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Email marketing vs social media

Over the last few years there’s been a mad scramble to get people liking, following and engaging with their local council on social media.

It’s not difficult to argue that social media has proved to be a great tool for localgov comms especially – with councils up and down the country having thousands of followers on the various social networking platforms.

Social offers councils a platform to get in touch with residents, visitors, and businesses easily but how does it compare with (what some might say) the old fashioned (but trusty) channel of email?

I’ve been looking at the audience numbers of a few of our customers’ email marketing accounts, and it’s really interesting to see just how many people are subscribed to council email updates, and that’s even after the GDPR list hygiene checks some councils undertook!

Even better, compare those email subscriber figures with the councils’ follower numbers on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for example) and you might be surprised…

I know it’s not a fight – each channel has its purpose and works with the other channels to help bring the council’s vision to life, providing easy access to public services and answers to customers’ needs. But, there is a clear winner.

In terms of audience reach, email knocks social media out of the park.

Snapshot from a handful of our customers in the West Midlands:

Blog - email vs social comparison

Yes, that’s right: there are more people signed up for email updates from their local council than ALL of their social media followers added together. For instance, 756% more people are subscribed to Wolverhampton Council’s email updates (delivered using govDelivery) than are following the council on Twitter.

If you’re not currently growing a large network of email subscribers, then you’re missing out. The demand from local people for bitesize service- and topic-specific email updates is strong.


As a great example, just look at what they’ve done in Wolverhampton. Their email subscriber base size is equivalent to 59% of their population. Nearly 150,000 people are signed up to receive email updates from the council. So if you want to reach large numbers, don’t ignore email.


People expect you to be offering a digital communications service that directly meets their needs and interests, and targeted email marketing can service those needs and deliver impressive returns on investment for your organisation.

Metrics to support your business case for email

Optinmonster recently published some research that highlights how embedded email is in our everyday lives – over and above social media – and why you can’t afford to neglect this channel. Here are some interesting metrics which will help you make the business case for a proper email marketing solution:

Email Facebook Twitter
Total number of users 2.6 billion 1.7 billion 313 million
First online “check” of the day 58% 11% 2%
Use this channel at least daily 91% 57% 14%
Prefer this channel for permission-based promotional messages 77% 4% 1%
Most frequently used channel for personal messages 45% 12% 0%
Users check here for a deal from a company they know 44% 4%
Users who made a purchase as the result of a marketing message from this channel 66% 20% 6%
Customers acquired 7% <1% 0%
Inbox placement rate / organic reach 79% 1-6% <1-30%
Open / click-through / engagement rate 18% OR / 3.7% CTR 0.07% 0.03%
Distribution of global content sharing activities 4% 57% 18%
Delivers an excellent ROI 21% 15%
Customer lifetime value +12% +1% -23%
Ownership Full ownership Account can be terminated Account can be terminated

Source: Optinmonster

As you can see, email marketing is more effective than social media across the board, with just one exception – sharing – but that’s hardly surprising.

Public sector email marketing outperforms other sectors

Blog - compare sectors

Snapshot from 2018/19 Granicus Email Marketing Benchmarks and Best Practices 

It’s also worth noting that public sector email marketing outperforms all other sectors in terms of audience engagement rates. We’re helping our customers at all levels of local and central government use email marketing strategically to support outcome-focused programmes. With resources like Granicus’ Email Marketing Benchmarks and Best Practices guide, public sector organisations using govDelivery can compare their performance with similar organisations and refine their comms to achieve better returns on investment.

Let’s get started

Get in touch today for a chat about how to start building a large audience for email and/or SMS marketing. We’ll help you keep more people informed and able to access the services that make their lives easier.