Email marketing vs social media marketing – the pros, cons & how to use both in your sales funnel

Email marketing vs social media marketing: which is better? In this post, we will look into the pros and cons of both email marketing and social media marketing.
We will also provide actionable tips and advice on choosing the best marketing tactics for your business, as well as stats on ROI and organic reach of each channel.
This post is aimed to be comprehensive and exhaustive, so it’s a rather long read – however, we prepared a 2-minute post summary with the most important takeaways and stats in bullet points – after the table of contents.

Contents: [click to jump to the relevant section!]

No time to read? Here’s a 2-minute post summary:

 Email marketing and social media marketing are *not* competing channels – they are complementary

complementary social media and email marketing

Each of them is good – for different reasons, and at different stages of the marketing funnel.

Social media are better for top-of-the-funnel marketing – building brand awareness

email marketing vs social media marketing in a sales funnel

…with people who have not heard about you yet. This is because social media pages are publicly visible to all users, and do not require the commitment of leaving an email address with you. 

The public nature of social media and the network effects mean your top-of-the funnel posts can be shared and seen by friends of the followers

email marketing vs social media marketing network effects

…who in turn engage with your posts – which fosters growth and reach of new audiences; this is not really possible with email marketing. 

For your social media, create broad posts targeting a wide potential audience

Talk about their pain points and solutions, feature your product and showcase the benefits, but also feature tangential top-of-the-funnel topics that may be of interest to them (e.g. if you are selling jewellery, you can e.g. write a post on ‘What jewellery goes with a red dress’); ask your audience questions so they can engage in the comments.

Social media though have a major flaw when it comes to moving the followers down the funnel: you don’t own your followers’ contacts list

email marketing vs social media marketing: you don't own your list

Hence: your business pages are very vulnerable to the social medium’s behaviour: from changes of algorithm, through changes of policy/ business terms, to simply technical failure or business failure and closure of a social media platform (see what happened to Google+ this year!) – years of your hard work in building your followership can go to waste in a moment since you cannot export your followers’ list.

That’s why – you should start funnelling your social media followers down your sales funnel as soon as possible

By e.g. encouraging them to sign up for your newsletter by e.g. posting a lead magnet (e.g. free book) on your social media

Email marketing is much better for nurturing relationships in the middle of the funnel and at the bottom of the funnel;

email marketing vs social media marketing in a sales funnel

People who already trust your brand enough to give you their email address are happy to receive marketing messages from you – especially if it’s personalised (60 per cent of people are happy to receive promotional material via email compared to just 20 per cent on social media).

Email marketing is excellent for personalisation

personalised emails stats

64 per cent of consumers today EXPECT personalised experience in the sales process.

Personalised email messages that include the recipient’s name are opened 26 per cent more often than ones that don’t.

But personalisation doesn’t stop at the name.

Unlike on social media, you can segment your email list by different criteria (interests, age, gender, how and when the person signed up to your newsletter – e.g. what lead magnet they downloaded) and can personalise each newsletter you send – by adding first name, and sending only relevant content.

Email is perfect for automating your nurturing campaigns

On social media, you cannot really create automated sequences of posts that will be triggered by your followers’ behaviour – with email marketing tools – you totally can. The so-called ’email automation’ or autoresponders allow you to send perfectly-timed emails to specific groups of subscribers only – e.g. those that have visited a specific page on your website, those who clicked on a specific link in your previous newsletter, or those that haven’t opened your newsletters for a while.

You can customize the look of your newsletters a lot more than social media

fonts matter - email marketing customization

The choice of font, colour and layout of your newsletters can be 100% customised by you (unlike on social media, where the posts have very limited customisation) and thus be coherent with your brand.

…but you (usually) cannot send videos.


The downside of email is though is that with most email marketing tools you cannot send videos (due to their large file size) – which is the most engaging type of content as of 2019;

Still – you can leverage video (especially live video) on your social media – and then funnel the viewers down by offering a follow up if they subscribe.

The organic reach on social media is much lower than in email

emails vs social media organic reach

While most email marketing tools deliver over 90% of emails straight to your recipients’ inboxes, the organic reach of a Facebook post in 2019 was just 6.4 per cent of the average page’s follower count.

The ROI of email marketing is higher and easier to measure

email marketing ROI vs social media ROI

According to an October 2019 research from Litmus –  for every $1 invested in email marketing, businesses make $42 – more in some sectors.  As a result – 73 per cent of companies rate the ROI on email marketing as “excellent” or “good”. By contrast, only 38 % think ROI from Social Media is“good” or “excellent”.

email marketing roi

Feeling inspired? 😉 Sign up for our FREE email marketing account and start creating your newsletters!

Wanna know more details? Continue reading the full post below 👇

1. Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – How should I choose?

