How Connecting Email to Social Media Drives Engagement

Connecting email and social media

The latest from contributor Jeanette Russell of This post first appeared on the bog.

Email marketing is an amazing tool – when it works. It’s still the strongest connective tissue in the digital ecosystem, and generates the highest return on investment of any marketing channel. Despite email’s maturity, most marketers are still figuring out how to integrate targeting information from social media.

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The problem has been limited access to data with the emphasis on historical behavior, transactional and click data, – leaving marketers with the task of piecing together a puzzle to identify the factors leading to conversions.

Now, in part to decreasing cloud-storage, processing costs and greater ease of integrations, marketers can tap into a goldmine of social insights to enrich email targeting. This new view takes advantage of publicly available data on social media, so digital teams have the ability to track an individual’s current behavior, preferences and values including – the social networks where they’re spending an average of three hours per day, what they talk about, how influential they are, and many other crucial insights.

This article explores how connecting email to social media drives engagement and how to apply it to your own engagement initiatives. For those who make it to the end, we’ll even throw in a special offer.

Social Insights = Social Data + Listening + Email File

Social insights are a combination of social data and social listening collected from social media platforms in relationships to your CRM or email list. Many marketers refer to this as social insights, instead of just social media, because this “insight’ is in relation to your CRM or email list. It’s the social side of your audience which allows you to know people better so you can personalize your communications and drive engagement for higher conversions.

Social Insights Include Social Data: Social data refers to “data individuals create that is knowingly and voluntarily shared by them.” These powerful insights have fundamentally altered how digital teams approach marketing and are even likely to play a large role in determining the next president. This is the data side of social media, which for marketers translates into understanding:

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  • Klout score + Klout topics, number of connections
  • The preferred social networks of your audience
  • Knowing who in your CRM follows you on Twitter, and who do you follow
  • The reach of your top influencers
  • LinkedIn and Twitter bio

It’s important to note that while matching your email file to social data provides a valuable new information, it’s not a tactic for acquiring additional emails from social networks. Reputable providers should never send you emails associated with a Twitter handle or a LinkedIn account.


Many CRM’s and email providers are starting to include social data into their product and typically integrate with third party providers to enrich social data with audience profiles.

Social Insights Include Social Listening: The real power of social insights is social listening, also known as social media monitoring. This allows marketers to identify and segment people who are talking about their campaigns, programs, hashtags, products, etc. Listening offers the ability to track trending terms and hashtags on high value groups like influencers, customers or donors. It’s also helpful in learning audience preferences, what they like and don’t like about your offering, so you can adapt your products and marketing content.

Most marketers haven’t bothered trying to segment with social insights because until recently, the technology has been expensive and cumbersome. The challenge has been the unwieldy amounts of unstructured data which has prevented efficient segmentation for most digital teams. In addition, around 90% of all data has been created in the past 2 years. It’s estimated that 80% of the information generated is unstructured data located in content which is growing at twice the rate of structured data.

Social Insights on Your Email List / CRM: Social insights on who is the question. Do you need social insights from your existing contacts or for a target audience for which you don’t have information? If you’ve already built a healthy list over 20K, look for a solution that offers social insights on your CRM, instead of globally. On the flip side, if you’re a startup with a small email list, or perhaps want to tap into a new market, look for global monitoring features.

We generally recommend integrating social insights with your CRM or email so you have information on your core audience. By combining these two data sets (social data and listening), email addresses become real people with lives and jobs, families and friends, interests, and shared values.

Personalization Drives Conversions

Social insights allow you to better understand your email list so you can personalize communications that drive engagement for higher conversions.

According to one study by the Aberdeen Group, 96% of organizations believe that email personalization can improve email marketing performance, improve click-through rates by 14%, and lift conversion rates by 10%. The DMA also found that segmented campaigns drive a 760% increase in revenue. While there are dozens of ways to personalize content, at the end of the day, personalization is about sending relevant content, when it’s top of mind.

So when a supporter or customer says “Just love X”,
you send a triggered email that says “Let me tell you about our X offer”.

Personalization isn’t sending one off emails, though doing so can be an effective tactic. Rather, in the context of social insights it’s the ability to group people based on key social mentions, so you send relevant content.

It’s about getting people to open, read and take action on an email about their favorite program or product. It’s knowing who you should ask to join your influencer program because you know their reach, what they talk about on social and their past history. It’s knowing when, what and who to send your amazing content to. Effective personalization connects and converts.

How Social Insights Resulted in a 24% Conversion Rate

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By automating emails based on search terms, American Rivers sent highly targeted emails asking their supporters to sign their petition within 24 hours of the mention. Each time a supporter posted about “grand canyon” on Twitter or Facebook, they were put into a group receiving an automated email asking them to sign or share their petition.

The result: 24% conversion rate, 2400 new signs ups and 0 unsubscribes.

Get the Pulse on Your People with Trending Terms & Hashtags

Social data gives marketers an unprecedented insight into the lives of their audiences and delivers multiple opportunities for personalization, far beyond surveys or focus groups. Knowing the shared topics and hashtags of your people points you in the direction of the best content to use and key conversations to join through hashtags.

Since relationships are formed around shared interests, consider leveraging hashtags to foster “thicker” engagement with your people. Shared interests are the foundation of strong communities, movements and marketing campaigns that convert. Find where the key conversations are happening around relevant hashtags. Get in there and do your thing.


