Email Marketing vs. Social Media: When to Use Each?

Email Marketing vs. Social Media: Which is More Effective?

Email Marketing vs. Social Media: How Effective Are They & When to Use Each? - Blog image

  • Email marketing is great for direct communication with customers and boosting sales.
  • Social media has a big audience, boosts brand awareness, and builds community.
  • Email marketing costs less and has a high ROI, making it a smarter money choice.
  • Social media helps you get data on the demographics and choices of your followers.
  • Email marketing shows data on user behavior and interests, helping tailor your messages.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves companies reaching out to potential and existing customers via email to promote their products and services and maintain engagement.

Businesses gather email addresses from individuals interested in what they have to offer and send them information on their products, updates, or exclusive promotions. This method helps businesses grow, maintain relationships with their clients, and keep them informed.

For more insights about email marketing, check out our in-depth article: What Is Email Marketing, and How Does It Work? Key Insights

What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is when businesses use social media platforms to connect with their target audience. They share content like posts and videos to promote their products or services.

For example, a company might post a tutorial on how to use their product on Instagram. This helps them attract new customers and engage with current ones. It’s a way for businesses to share updates, build a community, and drive sales.

For more insights about email marketing, check out our full article: What Is Social Media Marketing? Strategies for Campaign Success

Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing: Key Differences

Email marketing and social media marketing are both important for reaching people online, but they work differently and get different results.

Email marketing offers a direct line to individual inboxes, ideal for personalized communication, while social media broadens reach, enhancing brand visibility and engagement across diverse audiences. Each strategy utilizes unique strengths and benefits, making them valuable tools for businesses aiming to connect with customers effectively.


Choosing between email marketing and social media marketing depends on your specific goals. Ideally, integrating both into your marketing strategy could provide the most comprehensive benefits, leveraging the direct impact of email with the expansive reach of social media.

We’ll explore both email marketing and social media, examining their impact on reach, user engagement, lead generation, sales, branding, data collection, and costs.

Maximum Reach

  • Email Marketing: With over 4 billion daily email users, email marketing offers a broad audience. It’s a direct channel to users who have opted in, showing a readiness to engage with your content.
  • Social Media: Social media platforms boast billions of active users monthly, providing a vast audience. The reach on social media is expansive but depends heavily on algorithms and user behavior.

Verdict: For sheer volume, social media may have the upper edge in potential reach, but email marketing offers a more targeted approach to an engaged audience.

The most effective marketing channels according to Litmus report - a graph

Source: Statista, January 2024

User Engagement

  • Email Marketing: Emails can achieve high engagement rates, especially with personalized content. Key metrics include open rates and click-through rates (CTRs). Open rates measure the percentage of recipients who open an email, indicating the initial interest or relevance of your message. CTRs track how many people clicked on a link within the email, showing deeper engagement and interest in the content or offer. These metrics directly impact the effectiveness of your campaigns by driving actions like purchases or sign-ups.

You can learn more about email engagement by reading our blog article: Email Engagement Metrics, Calculation & Best Practices.

Average email marketing engagement metrics

Source: MailerLite

  • Social Media: Social media excels in fostering interactive engagement, including likes, comments, and shares, creating a dynamic environment for brand-consumer interaction. Important metrics here are the number of likes, comments, shares, and engagement rate. Likes and comments reflect direct user interaction, while shares indicate the content’s appeal to a wider audience. High engagement rates on social media can increase brand visibility, foster community, and enhance customer loyalty, contributing to overall marketing success.

Many experts in social media marketing agree that a good engagement rate across various social media platforms ranges from 1% to 5%.

You can learn more about social media engagement metrics from this article by Hootsuite.

Verdict: Social media is often more effective for interactive engagement, making it a better choice for brands looking to actively engage with their audience.

Lead Generation

  • Email Marketing: Highly effective for lead generation, email marketing can be personalized and segmented to nurture leads through the sales funnel effectively. By segmenting email lists based on user behavior, demographics, or past interactions, businesses can tailor their messages to meet the specific needs and interests of different audience segments.
  • Social Media: Social media platforms offer powerful tools for lead generation, from targeted ads to direct messaging and interactive content. But they often lack the direct personalization that email offers. Social media is excellent for broadening your reach and making initial contact with potential leads. However, converting these leads into customers often requires moving them off social platforms and into more personalized communication channels

Verdict: Both channels are powerful for lead generation, but email marketing is typically more effective for directly nurturing leads to conversion.

