Why Email Is More Effective Than Social Media


When was the last time you bought something that you saw on your twitter feed, your Facebook feed or some other form of social media?

Even if you liked, shared or re-tweeted you probably didn’t even click-through to see what the offer was and you almost surely didn’t buy it.


It’s simple really.

People don’t want Advertising to show up in their social feeds. Fact

Most of us didn’t sign up for our social media accounts to connect with companies (true we probably have some business pages on Facebook or a twitter account we use for business) but that’s not why we started using them.

Heck, it’s not even why they were founded.

You, like me, probably joined Facebook because your friends/family/acquaintances were there and it was a way for you to stay connected/updated on what was going on in their lives passively without picking up a phone or sending an email.

Correct me if I’m wrong…

What you didn’t sign up for was so you could keep in touch with your favourite brands and find out what their latest deals and offerings were. 

ExactTarget did a Channel Preferences Study in 2012 (I know it’s old af but still super relevant) in which 1500 Americans ages 15 and up were asked about their usage of social media, email, and text messaging.

Jay Bare over @ Convince and Convert pulls out some of the most salient points for us.

He points out that of the people that we have given permission to market to us that only 4% of us want them to send us promotions by Facebook, and only 1% by twitter.

And here’s the kicker…77% prefer to receive those message by email.


Let me say that again 77%. We don’t want to be sold to by social media, we want to be sold to by e-mail.

The numbers don’t lie!

Now, this doesn’t mean that social media is worthless. We love being wooed by social media.

We want to get to know the companies/businesses through their blog, their Facebook, their twitter. But we want to be marketed to by email.

More recently, Optinmonster reported that 60% of consumers prefer to receive promotional messages via email and only 20% via social media.

That’s not enough you say…you need more convincing as to why your business should be growing that email list.

Well then read on my young padawan.

Click-Through Rates

Everybody brags about their Twitter followers, their Facebook friends and their LinkedIn connections.

Now don’t get me wrong those numbers are great and they can help your company in many ways but when it comes to conversion (which is what marketing is all about) they may do a whole lot less than you would expect.

Noah Kagan over at OkDork decided to see if the hype about social media really matched the results (simple validation here, always a must for any business).

He found that his Click Through Rate (CTR – aka conversion rate) was a paltry .8% from twitter while it was a mammoth 24.8% from his email list.

Uhh…can you say “HOLY CRAP!”? (Noah did…if a bit more crassly)

Let’s look at this another way.

Say you are a retailer. Twitter is like having a thousand people walk by your store and having 8 of them walk in and see what you are offering.


The email list is having 248 of those same thousand, check you out…which would you rather have?

Now, this isn’t the same for every market, every campaign but the numbers are still staggering.

Are they paying attention?

I am reading “Your First 1000 Copies: The Step By Step Guide To Marketing Your Book” by Tim Grahl. (Can’t recommend this book enough by the way. A great read with lots of awesome tips that don’t just apply to being an author).

Tim is an email list evangelist and gives countless examples of why he thinks it is the most powerful way for authors to market their books.

He talks about an informal survey he does with his friends and colleagues that is ongoing and the results are almost always the same.

He asks how many of their social media updates they read – the answer is almost always < 1%.

He then asks how many of their emails they read – almost 100%.

Again the proof is in the pudding; people pay more attention to emails than they do to social media.

That’s still not enough…well, there’s more!

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

According to Statista as of April 2020, Facebook had 2.5 billion usersTwitter had about 330 million according to Oberlo, LinkedIn 660 million as of 2020Pinterest had 320 million as of 7.10.2019, and Instagram had over 1 billion as of 3.26.2020 according to Hootsuite.

I wouldn’t trust these numbers too much though.

Some quick back of the napkin math tells us that is roughly 4.8 billion spread across the major social media platforms (and about 3.8 billion from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram alone, the ones that most people use for marketing).

Statista publishes regular reports on email users worldwide. In their latest report they found a total of 4.9 billion email users. That’s based on data starting in 2017 and projected to 2024.

That’s about 100 million more users than the major social networks combined.

It’s not much difference but even as many users as social media networks combined is hard to grasp.

The takeaway here. While social media may be growing at an astounding rate, not one social media medium can touch the reach of email.

