With all the available channels to reach customers in today’s platform-centric world, the most trusted might just be simple email. At least that’s what recent research is telling leading businesses. Frustrated by complex (and expensive) algorithms that harvest data from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, businesses are finding that plain email is the best way to intimately connect with their audiences.
There are several reasons for this phenomenon. While email marketing can be seen as the most intrusive form of communication – our inboxes are one of our most frequented and guarded online spaces – the ability to easily unsubscribe gives users a welcome feeling of control. Email is an open standard in so far as no one can really get between a sender and recipient.
Securing a coveted place in such a sacred space means business have to focus on high-quality content that engages users in a way that social media marketing simply doesn’t have to consider. After all, email allows users to view material when and how they see fit since it is so easy to simply ignore a message and return to it at another time. The same can’t really be said about Twitter or even Facebook.
The business embrace of email marketing has important lessons for government services. As governments around the world migrate their offerings to digital platforms, the sheer number of options for engagement is dizzying. From Facebook pages to Twitter accounts, many governments are experimenting with the right platforms to engage with users, citizens, residents, and customers. Yet, how many people visit the Instagram feed of a given government to engage with their services? Not as many as some officials would like.
That’s why governments looking to embrace social media platforms to revitalize their services sector are thinking seriously about email. The effective use of email to deliver services, advertise updates to existing services, and inform the public about developments should be the foundation for a digital services strategy. As the business sector has demonstrated, if you can get emails right, you will be able to retain customers and gain new ones.
According to the Data and Marketing Association, email has the highest return on investment of all social media platforms per marketing dollar spent by businesses. Given the ability of social media platforms like Facebook to change their algorithm at will and thus shift how customers are reached, email’s archaic nature is actually a boon for enterprises looking to connect with people on their own terms. In other words, the infrastructure to reach people can change at a moments notice on most social media platforms. With email, the infrastructure largely stands the same.
Perhaps the only challenge for governments looking to deepen their services offering through email is acquiring a database of email addresses for prospective customers. But again, this shouldn’t be difficult to overcome considering how much information governments already collect about residents and citizens. Asking for an email address to allow for better service delivery shouldn’t upset too many people in the long run.
Embracing email as a foundational component of an overall engagement strategy demonstrates how a multi-channel approach includes going back to basics to avoid social media saturation. Throughout the world, governments struggle to embrace and adapt to new technologies. This is profound when it comes to social media strategies that feature a steep learning curve to be carried out effectively.
Email doesn’t have nearly the same type of learning curve as, say, Instagram. Thus, new services campaigns carried out through the successful use of email as a marketing and communication platform don’t require the same type of investment for governments as other outreach vehicles.
As digital technologies multiply by the week and new options for engagement are introduced at a dizzying speed, the efficient use of email reminds us that the mastery of so-called archaic technology is critical. When it comes to government services in the digital age, a strong foundation is just as important as using the latest and greatest platform.
(Disclaimer: This article has been developed by Xische on behalf of EGSEP. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of any agency of the UAE government.)