Email Marketing vs. Social Media vs. Paid Advertising: An In-Depth Comparison

Guest writer, Jericho Gonzales, explores the pros and cons each of these digital marketing channels has to offer.

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Marketing is a diverse enterprise. From social media and paid advertising to email and content marketing, there are a variety of channels available for you to reach your intended audience and grow your revenue.

That being said, each digital marketing channel has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Some are more effective than others. One channel may be great at attracting the right audience but poor at generating sales. Another channel can be a powerful revenue booster but cost your team a pretty penny.

While leveraging all the different digital channels is crucial to your success, it’s also important to find the best one for your business and allocate a significant chunk of your resources to it. This way, you maximize that channel’s power.

So, how do you determine which marketing channel is the most suitable for your business? Take some time to compare a few digital marketing channels to see how they stack up against one another. It’s the easiest way for you to decide which one to focus on.

To help you make your decision, take a look at some key facts and figures that shed light on email marketing, social media marketing, and paid advertising.

Return On Investment (ROI)

When it comes to ROI, email marketing undoubtedly rules. At 4,400%, email marketing has the ability to offer the highest ROI out of all other digital marketing channels. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you could earn as much as $44.

Paid advertising, on the other hand, has an average ROI of 200%. This means you get $2 for every $1 you spend.

Meanwhile, the ROI of social media is a challenge to measure. Research reveals that a majority of brands often struggle to calculate their ROI from social media. In a separate survey, 52% of social media marketers admitted that they’ve experienced difficulties reviewing their ROI.

User base and popularity

The most recent data shows there are more than 3.8 billion email users across the globe. This number is steadily growing, and experts predict a 3% growth in email user base per year until 2021.

With the immense popularity of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it comes as a surprise that social media has far fewer users than email. As of 2018, there are 2.34 billion social media users worldwide.

In terms of consumer perception, paid advertising is the least popular digital marketing channel.

Don’t like seeing ads online? You’re not the only one. According to a recent survey, 64% of consumers said they find online ads annoying and intrusive. In fact, 92% of online ads aren’t even noticed.

Consumers actually prefer emails to ads, with 70% stating that they want to learn about products and brands through email content instead of traditional advertising. In addition, 73% of millennial consumers say email is their preferred means of communicating with businesses.

Level of engagement

Since most people don’t like ads, it’s natural that ads have an extremely low rate of engagement. On average, the click-through rate for Google Ads across all industries is 3.17% for the research network and a measly 0.46% for the display network.

Despite being a primary means of communication for billions of people around the world, the click-through rate for emails is relatively low. The average click-through rate worldwide for emails is only 3.2%. If you want to actively engage with your customers, social media is your ideal avenue. 30% of millennials say they engage with brands on social media at least once a month. In the US, 48% interact with various companies on at least one social media network.

Level of trust

Even though people spend a lot of their time every day browsing through various social media networks, it seems that plenty of users don’t put a lot of faith in social media.

37% of US consumers state that they don’t trust how social media companies handle their data. When it comes to consumer trust, it seems that Facebook is a major point of concern. A report revealed that 49% of US consumers are not at all confident that Facebook will keep their data secure.

In contrast, email is more trusted. 66% of US adults feel confident that email clients will protect their data.

This is why you should use email marketing to build trust; 75% of consumers are willing to share personal data with a brand they trust.

Wrap up

The purpose of all this information is to assist you in narrowing down the best digital marketing channel for your business, your budget, and your manpower. However, keep in mind that the key to a successful digital marketing strategy is using all the channels you have at your disposal. Choose a channel that works for you and spend more of your budget on that channel, but make sure you pay attention to other channels as well.


About the author

Jericho Gonzales is a Content Marketing Specialist at Campaign Monitor. After seven years of feeling empty and dissatisfied with his career in the financial industry, he decided to follow his dreams and become a writer. When not busy with wordcraft, he immerses himself in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction, whether it be in the form of novels, video games, or movies.

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