It’s natural to want to put your marketing effort and budget where they will have the greatest impact, and on the surface, these two channels look like they compete with one another:
  • Social media marketing has buzz and glamour behind it, BUT a lot of people have found it very hard to make it work for them or even to tell if it’s working.
  • Email marketing has seen its reputation damaged by spammers and its foundations shaken by GDPR AND YET report after report stresses the value for money it consistently provides.
Solving the “email marketing vs social media marketing” dilemma for your business begins by thinking about two prior questions:
  • What are your marketing goals and how is your sales funnel shaped?
  • Do you have to choose one or can you do both email marketing AND social media marketing ?
The answers you give to those questions are critical because each channel is great at some things and less great at others, and every business has a different customer journey between discovery and conversion.
Social media marketing does some things much better than email marketing and vice versa.
The two channels have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is going to lead to better results if you use the best tool for the job at hand.
As the challenges change, so does the most suitable tool.
After all, you CAN put a screw into a wall with a hammer.
It’s just a lot easier and more likely to stay there if you do it with a screwdriver.
Social media marketing and email marketing are like the screwdriver and the hammer.
Both are good, it’s just that they are good for different things 😉
So let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of social media marketing vs email marketing, and how you can put them into the best use in your business.

Using social media marketing vs email marketing AND your sales funnel

Before we dive in, let’s answer a key question:
🤔 How do your customers go from never having heard of your business to buying from you?
👉Whether you call that set of steps a “sales funnel” or a “customer journey”, you need to have a good understanding of it before you can start mapping the most suitable digital marketing channels and tool onto it.
For simplicity’s sake, we will just look at three broad stages of the sales funnel common for pretty much every business:
  • Top of the funnel – the discovery phase, when people go from ignorance to awareness of your brand
  • Mid-funnel – the consideration phase, when they are thinking about buying from you
  • Bottom of the funnel – the conversion phase, when they make the decision to purchase

Here’s how you can use email marketing at different stages of the funnel – the infographic comes from our earlier post on B2B email marketing, so check it out (we will go into more detail about each stage in the following paragraphs)

B2B Email Marketing Strategy Funnel

2. Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Maximising reach at the top of the funnel

Using social media for Top-of-the funnel

Compared to email marketing, social media are easier to implement as your top-of-the-funnel marketing tool.


The commitment is much lower.

In order to communicate with someone via email, you first need to have built enough trust to make that person leave their email to you.

With social media though: you just publish a business page to Facebook or LinkedIn, or create an account on Instagram or Twitter, and let the users find you by your username or hashtags.

You don’t need to collect their email address to send them the content you’re publishing – they can come to your page/account when they choose to, and consume your content completely anonymously.

So, how can you use social media as top-of-the funnel marketing channel? 

Using email marketing for Top-of-the funnel

More people have active email addresses than are active on social media.
In February 2019, there were 3.93 billion email users worldwide, expected to send 293.6 billion messages over the course of the year.
We Are Social’s “Digital in 2019” report found there to be a grand total of 3.48 billion people using social media across all platforms.
In terms of sheer numbers, email is the winner by a 12.9 per cent margin.
But wait.
You can’t just starting messaging those 3.93 billion email users tomorrow.
You need to first build your email list somehow – either through e.g. signup forms, popups or lead magnets on your website or blog (which means: you need to have some blog content first…) or …by inviting people to sign up to your newsletters on your social media (which means: you need to first have a lot of followers there.)
And no: you shouldn’t just buy an email list, let alone harvest email addresses from websites online.
Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force, email addresses are classified as “personal data”.
There are complex rules determining where you can obtain them from and what you can do with them. There are also tough penalties for getting it wrong.
So remember:
  • Your mailing list should be made up of people who have opted in to receive newsletters and promotions from you.
  • If your company is in a B2C sector, that’s a firm rule. You have to get consent by ‘affirmative action‘ to send marketing emails legally.
  • It’s slightly different in B2B, where you can use company contact details that have been made public under the “legitimate interests” provision of the GDPR for certain purposes.
  • But you should NEVER buy email addresses. It’s risky and will almost never deliver as well as an engaged, opted-in email list of people who genuinely want to hear from you.
This makes email marketing a weak channel when it comes to getting new people to discover your business for the first time.

3. Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Relationship Building in the Mid-Funnel

After you have built awareness of your brand at the top of the funnel – it’s time to nurture this relationship with your leads.
What is better for relationship nurturing? Newsletters or social media?
While you can create effective email nurturing campaigns (e.g. using autoresponders) that will be seen by the majority of your subscribers (check out the average open rates and click-through rates by industry here), this is not that easy with social media.

Only 6.4% of your Facebook followers have a *chance* of seeing your posts compared to over 90% of your email subscribers. 

Hence: Most of your Facebook followers will never see your content.
This has been a trend for several years now: with social media now having a massive followers’ base, they are trying to monetize their users’ attention – and force businesses to pay for it by limiting the ‘organic reach’.

