brands people crave

Email Marketing vs Social Media: Which is the Better Investment for Your Business?

There’s a great debate when it comes to marketing: email marketing vs. social media marketing. In the world of viral videos, widespread tweets, and sharing posts, it’s easy to think you need to sink your marketing money into social media. 

After all, social media seems like the best strategy—with a wide potential audience and endless possibilities for growth. 

But the truth is that, while social media marketing certainly has its benefits, it also comes with plenty of limitations

Is social media worth the investment? Or is email marketing a smarter strategy? Read on to find out! 

Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing: Owning Your List

One of the biggest advantages to building an email list is that you own it. No matter what happens with your business or your email provider, you have a list of customers to reach. 

With social media, on the other hand, you’re at the whim of the platform. If the platform were to fail, close, or be sold, you would lose access to all of your followers and your existing content. 

This issue became apparent to many business owners earlier this year, when an unexpected Facebook and Instagram outage lasted for almost an entire business day. 

Companies with a heavy social media presence but no email list lost a full day of engagement and sales. Some small businesses reported losses of up to $5,000 for the day

You Don’t Have to Battle Algorithms on Emails

Outages aren’t the only potential pitfall with social media. 

In theory, social media provides endless reach. If you can build up a solid strategy to grow your following, then you can put your business in front of countless customers. In reality, however, your business’s visibility is limited.

Not only are you competing with already-packed news feeds, but you’re also battling the platforms’ algorithms. 

Each social media platform has its own algorithm for how to place content in front of users. It takes plenty of time, research, and expertise to learn how to beat the algorithms and increase your visibility. 

Even if you perfect the technique, the algorithms change frequently, posing problems for small businesses that rely on social media marketing. 

With email marketing, on the other hand, there are no algorithms to battle. You control who sees your content and who you reach out to. 

Customers Prefer Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing

When customers subscribe to your email list, they’re indicating that they want to hear from you. 

Studies back this up—according to Marketing Sherpa, 61% of surveyed users said they would like to hear from businesses weekly, and 86% said they would like to hear from businesses at least monthly. 

60% of users prefer to hear about promotions via email, as opposed to just 20% who prefer social media. 

Gmail inbox emphasizing the difference between email marketing vs social media marketing for your business.

It makes sense from a user standpoint. Email gives them control over when and where to see promotional content. They can choose to open an email or save it for later, rather than being bombarded with content while trying to interact with friends and family on social media. 

Email Marketing Allows You to Personalize Content

One of the biggest advantages to email marketing is that it allows you to personalize and curate the customer experience. 

By using strategic segmenting and automated flows, you can ensure that you are putting valuable, relevant, engaging content in front of your customers, increasing engagement and, ultimately, leading to more purchases

Customers want a personalized experience. But with social media, you can’t control which of your following sees what content—you can only put your content out and hope for great engagement. 

But the truth is that within your customer base, different users have different needs. You have brand new customers who want to know your story and understand your brand. You have loyal customers who deserve to be rewarded for repeated purchases with specialized promos. And you have people in between who are interested in very specific types of products. 

Email marketing gives you the chance to reach each of those types of customers where they’re at and curate your content accordingly.  

Person writing on white board about email marketing flow vs social media marketing.

Email Marketing Gives You More Reach

Some small business owners think of social media as a place with unlimited reach. But in reality, even if you could gain every single social media user as a follower, you’d still have less potential reach than email marketing offers. 

Facebook, the most popular social media platform, has 2.74 billion active users. But many more people—4.1 billion worldwide—use email.   

Email also offers a simplified way to reach those customers. With social media, you have to consider which platforms to put effort into, then decide on best practices according to the platform. 

But with email, you don’t have to worry about different strategies for different platforms—everyone receives email the same way. 

Email Engagement Rates are Better

Email doesn’t just offer more potential reach—it also offers better engagement.  

The average email open rate is around 20% (and can go even higher with savvy subject line strategy). But the average engagement with brands on social media is significantly lower—less than 6%.  

Email click-through rates range from 3-5% on average, versus 1-3% on social media. 

But the most revealing statistic that points to email marketing as a stronger strategy than social media marketing is the conversion rate—an average of 3% on email, contrasted with an 0.5% on social media. 

Email marketing offers better engagement and conversion rates, making it a better place to sink marketing money. 

Person texting from phone, emphasizing the difference between email marketing vs social media marketing.

Email Offers a Better ROI

At the end of the day, the most important factor in any marketing decision is your ROI. Are you getting back what you’re putting in? 

For email, the answer seems to be a resounding yes. On average, for every $1 spent on email marketing, your business earns $44 dollars, giving you a 4300% ROI. (For social media marketing dollars, the average ROI is 95%). 

Compared to email, social media is simply a weaker investment. 

The Takeaway

Social media marketing is worthwhile. It allows you to build a strong following and brand recognition. 

But it’s most powerful when focused on relationships and combined with strategic email marketing.

For businesses who are just starting out and have limited marketing capital, email marketing is the smarter first investment. 

If you have to choose a marketing channel, take advantage of the stronger ROI in email marketing, get some profit and revenue under your belt, then focus on social media.

Do you need help strengthening your email marketing strategy? Crème de Mint, our award-winning branding agency, offers digital marketing services, including campaign strategy, email copywriting, and design. We’d love to help you reach your customers and level up your sales.