As a marketer, you probably access several digital marketing channels daily. Because there are so many channels with so many different characteristics, you often have to learn new ways of perfecting each.

In order to use all the channels at your disposal effectively, you have to be familiar with all of them. But learning the ins and outs of every marketing channel can be challenging, especially when you’re busy with so many other marketing tasks.

Luckily, we’ve done some of the research for you. Read on to discover our in-depth guide on email, social media, and paid advertising—three crucial channels for any digital marketer.

Email, Social or Paid Ads?

Worldwide user base

Email is the primary mode of communication for brands across the globe. Companies use it to reach employees, clients, and third parties.

It should come as no surprise that, as of 2018, approximately 3.8 billion people worldwide use email. You can expect this number to continue rising for the foreseeable future. Experts say the number of email users will increase by an average of 3% each year until 2021.

In the US, it’s predicted that by the end of 2019, nearly 91% of the entire population will be using email. In other words, email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Social media is also a popular method of online communication, and billions of people around the world log into networks like Facebook and Instagram every single day. That said, even social media doesn’t surpass email in terms of user-base. The latest data shows 2.34 billion people worldwide use social media, which is around 1.4 billion less than email.

Consumer preference

Being a marketer means going where your customers are and speaking in their language. Basically, you have to use the digital marketing channel your specific audience prefers. So, the question is: Which one is it?

According to Statista, 81% of Americans have social media accounts. What’s more, a fairly recent study showed 48% of Americans have engaged with brands on at least one social media platform. A separate study revealed 30% of millennials interact with various brands on social media at least once a month.

In general, though, the majority of consumers still prefer email over social media.

70% of consumers want to learn about a brand’s products through email content instead of other forms of advertising. Additionally, 73% of millennials indicate email as their preferred channel for business communication.

Meanwhile, data suggests that paid advertising is the least favored marketing channel by consumers. 64% say ads tend to be annoying and intrusive. On top of that, consumers don’t even notice 92% of ads online.

Consumer trust

Billions use email and social media every day, but that doesn’t mean they trust both of these channels equally. Which one do they trust more? Let’s find out.

According to the Pew Research Institute, 66% of Americans said they were confident that their email client protects their data.

In contrast, another survey reported that 49% of American consumers did not feel confident that social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) would keep their data secure. 37% of the survey’s respondents also said they didn’t trust social media companies with their information.

Brand preference

It’s not just customers who favor a specific digital channel—brands do, too. One brand might focus on a particular marketing channel, and another brand might focus on another.

Case in point:

80% of retail professionals said email was their greatest driver of customer retention. To compare, only 44% said social media.

So, how does a brand choose which channel to focus on? This involves a number of different factors, such as budget, business model, and the type of consumers they sell to.

Revenue stream

For every dollar that you spend on email marketing, you can net as much as $44—that’s a 4,400% return on investment (ROI). This makes email marketing the digital marketing channel of choice for businesses looking to significantly boost their revenue.

Brands also experience a large increase in revenue with paid advertising. Data shows paid advertising has an average ROI of 200%.

When it comes to social media, measuring revenue isn’t always so simple. In a recent survey, 52% of marketers stated they’ve experienced difficulty when determining ROI from social media.

Wrap up

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the strengths and limitations of the different channels in your digital marketing toolbox. This way, you can easily identify which channel to leverage for each situation.

For instance, if you’re doing marketing for a new company and you want to engage with as many prospective customers as possible, then social media is your best bet. If, on the other hand, you want to promote your brand or a new product, then sending a well-designed promotional email to your subscribers is ideal.

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