How the Big Social Networks Use Email to Increase Engagement

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We talk a lot on this blog about how email marketing and social media should be integrated. It helps grow your social reach, increases email click-through rate, promotes lead generation and reconversions, and builds a better relationship between brands and companies.

But you know what else it does? It brings users back to your website. And it's critical that social networks are doing this, because like you (you awesome inbound marketer!), content is updating on these sites all the time. People are bound to miss something! The key to using email to increase site traffic is crafting emails that actually provide value for the user -- not just so they click through on the emails, but so they continue to open the emails as they land in their inbox every day or week.

So let's take a look at how some of the big social networks are using email to encourage users to get back on their websites and interacting with their content -- you know, what all inbound marketers hope their email recipients will do!


Pinterest's weekly digest emails rely on exactly what makes the Pinterest site so sticky for site users -- visuals! And users won't get access to new and better visual content on that site without being inspired by new pins and boards, and following those pins and boards. That's why the Pinterest weekly digest emails feature the popular boards and pins that each user might like based on what content they currently engage with. At the top of the email, they even highlight a pin that is trending, accompanied by the pin's explanation, as one stand-out piece of content that is likely to get the recipient clicking through to their website.

pinterest email digest


If you're creating visual content, take a cue from Pinterest, and highlight it in your email marketing to drive users back to your website. For example, a B2B organization might feature some well-made charts and graphs to drive users back to their blog or a landing page for a more in-depth explanation of what that data means -- in fact, just last week we wrote a blog post with some beautiful marketing data that would really grab your eye! The point is, every business has the capacity to create some visual content, whether it's pictures of products, behind-the-scenes looks at your organization, or interesting industry data. Use the power of visuals to grab the attention of email recipients, and entice them to click through your email to learn more.


You're probably used to getting plenty of Facebook alerts in your inbox -- you know, when someone comments, likes, tags, what have you. But those are all personal alerts ... what does Facebook do for the business owner and marketer? Well, they send a pretty short summary email with some basic data points: new likes, new check-ins, number and percent change of people talking about your brand, and number and percent change of weekly total reach. While the email does include a call-to-action to click through to your page Insights to learn more, I can't help but think some more juicy information could be included in this email. For instance, wouldn't it be great to know who your top influencers are? Or which fans are helping you grow your reach the most? This information, coupled with directives to further engage those fans, might entice a little more action from marketers and business owners on the Facebook page!

facebook page insights

Bare bones email aside, service providers can take some cues from these Facebook emails to make their own email updates more useful for leads and customers. Let's say you're an SEO agency, for example. Wouldn't it be great if your customers received daily or weekly updates with data that showed the keywords for which they've gained and lost rankings as well as actionable advice for what to do to improve those keyword rankings? Hey, maybe you even provide proprietary SEO software; leads that are in a free trial of that software might enjoy those emails, too. And you can bet leads just tinkering around with your product would be much more successful with their SEO endeavors with a little real-world, actionable advice -- and when leads find success with your product or service, they're more likely to buy your product or service.


Google+ has a weekly digest email that prompts readers to both follow new users, and read new content. Pretty standard stuff. What's great about the email is the in-email buttons that allow you to easily add new users (whose relationship to you Google+ helpfully identifies) right in the email to build your following. In this way, it seems that Google+'s email is aimed at both driving repeat traffic to the site -- just take a look at those bright "View all suggestions" and "View what's hot" buttons -- but also to simply get users to build the breadth of their networks.

google  email digest


We often tell email marketers to drive users back to their website. That's still valid advice! But what we can learn from this Google+ email is that driving repeat site traffic isn't the only way to be successful with your email marketing. It's all about defining your goals for the email. In this Google+ email, there are opportunities to drive users to their site with their bright CTA buttons, but it seems that first and foremost the goal is to get users to expand their networks and engage with their content; and they make that easy by letting users do that right within the email. It's a great long-term goal, because the wider your network and more in-depth your interactions, the stickier the site will become. So next time you send an email, ask yourself what exactly you want the end result to be, and design your email around that. And think outside the box -- Google+ shows that the answer doesn't always have to be, "I want them to visit my website!"


LinkedIn sends me a lot of emails: jobs I may be interested in, announcements about one specific connection who has gotten promoted or changed careers, and recaps of discussions going on in groups I'm in. But the best email, in my opinion, is the weekly Network Updates email -- because it combines all of this important content into one message! This email balances informing users with encouraging them to engage with the content; each line includes a short snippet about your connections' updates, and a hyperlink that asks you to take some action related to that update. LinkedIn then drives traffic back to their site with the bright yellow call-to-action buttons at the top and bottom of the email, "View All Updates."

linkedin email digest


This is the email I'd show a new email marketer to demonstrate the concept that your email should be a teaser for your content, not the whole show. Can you imagine if this email showed all of the content related to these updates? It'd be pages and pages long! Instead, LinkedIn highlights the most interesting snippet of information and includes a link to learn more or take a relevant action. So next time you're crafting an email in which you do want users to click through to your website, think about what type of information would pique their interest most and encourage them to do so -- then delete 90% of it until you're left with the most enticing snippet for your email!


Only recently did Twitter start sending a weekly digest email -- we wrote about it just last week, in fact! We also noted how some of the content wasn't exactly the most relevant; the first recommended tweet you see in the email below is actually a blog post I wrote. Flattering, but not totally necessary, Twitter.

Still, if any social media network needs these digest emails, it's Twitter. That thing moves at the speed of light, and there is no question there are hundreds of stories I'm missing every day. And the thing is, some of them just aren't worth reading. Having an email like this that highlights only the best, most relevant content is critical for keeping users engaged on a social network that many might consider too overwhelming.

twitter weekly digest

Are you one of those companies that pumps out content? Of course you are, you're an inbound marketing machine! The upside of that is your readers (and search engines) always have something new to look forward to. The bad news is, it can get really overwhelming for readers to keep up to date with it all. Consider sending email round-ups of the best performing content to your subscribers -- essentially, a "this is what you should care about" email. Yes, they follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your blog, and have you in their RSS. But the fact is, your audience is busy, and they can't keep up to date with your content machine. Following Twitter's lead and highlighting what others in your community have deemed the most noteworthy content is handy for your readers; plus, it helps you resurface content readers would otherwise have missed.

These big social networks are latching on to email marketing to increase repeat site traffic and increase user engagement ... is your business? Share your creative tactics in the comments!

Image credit: williac



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