Real-time monitoring of your audience is a new tactic in shaping your content delivery and demonstrate that you’re in touch with your people. For example, if the Bernie Sanders campaign would have matched their email file to social, there’s an excellent chance they would have seen that #blacklifesmatter was a top hashtag and avoided a PR disaster. Social listening offers a great second opinion (that’s data driven!).

3 Call to Action Using Trending Terms & Hashtags

  1. Email an offer. If a top issue is trending among your email supporters, send an email to those discussing it with information about how they can support your work, join your next Twitter storm, download your guide, buy your product, etc.
  2. Be part of the convo. Participate directly in the conversation on social media around key terms by responding to, favoriting, and sharing the best posts of current supporters. Stay up to speed by sending yourself an automated daily digest on key terms used on Twitter or Facebook. Thank them for their support when they share your content too!
  3. Influence conversations: Taking a move from the civic engagement app in beta, Brigade, use trending terms in your CRM as an opportunity to shape opinions and strengthen connections. Here’s a basic workflow:- Email your audience and ask them a question about one of your top trending terms.
    – Share the results that “Wow, 60% of our community thinks higher ed should be free. What do you think?”.
    – A week later ask again. See if the opinion shifted after being exposed to the views of your community.

Find Your Social Media Influencers on Your Email List

On average, the top 5% of your email list reaches 85% of your entire network reach. Said another way, this top 5% reaches 200x more people than in your email program. Social media influencers are game changers not only because of their network reach, but because they are better messengers to their followers.

34M reach

The theory of change here is that reviews, recommendations and content have a greater impact coming from someone like ourselves, who we know and trust. It’s the difference between walking up to someone and saying, “Hey, check out our awesome campaign” or having a friend say it for you, in their words, to their own social network.

The basic goal with influencer engagement is to tap into their networks and ask them to share your content. Connecting email to social helps you find influencers who you’ve already recruited, who are already on your email list or CRM. An email profile enriched with social listening also allows you to reviewing their profiles for reach and topic relevance.

How to Generate Campaign Launch Buzz with Social Insights

Let’s say you’re BMW and your marketing campaign is to generate buzz around the new “7 Series” by having users share their experience. In addition to including 25,000 people to share their early experiences on social with an early unveil, this campaign could also segment by key social mentions and influencers (and very well may have). Here’s a basic breakdown:

Segment by social mention: Include a segment of customers who already talk about key terms on Facebook and Twitter such as “BMW”, “7 series” or “ultimate driving machine”. Anyone already talking about your area of focus would no doubt be thrilled to participate, give great reviews and eventually serve as ambassadors in some capacity.

Segment by influencers: These are the people that can extend the reach and impact of any marketing campaign when both values align. An interesting segment would include “citizen” influencers who are motivated by their love of driving as a personal hobby, have Klout scores of 40-50 and 1,000+ connections. Such reviews coming from “everyday” people not only seem more authentic, but have a wider social reach. VIP and professional influencers are also key in generating buzz and should be included in the marketing mix.

Keep in mind if you’re growing your email list, you’re continually adding new influencers. A key difference with engaging these 3 types of influencers is approach and rules of engagement.

Example of a personalized ask to influencers

We’re sending you this email to thank you for your past involvement the #ultimatedrive campaign and to let you know about an exclusive opportunity to participate in our product (or program) launch next month. We can see you’re also a social media pro and would love you to share your opinion about our new product with your followers.

Basic filtering with social data:

  • Activity level
  • Past history
  • Financial transactions
  • key social mentions
  • Klout score

Personalize Your Fundraising

Donor retention is an ongoing problem for many nonprofits. The 2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Project report showed that the median donor retention rate was 43% in 2013. Broadly speaking, donor revenue often depends on how engaged an audience is with their programs. The more engaged, the higher donations per-supporter.

Retaining donor engagement is, in some ways, more difficult than recruiting new donors because of higher expectations around personalization. Social listening is key to donor retention as it gives organizations an unprecedented view into their donors’ lives and an opportunity for richer engagement. Combined with CRM data, revealing prior-interactions and 3rd party data like demographics and wealth — organizations can put together a sophisticated picture of each donor, including their propensity and capacity to give.

Make the Right Fundraising Ask with Social Insights

Meet Susan. She’s a past alumni donor who gave $500 over that past 2 years. She never attended an event, but reads your email, lives in New York and married. You know this from your current CRM. Her last gift was $100 about 6 months ago. It’s reasonable to send her a donation request for 25% more. But what if you found out that she gives to 3 other groups, has net worth of $2M, household income of $200K, and she’s not a social media influencer but she talks about a related issue on Facebook, which is her platform of choice.

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How would your ask change? You’d of course ask for more based on social wealth data and tie it back to the topics she’s posting about (animals/goats). Using social data and social listening you can look at this as a new opportunity, or really a missed opportunity, depending on the action you take.

Request a Free Audience Insights Report

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Ready to connect your email with social insights? Our free Audience Insights Report matches a subsection of your email list with over 100 social networks to help you to understand who your supporters are. Here’s a sample report so you can see exactly the type of infographic we’re able to create on the house. Insight to your audience allows for greater personalization to radically increase audience engagement and expand reach of your campaigns so you can:

  • Understand your audience better
  • Identify engagement opportunities
  • Find influencers hiding out in your CRM
  • Send highly targeted multi-channel messages
  • Expand your content reach and drive action

By incorporating what is already known about your audience with real-time social chatter, and social data, the modern marketer has the information needed to provide a real-time personalized responses at scale by matching email to social insights. drives engagement by turning your quiet supporters into vocal advocates.

Written by
Jeanette Russell
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