How to use social media channels to move targets along their buying journey and, in exchange for valuable content, drive your opt-in e-mail permission list.

Note: SiriusDecisions is not a firm of legal advisors, and if you are in any doubt as to the legality of your proposed electronic communications, we urge you to obtain expert local legal counsel.

I am glad that recent SiriusDecisions research on the topic of email communication has achieved one of its intended goals – namely, to add a level of urgency for U.S.-based companies to come to terms with the thorny topic of opt-in laws that exist within Europe and wider afield.

Opt-in is not just a wacky European idiosyncrasy; many non-European countries have moved to adopt these laws as well. For example, new Canadian anti-spam legislation will take effect July 1, 2014 (companies will have a three-year transition period in which to gain consent of individuals). It is similar in nature to the opt-in laws enacted in European countries. Many Asia-Pacific countries have followed a similar path:

  • Australia and New Zealand use the concept of express consent (opt-in) and inferred consent (implied opt-in). Opt-in must be gained unless a business relationship exists, in which case implied opt-in is acceptable.
  • Mainland China: While Hong Kong has followed a U.S.-style (CAN-SPAM Act of 2003) opt-out approach, mainland China has adopted the E.U.-style opt-in path. Emails must be written in both Chinese and English, unless the subscriber has requested a preference for a given language.

Lest we forget, the use of email is a viable tactic for delivering pertinent messages to an audience. But work has to be done upfront to build and then maintain the opt-in list. Focus on subscribers who want to enter a relationship with you, and remember that prospective buyers will engage with you voluntarily only if you have something to say that is of direct interest to them. This requires that you understand your buyer’s needs, drivers and watering holes. Use this information to build persona definitions, which makes it simple to match subscribers to relevant content offerings.

Social Media Adoption
Social media channels play a part in supporting the development of e-mail opt-in lists. Social channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube are all global in reach. I recently learned that The Netherlands has the highest number of LinkedIn users per capita. However, move across the border to Germany, and you will see strong competition from the company XING, often referred to as the LinkedIn equivalent for German-speaking audiences. Twitter usage is extensive: According to business, ”14 countries – including Japan, the UK and South Africa – have heavier Twitter usage than the social network’s home market, the U.S.” However, other companies have huge subscriber/user bases in certain regions – e.g. the very successful Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.

Given the extensive use of social media around the globe, it’s important to work with local field marketing teams to determine:

  • Which channels are the most effective for that particular region or country
  • Whether your buyer persona work provides evidence that these channels are indeed where members of your target audience go to gain content/knowledge

If so, use these channels to move targets along their buying journey and, in exchange for valuable content, drive your opt-in e-mail permission list.

Global channels are often the most appropriate, but persona work and local conditions may alter your list of options, so adjust your channel selection accordingly.