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Email marketing vs social media

Comparison of Email Marketing vs Social Media in 2020

I recently came across an old presentation and blog article that I created back in 2016 about some top tips for your website and one of the topics in it was a comparison between Email marketing and Social Media. At the time, the statistics showed that Email Marketing was miles more effective than Social Media so I wondered if the situation had changed in 2020.

Over recent years, there have been many headlines in the media and on the web saying “Email marketing is dead” but results of a survey published in December 2020 by OptinMonster suggests that the situation has not changed very much and that it is still very effective. Reliable industry statistics are quite often difficult to find but OptinMonster appear to have done a great job with their survey.

I have summarised some of the report’s findings below.

  • Nearly 80% of the current 4.3 billion+ Internet users worldwide have social media accounts.
  • On average, each of them has signed up to 5.5 different social media accounts.
  • Nearly all of them also have active email accounts.
  • 83% of marketers say that social media is important for their business.
  • 90% of all marketers say social media marketing has increased their business’ exposure.
  • 91% of retail brands are using at least 2 social media platforms.
  • 84% of CEOs and VPs say they use social media to help make purchasing decisions.
  • More than 50 million small businesses currently use Facebook Pages to connect with their customers.
  • Customers report spending 20% to 40% more money on brands that have interacted with them on social media.
  • 60% of consumers subscribe to a brand’s email list to receive promotional messages compared to 20% of consumers who will follow brands on social media to get deals.
  • 44% of users check their email for a deal from a company they know, whereas only 4% will go to Facebook.
  • 60% of consumers state that they have made a purchase as the result of a marketing message they received by email. Only 12.5% of them even consider a buy button as a purchase driver on social media.

Comparison of Email Marketing vs Social Media Performance Statistics

(Data at Dec 2019)EmailSocial Media
Total users3.8 billion3.4 billion
Preferred channel for promotion60%20%
Conversion rate6.05%1.9%
Open rate
Click through rate (CTR)
Engagement rate

Return on investment (ROI)4400%???
Most marketers agreed that the overall return on investment (ROI) is the most important factor to use when comparing marketing channels. Whilst this can be calculated for Email, unfortunately there is still no effective common way to track ROI determined for Social Media which makes this comparison difficult.

Which Has Greater Reach ?

The data shows that social media doesn’t have a great engagement rate, just 0.58% (Facebook, Instagram & Twitter). In comparison, email reaches about 85% of the people you send it to, has an open rate of almost 23% and resulting click through rate (CTR) of 3.71%.

If you compare the effectiveness of email marketing to social media marketing , the data shows that Email marketing still produces the best results but they aren’t the same and they are not interchangeable as they each have different uses.

So how should you best use Email and Social Media ?

Email MarketingSocial Media
Delivering targeted, personalised messagesDriving traffic to your website
Converting subscribers into customersBuilding brand recognition
Building relationships with customersBuilding community
Retaining customersBuilding brand loyalty


The effectiveness of Email marketing and Social Media will always vary according to the business and the target markets, demographics etc but in general, to get maximum effect, the optimum solution is to use both together. Neither should be ignored in your marketing mix.

The other points I made in my earlier post are still valid so feel free to follow the link below and have a read of that too.

Previous post: Email vs Social Media (2016)


Steve Wood owns and runs Scalar Enterprises based in Portsmouth in Hampshire. He offers a range of services including Web design and Internet marketing to small businesses and SMEs in Hampshire and the surrounding areas.

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