merlik

    Social Networks should never never never be used for direct marketing purposes. Of course e-mail marketing is more effective. How much research was done that showed how many people liked a company because of the people who worked for or owned a company had a social network profile. And those owners/empoyees used the social network for it’s true purpose which put a face on that company. Which got everyone else to sign up for their e-mail marketing, which in turn closes the deal? That should be the process that anyone who wants to do social network marketing takes. Yes you can share stuff if you are truly excited about it, but it better be from you and not the company.

  • http://www.micfo.com micfo.com

    I think spammers will :) reading this news, I personally won’t agree with the results because a sample survey at local area or a specific region can’t be the same if you do the survey to collect such information worldwide. SMS and email marketing (most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam) are mostly unsolicited and people still dislike it. :(

  • capitolroi

    This seems somewhat common sense, but I think it’s hard to make a blanket statement across verticals. Social traffic has by far been our lowest converting medium — not just compared to email, but across online channels. It still seems like a bit of a logical fallacy to group just by demographic irrespective of vertical.