Which Is More Effective: Email Marketing Or Social Media Marketing?

Which Is More Effective: Email Marketing Or Social Media Marketing?

There are very few companies that have an unlimited marketing budget. As a result, most companies will have to make choices as to how their budget is spent. In many cases, the main options on the table are email marketing and social media marketing (SMM). Let's take a look at the pros and cons of both to determine which might be best suited to your needs.

Starting With the Basics

What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a strategy of promoting products and services through email. It entails emailing your own legally-obtained database of client email addresses (not emailing contact lists that have been purchased from somebody else).


Email marketing works with an already-existing mailing list. This means that you have a direct line of contact with your customers, some of whom will have purchased a product or service from you before. As such, it presents you with various advantages:

  • Email marketing is extremely useful if you already have your own customer base. It allows you to help drive new customer purchases, promote customer retention and/or reactivation. It is also useful in promoting referrals to new or different products that you offer. 
  • It is easy for you to run A/B testing with email marketing. This will allow you to find out what type of messaging works best for your target customers. 
  • Given that you work with an already predetermined mailing list, you have full control over the user base. This helps ensure that the deliverability of your messages is high while also giving you a lot of room to experiment with different messaging. 
  • Most importantly, having this much control keeps your overall costs low. All you have to do is choose an email program to get started and an email builder to help speed up the process.

Email marketing's biggest strength is the level of control that you have. With this control, you are able to run a more tailored and targeted marketing campaign while also keeping your overheads low, meaning that you can achieve a lot with a limited marketing budget.


As is the case with every marketing approach, there are potential downsides that can limit its overall effectiveness. Email marketing is no exception. These are some of the downsides:

  • Given the level of control that you have with email marketing, it is easy to misuse it. This may result in some adverse outcomes, such as harming your business' reputation or losing sales. It is easy to look like a spammer if you do not tailor your emails to maintain the consistency of your business branding or if you send too many promotional emails to your clients.
  • Email marketing requires effort to build funnels for each client's journey stage in order to bring real value. Email marketing demands time and understanding, which can prove challenging. 
  • You need a database of email addresses to get started. These addresses need to be legally obtained by asking customers to give them to you. This can involve quite a lot of time and effort.

Now that we've explored the basics of email marketing, let's turn to social media marketing.

What Is Social Media Marketing (SMM)?

Social media marketing is a strategy that involves using social media platforms to help you build brand awareness, promote your products and services, and interact with leads and potential customers.


Being the more accessible form of digital marketing, when compared to email marketing, it has its fair share of unique advantages:

  • Compared to email marketing, it is easier to get started with SMM. All you need to do is sign up on a social media platform.
  • It offers a faster turnover, meaning that you can get results as soon as your post goes live.
  • It is relatively easy to acquire an audience on social media, particularly since you can have accounts on various platforms. This is an added advantage since, given the volume of social media users, there is an immense amount of data that you can leverage either natively, via social media, or through third-party tools.

Social media's biggest strength is its reach. There is a growing number of social media users, all of whom you can get a hold of easily, without a great deal of effort. This makes it easy to build an audience, and even easier to get the right data for your digital marketing campaigns.


Given its ease of access, social media has its fair share of disadvantages, most of which, if left unaddressed, could do more harm than good. 

  • Misusing social media can significantly hurt your reputation. Misuse can be in the form of infrequent posting, posting too often, mishandling touchy subjects, not engaging with customers, or even posting without a plan. It can send the wrong message to your audience, ultimately hurting your business' reputation. 
  • To gain traction faster, or stay relevant, you need to consider spending money on ads. However, just running ads may not be the only solution. 
  • Coupled with consistent efforts, you need a strategy since social networks tend to penalise irregular posting from account holders in their feeds.
  • Another downside with SMM is that you can't control reach. All you can do is hope that a social media algorithm will display your post to whom you need, which may require you to pay up.

Misusing social media exposes your business to an unforgiving audience who may not be quick to forget your misdoings. Also, with social media platforms being in the business to make money, you will likely find yourself having to spend money on ads.

Which Digital Marketing Channel Is Right for Your Brand?

Both channels can be extremely effective:

  • SMM, for one, is easier to start with and mainly thrives in the customer acquisition stage. Also, it requires regular budgeting, at least in the early stages. 
  • Email marketing, on the other hand, goes deeper and can help you at different stages of your marketing budget, but at the same time, it requires more effort to establish. 

Many have argued that email marketing is losing its ground compared to social media. Whether this is true or not depends on your target audience. For example, if your buyers are young B2C, then they will probably be more into social networks. If they are older B2B clients, then an email might be one of their main channels of daily communication. As a business owner, you need to understand your target audience and tailor your campaign around that.


How to Get the Best Out of Both

You could of course try using both approaches. This way, you get to benefit from the advantages of each, while balancing the inadequacies of one with the other. 

Start With Social Media

Start by creating pages on the social media sites where your target audience is present, then post different types of social media content consistently to acquire and build users. You can then take it a step further by paying for ads to grow your audience. Ads are a great way to build an audience quickly. Also, given that the results would be immediate, you can potentially build a decent-sized audience pretty quickly, ultimately converting them into paying clients. You can also remarket, mainly through displaying these social media ads to your website visitors and email subscribers.

Power Up With Email

Once you have built an audience on social media and other channels, invite them to join your email list. The goal is to offer your audience value and a reason to be invested in the company, ultimately making a purchase of your products and services. You can do this by sharing information about your company, customer reviews, or even some useful tips and tricks. Doing so will raise your customers' loyalty to your brand identity. Just be sure to portray an accurate image of your business and the products or services that it offers. Also, be sure to keep your audience in the know should there be any developments or promotions that customers could benefit from. This will help you use email marketing to nurture and convert leads.

Use Both to Support Each Other

Allow the two to complement each other. Email marketing, for instance, will help you convert leads who didn't convert from social media. On the other hand, SMM may help you catch those who didn't take the required action from email with the help of remarketing.

Final Thoughts

There is no evident winner between the two. They are both effective marketing options for your business. However, it all depends on the type of business you are, your budget, and the buyer's journey stage you are targeting. Ultimately, it is a good idea to use both approaches. If you understand how they compliment each other and utilise their different strengths and weaknesses, you will be getting the most from your marketing budget. 

by Roman Shvydun | 27 Sep 23

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