The debate rages on surrounding the value of email marketing and social networks (social media). Should businesses focus more attention on their social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook or email interactions? I’m pretty tired of people just arguing for the sake of arguing. What does the customer want? How does the customer want to receive YOUR information? Sometimes businesses fall short and forget the simple age old rule: Customers First.

And remember the second rule – Market dominance requires integration of all marketing channels… not separate silos.

I don’t care if you don’t want to spend time on Twitter or you think it is stupid. I don’t care if email is hard to manage. If a customer has subscribed to your email, follows your tweets and has liked your Facebook page… there must be a strategy to interact with that specific customer through email, mobile, or social.

When deciding how to share information with your customers you must first  understand how customers view each and every channel.

According to MediaPost Publications, the majority of costumers view email as the least intrusive way for companies to engage . Customers trust email more than social networks. Period. They believe they know how to avoid being scammed in email but do not fully understand the risks in social networks. Email is also viewed as being a good source for detailed information or when looking for exclusive deals.

My employer, ExactTarget, recently released research called “The Meaning of Like.” This report is part of their Subscribers, Fans, and Followers research which is:

an ongoing research series that sets aside theories, assumptions, and widely held beliefs to deliver new insights and actionable advice about consumers’ cross-channel preferences and behaviors. These unique reports draw on the experience of real consumers as they interact with brands through Email, Facebook, and Twitter, collected through extensive research, focus groups, and online surveys.

The report found that consumers tend to view a “like” as a way of bookmarking content and sharing information with friends – not a form of consent for marketing. Also, Facebook engagement is more for entertainment purposes. Although customers can still get information and access to deals it offers a fun, different experience with the company.

Twitter is simple and to the point. It also fosters a relationship between the brand and the customer… which can generate brand loyalty and trust.  Like the people, like the brand.

So, which reigns as king? There really is no channel that surpasses the other. However, there are channels that are more appropriately suited  for delivering different messages to the consumer.  If we can agree that Facebook is more for entertainment then let loose a little (have fun with your fans on Facebook). Email your customers when you need to share some updates or detailed information.  An email is private. Twitter is perfect for engaging in a conversation with your customers. Get to know them and let them get to know the company on a more personal level.

Customers (for the most part) haven’t changed but there communication expectations have… thanks to social media and the Internet.