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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Email, Facebook, And Twitter: Retention Or Acquisition?

by Morgan Stewart, Email Insider, 15th September 2010

Email, Facebook, and Twitter each provide marketers with the ability to compile a database full of customers and prospects. This ability to gather consumers into a visible list certainly looks like the familiar paradigm of database marketing. And given the fact these consumers are now part of "our databases," it seems logical that these would meet the criterion for retention marketing. After all, they are in our databases, so the job of acquisition is done, right?
Based on the Subscribers, Fans, and Followers research I have been engaged in over the past several months, looking at the differences in how consumers want to engage with brands through these three channels, I believe this is a potentially serious mistake.
First, consider newly released data on the impact one-to-one communications through these channels have on increased purchase intent.
  • After becoming an email subscriber, 27% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase from a brand and another 41% are neutral, which I've interpreted as they may or may not be willing to purchase more. Giving the benefit of the doubt, let's say 68% may be influenced to purchase MORE after becoming a subscriber.
  • After becoming a Facebook Fan, 17% are more likely to purchase, with another 34% on the fence. In total, 51% may be influenced to purchase MORE after becoming a Fan on Facebook.
  • After following a brand on Twitter, 37% say they are more likely to purchase, with another 31% on the fence. Like email, 68% may be MORE likely to purchase after becoming a follower.
Facebook: It may seem bizarre given the incredible success of Facebook in general that it trails both email and Twitter in terms of its ability to influence increased purchase intent. Add in the recent study by Syncapse, that showed Facebook Fans spend more, are more loyal, more likely to recommend, and have more affinity for the brands they Fan (or "like") than those who don't.

But think about it. Consumers are generally fans in real life before they "like" companies on Facebook. As such, they already purchase from and endorse your brand frequently. Ever had a friend with a Coca-Cola room in his house? Clocks, barstools, soda fountains -- all Coke. It is possible that level of fan could purchase MORE Coke products? Not likely, but they sure spend a lot of time advocating for the brand. Don't they?

Twitter: Consumers who follow brands on Twitter are actually the most likely to purchase more often after following a brand. The challenge for marketers is that this is still a fairly small segment of the online population. Only 5% of online consumers are daily Twitter users that follow brands on Twitter. Do the math, and you'll see only 3% of online consumers are likely to be influenced to purchase more frequently through Twitter.

So, are these retention-marketing channels?

To some degree, of course they are. However, I believe it is more exciting to think of Facebook and Twitter as acquisition channels.

Facebook is all about connecting with friends and being entertained. Those are the primary reasons people go to Facebook in the first place. Moreover, when people "like" brands, they generally do so to tell others about themselves. If I like Nike, that tells you something about my personality. Some call it social badging, others call it a social resume. Either way, it's about them. It's not an open invitation to receive marketing messages.
Even so, they have liked your brand enough (in real life) to consider this an expression of their personality. They have already advocated for you to their friends. Question is, could they endorse you more? Absolutely. In fact, every time they "like" something you post on your Facebook page, they are endorsing you. Each time they comment on one of your posts, they invite their friends to join in and engage with your brand also. Facebook allow marketers to see word-of-mouth happening. It allows marketers to fuel word-of-mouth. And, to me, word-of-mouth is an acquisition strategy, not a retention strategy.

The same goes for Twitter. It's great that this 3% of consumers may purchase more often, but even greater significance should be placed on the ability of this segment to carry your message beyond Twitter through blogs, private forums, and product reviews. In this same study, we discovered that daily Twitter users are an average of five times more likely to write blogs, and three times more likely to post comments and product reviews than other online consumers. They are VOCAL! The trick is to keep this group happy so that they will generate content that influences others to try your products. Again, it's about acquisition.

Email stands alone as the channel that is squarely in the retention marketing camp. Nine-three percent of U.S. online consumers receive at least one permission-based email message per day, making it by far the most broadly used of these channels for consumers looking to engage brands online. As such, it is likely to drive increased purchase intent among the largest number of online consumers. Combined with the high value consumers place on trust and privacy, and their expectations for relevant and exclusive content, email should serve as the cornerstone for brands' retention marketing strategy.

Expansion of your brand's reach online happens when these channels are integrated into a cohesive strategy. Thinking beyond the database and driving consumers to interact across multiple channels offers marketers the opportunity to leverage these channels for both retention and acquisition.
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