Feb 22, 2011

Effect of Social Networks on Email Engagement

We all know you shouldn’t over email your subscribers. But we also know that within 4 months, your subscribers quit caring (don’t take it personally — you’re just competing with everything else in the world for their attention). So how can you keep customers engaged with your brand, so that when you do send them emails, they actually open and click?

At MailChimp, we think the answer is Twitter. Oh, and Facebook. And Posterous. And Tumblr. And your blog(s). And Flickr. And YouTube. And dribbble. And RSS-to-email.

You get the point. Try to create content that’s interesting and publish it everywhere, so customers can get to it (and share it) however they want. That way, when you actually send an email, your customers will still be engaged (maybe they remembered that funny video you shared on Facebook, or that really useful tool you linked to on Twitter).

Or will they still be engaged? Is there any data that can actually back that claim up? Why yes there is. So convenient of me you to ask…

Ahem, can you tell we’re having fun with our shiny new Email Genome Project?

Effect of Social Content on Subscriber Engagement

In our latest research, we used the same query that generated the chart Dan Zarrella used in his Science of Email Marketing report:

but this time, we only ran it on campaigns with social content in them (this would include the use of MailChimp’s social features like sharing links, Facebook like buttons, comments, tweet buttons).

What we found was encouraging:

It seems that sending emails with social content helps people keep their subscribers engaged longer. Instead of a drop in average click rates, we actually see an increase.

Caveat: the sample size is much smaller in this study, because we’re only looking at data from one of our data centers (hundreds of thousands of emails, not billions). We’ll crunch more data soon!

Before analyzing this data, we wondered if this "social emails" graph might come out flatter than the previous one, but to see it move upwards is kind of encouraging. I wouldn’t dare suggest this means that adding "Tweet this" and "Like" buttons are going to jack up your email ROI. I think this means that marketers who are combining their email and social efforts are generally trying harder to engage. And that things aren’t as dismal as the "Engagement Half-Life" research seems, because you don’t have to choose between over-emailing and under-emailing. You just need to use different tools in different ways to talk to your different customers.