People don’t like businesses to contact them on social media

On top of the low organic reach, the success of middle-of-the funnel marketing on social media is also affected by the users’ adverse attitude to retargeting campaigns.
According to Neil Patel, most people have a very negative attitude towards retargeting ads on Facebook due to the perceived ‘invasion of privacy’ – after all, we don’t want ads to be following us around on social media once we have visited a website. 
Moreover, the overwhelming majority of users do not like being contacted by businesses on social media: a 2016 survey showed that only 9 per cent like seeing promotional content on social media.
By contrast, if you can get a marketing message into your prospects’ email inbox, they are much more likely to respond.
60 per cent of people are happy to receive promotional material via email compared to just 20 per cent on social media.


Social media is not great for providing a personalised experience.
Personalisation in email marketing is simple and very effective.
Personalised email messages that include the recipient’s name are opened 26 per cent more often than ones that don’t.
Email marketing also enables you to schedule autoresponders and set behaviourally triggered bespoke messages – guiding customers through stages of the journey.
All these factors mean that email marketing has the advantage when it comes to developing relationships with new prospects.

4. Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Bottom of the funnel, conversion and ROI

Email marketing is also very effective when it comes to converting your leads into customers:
According to an October 2019 research from Litmus –  for every $1 invested in email marketing, businesses make $42 – more in some sectors. The Direct Marketing Association put the figure at $32, but that is still a massive ROI.

Measuring ROI from Social Media Marketing

On the other hand, measuring the ROI from social media marketing is…well… it’s complicated.
In the same Econsultancy poll, only 38 per cent of respondents rated ROI from Social Media as “good” or “excellent”.
That says more about the difficulty of attributing downstream results to social media activity towards the top of the funnel than about the effectiveness of the channel as such.
Social media drive traffic to your website.
They build awareness, loyalty and engagement.
But are they a decisive factor in conversion?
For every amazing social media marketing success story, you’ll find plenty of other businesses who have struggled to see how it affects the bottom line.

Summary: Advantages and Disadvantages of Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing

  1. “Organic Reach” of Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing
  2. Engagement and Virality of Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing
  3. Ownership and security of  Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing
  4. Customisation of Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing
  5. Summary: Advantages of Email Marketing and Social Media Marketing
  6. Summary: Disadvantages of Email Marketing and Social Media Marketing
Email Marketing Social Media Marketing
“Organic Reach” 90% + reach, 20% + average open rates 2-6% organic reach (depending on the type of post and social medium)
Engagement and Virality Email recipients rarely share their emails with their friends; emails are not publicly visible unlike posts – hence, they can’t really ‘go viral’ Social media allow users to engage with your posts through comments, reactions; Social media posts on business pages are publicly visible – hence, particularly popular posts can be shared by thousands of users in a short time – aka ‘go viral’
Stage of the funnel Best for nurturing and conversion in the middle & bottom of the funnel Best for building brand awareness on top of the funnel
Ownership and security You own your email list – you can always download it, move to another email marketing tool etc. – it’s safer, and you have complete control over it You don’t own your business page, let alone your followers contacts on social media – if Facebook shuts down your page for any reason, you will lose all your followers
Customisation Email newsletters allow you to fully edit and customise your newsletter templates – adding links, images, and formatting;


However – most email providers do not allow you to send videos due to large data size.

Social media posts do not allow you to format the text (unless you post them in groups)


On the other hand – you can use videos and even live videos to engage with your audience better (video is the most engaging communication medium as of 2019)/

Summary: Advantages + excellent ROI

+ cheap

+ excellent organic reach

+ great for nurturing in the middle of the funnel

+ you are in full control over your email list, can download it, copy it, move it to another email tool;

+ easy to personalise and automate (e.g. with autoresponders)


+ great for building brand awareness

+ great for building relationships at the top of the funnel

+ potential of going viral

+ community and engagement

Summary: Disadvantages – bad for building awareness

– you can’t include videos

– expensive

– very low organic reach

– you don’t own your

followers’ list – your followership is vulnerable to algorithm changes, you can’t move your followers

–          Difficult to personalise

–          Difficult to automate

–          Difficult to customize

Conclusion – Email Marketing AND Social Media Marketing

It should be clear by now that email marketing and social media marketing should complement one another in your marketing strategy rather than compete (you can learn how to integrate your email marketing and social media marketing strategies from e.g. this post)
Social media marketing is great for introducing your business to new audiences.
Email marketing is great for nurturing relationships with people who already know you.
They are suited to different stages of the sales funnel, but that doesn’t mean they can’t reinforce one another:
  • Links to your social media in your newsletter are a great social proof. Seeing your social media activity and great customer reviews on your Facebook or Instagram page can be what finally convinces an email subscriber to buy from you.
  • Social media can be used to collect subscribers to your email newsletter!
  • People are not statistics. Some people will just prefer to stick to a single channel – so make sure they have the option to do that rather than forcing them to switch.
So use them both! Working together, email marketing and social media marketing are unstoppable.

Feeling inspired? 😉 Sign up for our FREE email marketing account and start creating your newsletters!


Leave a reply