Over the last few years we’ve been using social media in conjunction with our regular monthly newsletters to converse with our community, update you on the latest updates to Campaign Monitor and well, have some fun. Despite email and social media being the two leading areas where businesses plan to increase their spend in 2010, and with 69% of businesses planning to integrate the two, there is very little information out there on how they measure up, let alone interact with one another.

Being the statistics-obsessed folks we are, we decided to get our hands dirty with Google Analytics and study the relationships that our site has with Twitter, Facebook and our monthly newsletter. Along the way, we’ll also touch on some of the aspects of social media that aren’t so easy to measure.

Lets compare email and social media’s role:

Using email and social media to drive traffic to your site

Depending on how much effort you put into your monthly newsletter or social media efforts, the capacity for each channel to drive traffic to your site can be quite variable. We found that a whole month of Facebook updates and tweets drives roughly half as much traffic to our site as our monthly newsletter does over the same period, meaning that the social media crowd (roughly 9% of this combined audience) generated 30% of resulting traffic from Facebook, Twitter and email:


That said, it is difficult to separate follower traffic from what’s generated by retweets – being one of the very cool advantages of using Twitter. Another intangible is the propagation of fan page content and recommendations to Facebook feeds and pages – the traffic generated from this can’t be easily coupled to the fans you have.

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, email’s capacity to drive traffic has a long tail. Whereas the traffic from Twitter and Facebook comes in bursts lasting as long as it takes for the message to fall off the bottom of the feed (2-3 days), email continues to collect clicks and opens for days (if not weeks) to come. Using the example of our November newsletter, the proceeding 3 weeks drove as much traffic to the site as the initial 48 hours after the send. In fact, we still received an outstanding 1,456 clicks through to our site from the newsletter in the third week!


What does this tell us?

  • Nurturing even a modest social media community can generate considerable traffic – on average, these followers and fans tend be more responsive than email subscribers, too. Is it because of the participatory nature of social media?
  • Email has a very long tail, so consider the timeliness of your message. If a subscriber returns to your email three weeks later, will they still want to click through?

Using email and social media to attract new visitors to your site

Now that we’ve looked at the number of site visitors received from email and social media sources respectively, lets look at how many of these people had either never visited our site before, or haven’t dropped by in a long time. The results were surprising:


26% of email subscribers who had received our newsletter and consequently clicked through had not visited since March, 2009 (when we made significant changes to our Google Analytics tracking). A lesser percentage of new visits came from Twitter and Facebook respectively. Although these figures may not be indicative of genuinely “new” visits, they do show that a considerable number of subscribers, followers and fans had not visited our site in at least 8 months (if at all). Instead of unsubscribing or unfollowing, they simply hung around, then finally took action on a relevant tweet or newsletter.

What does this tell us?

  • Email is just as relevant a channel as social media for initiating a relationship and introducing new or lapsed visitors to your content. If you provide a number of ways to connect to your brand, you may find that a significant portion of your audience may be in touch with you via email or following your tweets, but never actually viewed your site!
  • Even if an email subscriber hasn’t responded to your email newsletter in the last few months, don’t dump them – segments of your list may be simply waiting for the right offer to come along.

Using email and social media to drive engagement

Once all these visitors arrive via email and social media channels, what do they do? We tallied the average number of pages each visitor went to after arriving at our site and found that on average, Facebook fans visited 1.7 pages more than email subscribers and 2.79 pages more than Twitter followers:


This also reflects what seems to be a loose relationship between the percentage of new site visitors and their willingness to explore a site. Also, from my own link-sharing experience on Twitter, it’s indicative of a tendency to click a link in a tweet in order to snappily read a single article, in opposition to the leisurely site experience that Facebook promotes.

What does this tell us?

  • Consider your landing pages and extended site experience – if it takes more than three pages to achieve a goal, you may have lost most of your Twitter visitors and certainly a lot of your email subscribers along the way.

We’re all in this together

Email, social media and your content should be viewed as a collaborative effort. When you integrate your channels (eg. Add an email signup form to Facebook, or links in your newsletter to your Twitter page), any one of your subscribers can be interacting with you across half a dozen social networking sites, plus receive your tweets and email newsletters on a regular basis. To say one channel is more successful than the other is misleading, when they ultimately flow into one another to create, in marketing speak, what is a multi-touch brand experience.

About this data

Email, Twitter and Facebook were chosen for this comparison as all three channels leverage the same content from our blog and gallery. Data was collected using Google Analytics over a one month period. At the time when this data set was initiated (21 November), we had roughly 88k email subscribers, 7.4k Twitter followers and 680 Facebook fans. Needless to say, we now have a fair few more of each.

We’d love to know how you combine email and social media. Do you regularly use Twitter to promote your newsletter? Has your email resulted in more Facebook fans? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.

  • dan.jones@milestoneip.com

    Hi, great article..
    This will be helpful for discussing with clients about the importance of Email marketing. Thanks for Campaign Monitor it looks like a great tool! Looking forward to using it in the new year! :-)

  • Boris Mahovac R.G.D.

    Interesting study, thanks for sharing. You may want to check out this study, too, with somewhat different results and I’d be interested in reading your comments on those differences.


  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Boris, thank you for this link – ShareThis has some great information! In so much as there are differences, the engagement stats are comparable (apart from the Facebook metrics, which for us seems to be a real performer).

    I should have provided the caveat that all statistics derived are a combination of the channel used and quality of content. Relevant content = Lots of traffic and engagement. I certainly expect that there will be variance over time as we tweak our site, newsletters etc, so it will be great to revisit these figures over the next few months and see how they compare.

    Let us know how you go with using email in conjunction with social media – it’s great to know what channels work for different applications.