Conversion Opportunities

  • Email Marketing: Email marketing can directly drive sales with personalized offers and detailed product information sent to a curated target audience.
  • Social Media: Social media influences purchasing decisions and can directly facilitate sales through social commerce features. However, it typically sees fewer direct conversions than email marketing, mainly because social media interactions are often more about engagement and brand awareness rather than immediate sales, and the purchasing process on social platforms can be less direct and more exploratory for users.

Verdict: Email marketing is often more effective for direct sales, thanks to its personalized and targeted approach.

Average conversion rate - email marketing vs. social media

Sources: MailerLite,

Brand Awareness

  • Email Marketing: Email can reinforce brand awareness among existing customers but might be less effective at reaching new audiences compared to social media.
  • Social Media: Ideal for boosting brand awareness, social media allows brands to reach a broad audience quickly and creatively.

Verdict: Social media is superior for building and expanding brand awareness due to its wide reach and viral potential.

78% of Milennials have made a purchased after seeing it on social media - statistics


Data Gathering

  • Email Marketing: Delivers first-party data, including open rates, click-through rates, and direct conversions. This allows businesses to gather detailed insights into customer behaviors and preferences directly from their audience.
  • Social Media: Generates both first-party and third-party data through user interactions and demographic information. Although rich in detail, linking this data directly to conversions can be more complex due to the indirect nature of social media engagement.

Verdict: Email marketing offers more straightforward access to first-party data, making it more effective for precise strategy adjustments and deep customer understanding.

Importance of first-party data for personalization - graph

Source: The State of Personalization Report, Segment Twilio


  • Email Marketing: Typically offers a high ROI, as it’s relatively low cost to execute compared to many other marketing strategies. The average ROI of email marketing is estimated at $36 for every dollar spent, making it higher than any other digital marketing channel.
  • Social Media: Can be cost-effective, especially organic social media. However, paid social can become expensive to maintain visibility and reach. The average ROI for social media marketing is estimated at $2.80 for every dollar spent, indicating that while it can offer good returns, it generally does not reach the high levels of ROI seen with email marketing.

Verdict: Email marketing often provides a better ROI, making it more cost-effective for direct marketing efforts.

According to The State of Email Workflows Report 2023 by Litmus, 41% of marketers indicate email marketing as their most effective marketing channel, followed by 16% pointing at social media.

The most effective marketing channels according to Litmus report - a graph

Pros and Cons of Email Marketing

  • Personalized Communication
  • High ROI
  • Measurable Performance
  • Customer Retention and Loyalty
  • First-Party Data Collection
  • Cost-Effective Tactic
  • High Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • Easy to Build Campaigns
  • Risk for Unsubscribing
  • Spam Filters
  • Design and Deliverability Issues
  • Email List Maintenance
  • Need to Opt-In
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Lower User Engagement

Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing

  • Wide Reach
  • High Engagement
  • Boosts Brand Awareness
  • Direct Sales Channels
  • Diversified Content
  • Third-Party Data
  • Algorithm Dependence
  • Content Saturation
  • Time-Intensive
  • Higher Costs for Visibility
  • Regulatory and Compliance Issues
  • Need for Diverse Strategies

Email vs. Social Media Marketing Strategy: Tailor Your Approach

Using email and social media marketing strategies serves unique purposes in a comprehensive marketing plan. It’s crucial to align each tactic with your marketing objectives and the key performance indicators (KPIs) you aim to achieve, ensuring each approach contributes effectively to your overall goals.

When Is It Best to Use Email Marketing

Consider starting with email marketing if you’re aiming to achieve the following objectives in your digital marketing strategy:

  • Personalized Communication: Directly reaching your audience’s inbox with messages tailored to their interests and behaviors.
  • Nurturing Leads: Effectively guiding potential customers through the sales funnel with customized content and offers.
  • Customer Retention: Keeping your brand top-of-mind through regular updates and exclusive deals.
  • High Conversion Rates: Utilizing direct and personalized calls-to-action to encourage purchases.
  • High ROI: Achieving one of the highest returns on investment in digital marketing by targeting interested parties.
  • First-Party Data Collection: Gathering valuable insights from direct interactions, preferences, and behaviors.