One more thing to think on when comparing social media to email

How many people had MySpace accounts (don’t be embarrassed to raise your hand, it’s ok)?

How many of you do now (now if you raise your hand you can be embarrassed)?

How many of you have the same email address (or have an address that forwards to your current) that was active in 2003, the year MySpace was founded?

I never used MySpace (though it seems I didn’t miss out on much) but I still have my Gmail account from back then and use it all the time.

While social media trends may grow and die out (Friendster anyone) we all continue to use email.

I sill know people who use their free .edu email that they got in school in the mid-nineties.

Still not convinced….read on!


For me, this is the biggie as to why email marketing can be so much more effective than using social networking.

In social media when you tweet or update or pin or whatever you are just putting out something for people to see…there is no interaction.

In reality “social media” is rarely social, especially when it comes to businesses and marketing.

Email, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether.

You can easily tailor your message to fit the actions of your lead. Something that is nearly impossible with social media.

Tommy Walker over @ ConversionXl has a great article all about the power of using automated email systems to move leads to conversion but there are a couple of parts that I want to focus on here.

He does a quick case study about GrooveHQ and how their automated email sequence works.

After signing up for their account they receive a message from the CEO, it is nothing more than a personal email message asking why they joined and telling them that they will be receiving more emails in the future.

The next message is based on whether they set up a Groove mailbox or not and then all future emails are based on the choices that they make.

It’s like a choose your own adventure book (and who doesn’t love those) played out in real-time.

This system can be easily implemented for any business (and if resources or tight or the list is just starting the automation can be replaced by a human who sends out pre-created messages).

Trying to do all of that with social media…

What’s that you still aren’t convinced?

You still think yeah but I’m not really selling online. I’m a chiropractor or a dentist or I own an ice cream shop.

Well, then this part is for you.

Why brick and mortars need email lists

So let’s say you’re a small Mexican restaurant in Phoenix (this is literally like being a needle in a haystack).

People love your food. You have good reviews on yelp and a decent following on your Facebook page.

I hate to tell you but so what.

There are literally hundreds of small restaurants that are in the exact same situation as you are. (I Google mapped “Mexican Restaurant Phoenix” and stopped counting after 200).

On top of that, you know who is probably killing you day in and day out in sales? Taco Bell.  

Is their food better? Hardly. Is their service better? Unlikely.

So why are they killing you?

It’s simple. People get reminded to go to Taco Bell all of the time.

They see commercials for the monthly special (Quesarrito anyone). They hear them on the radio.

They see them on billboards.

Where do they hear and see you?

Maybe on Facebook if your post happens to show up on their feed which is unlikely as only about 10% of your followers actually see your posts.

So how do you reach out to your customers?

How do you remind them that your food is delicious and that they want to eat it regularly?

If you don’t know the answer by now I’m not quite sure what to tell you.

If you have an email list filled with your customers you can send them coupons, deals, tell them about a new item or ask them what they want to see.

If you are collecting the right info you can even send them a coupon for a free meal on their birthday or a special coupon for their favourite meal.

This doesn’t just apply to restaurants either.

You’re a chiropractor. You can tell them about a new technique that you learned at a conference that will dramatically help with neck pain caused by sitting at the computer.

You’re a dentist. You can tell them about the new special you are running on orthodontics.

You’re a clothing store. You can tell them about the hot new blouses you just got in.

The list goes on and on and on.

So what does it all mean?

It means that email is here to stay. It is, especially in the business world, the most popular form of communication.

More and more people, because of smartphones, 81% of American adults have a smartphone and are gaining access to email every day.

To even join a social media platform you need an email address.

This means that you need to have a plan to use email as a means to market.

By all means, don’t drop all your social media marketing and focus solely on email (though if you only chose one channel email would be hard to argue against) but do have a clear and defined plan on how to gather email addresses and then how to market to them once you have them.

If you don’t have a plan or don’t know where to start don’t worry, I have you covered.

This is only one from a series of posts that are focusing on what the small business owner needs to do to harness the power of digital marketing for their business.

About the author

Alex Thomas

I've been involved in digital marketing for over 10 years and have worked with global and local companies on large scale SEO and PR campaigns. In my current role at Breakline, I'm responsible for winning new business, creating, implementing and overseeing SEO campaigns, social communications, online and offline media relations.

By Alex Thomas
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