  • Mike

    Great post – but why aren’t you providing me the option to ‘share’ this story? ;)

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hah, Mike, you’ve got us there! That’s something we’re looking towards adding to blog posts, so stay tuned!

  • Martine

    Thank you very much for your post. I liked the comprehensive information about using email and social media to drive traffic a website.

  • campuscodi

    Hey Dan Jones and the rest of the “thankful” supporters of this post. Why is it great. It only shows how Campaign Monitor’s page evolved. And it only wants to prove that emails are better than social networking. And this is true….. becauseeeeeeeeeeeee…. Campaign Monitor is a service used to send out mass mails (aka newsletters).

    It was published only for one reason: self-induced fame and purpose.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi CampusCodi, forgive me if I did not make the intention of the post clear. This isn’t at all about why email is ‘better’ than social media, but how the two channels compare and compliment each other, based on solid metrics I pulled from Google Analytics. If you look at our findings regarding email’s role as an engagement driver, or in conveying a message with a short lifespan, we’ve made it clear that it’s not always the best channel to use.

    We hope you find other posts in this blog informative – please let us know if there is any specific content you would like to see in the future. Have an awesome day!

  • Michael

    ‘Great post – but why aren’t you providing me the option to ‘share’ this story? ;)’

    – I agree, was hoping to post this to Twitter

  • Terri MacMillan

    Hey Ros:

    Thanks for this, and good on you for being classy.


  • Grant

    Thanks for the great article…. and helping me articulate these things better to a client that is struggling to understand these exact issues. Great timing.

  • Barbara Zaccone

    This is a great article. Thank you so much for sharing. What most companies are concerned about is the amount of time all this online marketing takes. They think of Blogs, E-News, Linkedin, Twitter, etc in a linear fashion, but in reality they all leverage each other. For example, We are announce the launch of a new web site in our email newsletter. We then create a similiar version and post it in on our blog. The we post a tweet about it with a link to the blog article. The tweet also automatically get posted in the Linkedin account for all to see.

  • Andrew Kordek

    This is great stuff guys. Have you ever thought about the impact of socially sharing emails. I would be curious to know and I have not found a lot of data centered around the incorporation of social share within the email and if it does add value in terms of traffic and acquisition.

  • J. Steinbrunner

    Ros, thanks for this and I second Terri’s compliment for staying classy. Our store performs better far and away with email – specifically our segmented lists – than Twitter and Facebook. And though we put more effort into Twitter, we’ve found FB to drive more engaged traffic.

  • Mike Lazarus

    I’d like to see a comparison to RSS added to this. I’ve dropped out of every email mailing list in favour of RSS

    The article also fails to address that social media is not a marketing platform in the same way as email or RSS

  • Alex White

    From the looks of things, what this shows is that businesses and NFP groups should be focusing on improving email communications, and if they have time left, bedding down the social networking stuff.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Thanks for your informative comments, everyone! Your experiences regarding social media use are just as informative as the numbers we collected. It’s great to know that more folks are looking at social media and email as an integrated entity, whereas marketing channels have traditionally been considered to be ‘siloed’ from one another. Keep the comments coming!

    Andrew Kordek – We’re looking at how we can improve the social sharing of emails sent via Campaign Monitor. In the coming months we’ll hopefully make some changes that will result in us compiling data regarding its value (and provide you guys with the ability to share your email campaigns).

  • Peter McMahon

    Hi folks, thank for this post – always good to have another comparative view of email V social.

    Re an earlier comment, for mine I think you were quite transparent in your reason for this post – and most readers would take the data in context – it is on your blog after all.

  • mga

    3D is not the most recommendable visualization for a pie chart

    all else: great info!

  • Mike Leigh Cooper

    hi, thanks for the article. Great insight into the links between more traditional and less traditional marketing methods. This is great to use as reference when reassuring businesses that social media is new and buzzing, but only an aspect of what they should be doing (and is currently very easily lost in the shadow of social media)

  • John Feyler

    great post, the data is very informative about using social media and email.

    you should put up some share links on your site to digg, facebook,stumbleupon and all so readers can spread this kind of useful info.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi John, thanks for the suggestion! That’s something we’ll look into adding to our blog posts – hopefully we can add that sooner rather than later. :)

  • Rosso

    <quote>We’re looking at how we can improve the social sharing of emails sent via Campaign Monitor. In the coming months we’ll hopefully make some changes that will result in us compiling data regarding its value (and provide you guys with the ability to share your email campaigns). </quote>
    Any updates on when we’ll be able to share CM campaigns via popular social media networks? There are work-arounds to get social media buttons into a campaign, but it’s such a pain!

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Rosso, there are no firm plans or timelines for this yet – we’re still in the process of gauging interest and collecting feedback. I’ve taken note of your request and will certainly let everyone know if it’s something we add to a future update. Thank you for your patience – you’re certainly right when you say that we can make it easier to share campaigns over Twitter, Facebook etc!

  • Wendy Riley

    I echo Rosso’s request. I enjoy using CM but in my view adding tool to make sharing content easier should be a priority not a ‘wait and see’, as it adds to the success of campaigns.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi folks, we’re very pleased to announce that we’ve just added social sharing to all Campaign Monitor accounts.

    Using our simple template tags, it’s now super easy to add ‘Like on Facebook’ and ‘Share on Twitter’ links and buttons to your email campaigns. Your clients can also add social links and buttons to their email templates using the WYSIWYG editor.

    In addition, we’ve backed up social sharing with robust real-time reports, complete with Facebook likes, tweets and forwards via email. It’s also possible to share sent campaigns from within your account.

    Many thanks for all your feedback and patience while we’ve worked on bringing social integration to the app. Find out more about social sharing in our blog, or get in contact with us, should you have any questions or suggestions :)

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