How to Use Email to Maximize Social Media Engagement

Social media is dream come true for direct marketers. Customers transition from bits and bytes in a database into people with friends, family, and personal preferences. Connecting with them via social platforms improves relationships and morphs into increased sales and profitability.

People actively involved in corporate communities shop more often, spend more money, and introduce the company to friends and family.

The problem with most social media strategies is that they focus on attracting prospects instead of engaging customers. It is easier to create an acquisition strategy because all you have to do is open an account on the platforms of choice, add some branding images, and start posting content. The build it and they will come approach is intriguing, reminiscent of “Field of Dreams,” and doomed to fail.

Creating a social media presence doesn’t guarantee that people with follow, like, or even know about your business. Social media platforms are noisy places where only the most controversial and shocking content rises to the top. Does being a shock jock fit your brand’s image? If it doesn’t, then you need a different strategy to make the social channel work for your company. Start with your current customers and create a community where they want to invite their friends and family to participate.

Dick’s Sporting Goods and Build-A-Bear Workshop are good examples of companies that actively encourage customers to join their community. They use email campaigns that give people a reason to connect with them on social platforms. The emails are fun with call to actions and a sense of urgency.

Last winter, Dick’s Sporting Goods sent a scavenger hunt email that boosted membership in all of their online communities, increased mobile opt-ins, and included a one day sale offer. The email was a scavenger hunt for a discount code. The completion of three steps generated a discount code: Like the company on Facebook; Follow the company on Twitter; Opt in to mobile messaging.

The treasure map image adds to the fun. The one day only offer increases the urgency.

Build-A-Bear Workshop uses emails to invite customers to their Facebook community. The emails are consistent with the brands fun appeal and include offers for new and current fans.

Both companies do a good job pulling customers in and connecting with them. They are responsive when people comment or post. The communities are excellent examples of social media done well.

To maximize the return from your social activity, focus on customer retention instead of acquisition. Starting with your customers makes good things happen.

Do’s and don’ts for using social media to keep customers coming back:

  • Do invite your customers to join your communities at every touchpoint. Capture their user handles and favorite platforms so you can reach out to them. If you remember the process of adding emails to your customer data, this is the same thing.
  • Don’t send people away from your website without a way back. Surprisingly, the links to the social platforms on corporate websites often open in the same window. When this happens, people are sent down the rabbit hole with no way back. Code your links to open in a new tab or window.
  • Do respond to every appropriate mention, comment, or post. Recognizing people when they speak positively about your company encourages them to repeat the behavior. Responding to negative comments provides social proof that you stand behind your products and service.
  • Don’t participate in social media without clearly defined objectives and methods to measure results. Cause and effect is challenging in social marketing. If you are participating and your business isn’t improving, it is a waste of resources.

Debra Ellis is the founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting (, which specializes in improving customer acquisitionand retention using marketing, analytics, service, and strategic planning.