by Jordan McCollum

Is email marketing better than marketing through social networks? Yes, according to a new study from ExactTarget and Ball State University’s Center for Media Design. The study reveals that:

“. . . 18- to 34-year-olds claim they are more likely to be influenced to make purchases based on e-mail marketing messages and direct mail than marketing messages on social networks,” said Mike Bloxham, director, insight and research, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design. “It is too easy to assume that the media consumers choose for their own news, information and entertainment are, by default, the best media to use for marketing messages. This is a dangerous assumption to make in a time when consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their level of control over their media experiences.”

The study outlined six personas and how they interact with different media, including where they prefer to receive marketing messages:

  • Wireds: 20% have subscribed for marketing communications via SMS, more so than any other group—but they want to receive texts only for urgent customer service issues such as financial alerts or travel updates.
  • Young Homemakers: More than half use social networks and SMS during the day, but direct mail and e-mail are their two preferred marketing channels.
  • Retireds: 81% have purchased online and 94% have been influenced by some form of direct marketing to make a purchase.
  • College Students: Very spam-savvy, they believe private communication channels such as SMS and social networks are off limits for marketers.
  • Teens: They use social networking more than any other group but are more likely to make a purchase from direct mail, followed by e-mail, SMS and social network sites.
  • Established Professionals: Women in this group are more likely than men in this group to use new digital media channels such as IM, SMS and social networking to communicate with friends and family—but men and women alike shop online with 92% having made an online purchase.

I’d have to say that I think most people agree with college students on this one—”private communication channels,” SMS and social networks are not where we want to receive marketing messages. Of course, we’d apparently still like for brands to be there just in case we need them.

The full white paper is available from ExactTarget.