When Is It Best to Use Social Media

Turn to social media channels if your marketing goals include:

  • Expanding Online Presence: Reaching a broader, potentially new audience organically or through paid advertisements.
  • Increasing User Engagement: Creating a dynamic community experience through likes, comments, shares, and live sessions.
  • Introducing Brands to Potential Leads: Engaging content on these platforms can indirectly funnel potential leads toward your marketing channels.
  • Brand Awareness: Effectively introducing and reinforcing your brand identity to a wide audience with creative visual content.
  • Collecting Insights on Audience Demographics and Interests: Offering valuable third-party data from user interactions, essential for customizing and enhancing overall marketing strategies.

Email Marketing vs. Social Media - Comparison

How Email Marketing and Social Media Work Together

Integrating email marketing and social media marketing efforts can create a more cohesive and effective digital marketing plan. By leveraging the strengths of each channel, your business can enhance its reach, user engagement, and conversion rates.

Use Social Media for Email Collection

You can use your social media channels to encourage followers to sign up for your newsletter. This can be done in several ways.

For instance, you can host giveaways or contests where entering requires participants to provide their email addresses.

Alternatively, you can offer exclusive insights from e-books, reports, or educational articles sent directly via email.

This approach helps you build a healthy email list from your social media followers, ensuring your subscribers are genuinely interested in your brand.

Social media icons in a marketing email footer

Source: Mailmodo

Use Email To Increase The Social Media Followers and Engagement

You can enhance your social media followers and engagement through strategic email marketing.

By incorporating social media icons in your email signatures or footers, you encourage your email subscribers to connect with your brand on social media platforms. This creates a bridge between your email and social media efforts.

Additionally, sharing highlights or summaries of your latest social media content in your newsletters not only boosts the visibility of your social posts but also invites your email subscribers to interact with your social media profiles. This strategy ensures a cohesive digital presence, allowing you to nurture a more engaged and connected audience across platforms.

Zero app promoting their social posts in a newsletter

Example: Zero weight loss app promoting their latest social posts in a newsletter

Synchronize Your Marketing Campaigns

By integrating email marketing with social media, you can create a more dynamic and interactive relationship with your audience.

Ensure that your marketing messages and campaigns are synchronized across both email and social media. For example, if you’re launching a new product, promote it simultaneously in your email newsletter and on your social media channels.

You can also utilize cross-promotion. Cross-promotion involves leveraging each channel to support the other. For instance, you can create buzz on your social media about exclusive deals or content that subscribers can only access through your emails.

Similarly, in your email campaigns, you can spotlight contests, live events, or other activities that are exclusive to your social media channels.

This strategy not only maximizes the reach and effectiveness of your promotions but also encourages your audience to engage with your brand across multiple platforms.

Final Word: Combine Email and Social Media for Better Reach

By understanding the strengths and challenges of both email marketing and social media marketing, you can effectively leverage each to your advantage. This knowledge allows you to tailor your approach, ensuring that you capitalize on the unique benefits of each tactic.

Integrating email marketing and social media in cross-channel marketing efforts is what could bring you the best results, as it allows for utilizing the strengths of both tactics to create a powerful marketing strategy.

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About Email Marketing

Frequently Asked Questions

Does email marketing count as social media?

No, email marketing does not count as social media. Email marketing involves sending targeted messages directly to individuals’ inboxes, focusing on personalized communication. In contrast, social media marketing engages audiences through public platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, encouraging broader interaction and content sharing. Both are digital marketing strategies but serve different functions in connecting with audiences.

Is email marketing outdated?

No, email marketing is not outdated. Despite the rise of social media and other digital channels, email remains a highly effective way to reach and engage customers directly. It offers high return on investment (ROI), precise targeting, and personalization options that many newer platforms can’t match, making it a valuable tool in any marketer’s arsenal.

Is email marketing still worth it?

Yes, email marketing is still worth it. It remains one of the most effective digital marketing strategies, offering unparalleled ROI, direct access to your audience, and exceptional personalization capabilities. With the ability to segment audiences and track detailed metrics, email marketing provides valuable insights and engagement opportunities that are hard to achieve through other channels.

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