Email vs. Social Media: What’s the Ultimate Real Estate Marketing Channel?

real estate marketing channel

Time and time again, agents keep asking what’s better: email or social media? For any real estate business struggling to get found in today’s digital landscape, that’s a vital thing to know. Both channels have real pros and real cons. So this leaves the question about the ultimate online marketing channel for realtors open. But if you were to discover that email is 40 times more effective in generating new leads than social media, would you start taking the social media hype more critically?

It is estimated there will be 4.3 billion email accounts by the end of 2016 (source: The Radicati group). Like it or not, email is still the best way to reach prospective customers. At the same time, Facebook alone has 1.6 billion users worldwide so you wouldn’t like to miss out on this lucrative real estate marketing channel either.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the most recent data that explains which channel is more effective: email or social media. No spoiler alerts but you might be quite surprised by the findings, many of which can question your entire marketing strategy.

Identifying the best real estate marketing channel

1) In numbers: which is a more popular channel?

If you take a look at a few industry publications, you’ll see a great deal of advice is centered upon social media. Of course, there are still plenty of email marketing tips too. But the general discussion seems to be leaning more towards social media, assuming it’s more effective than email. However, the exact opposite is true.

Let’s see some simple stats which prove people prefer email to social media in most cases:

  • email is more popular. The Radicati group estimated there’ll be 4.3 billion email accounts and 2.6 billion email users in 2016 versus 1.7 billion social media users;
  • people check email, not social media, first thing in the morning: 58% versus 11% checking social media first (OptinMonster);
  • email has higher organic reach. A message is 5x more likely to be seen and read via email than via Facebook where organic reach is just 1% compared to email’s 79% (Radicati).
  • people want more email communication. 72% of people prefer receiving promotional content via email, not social media.

The bottom line? Email should be taken as a priority, not an afterthought.

2) Top-producing agents all prefer email

98% of top-performing agents (making $100K+) say email is the best real estate marketing channel for converting leads.

Of course, it’s easy to see that email (or social media) as a standalone tool won’t work equally good for everyone. That’s why knowing the industry’s know-how’s and tested techniques can really help.

You’d thought that social media with its instant messaging and better options to share visual content serves agents better. And, indeed, top-performing agents use social media as one of their key channels for lead generation.

But here too, email beats social media again:

  • Email is 40 times more effective in acquiring new customers than social giants like Facebook or Twitter” (McKinsey);
  • “When it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), when compared to social, direct mail, and more” (Digital Marketing Association).

These are incredible results! So how exactly has email become such a great real estate marketing channel at a time when many agents decided to sideline it?

Perhaps it has something to do with point 3 below.

3) Are people annoyed with your social media messages?

In their research of How Brands Are Annoying Customers on Social Media, Sprout Social  found out the most annoying industries online. Real estate is fourth following government, banking and advertising:


Source: Sprout Social

Most of all, people are annoyed with too many promotions brands post. And it’s not like these posts can be effective as such. As we said above, only 1% of your followers will see your message which means it’s likely to be lost in the sea of internet banalities that roam news feeds.

On the contrary, a message is 5 times more likely to be seen via email. Maybe people are just more comfortable reading and replying to emails at their own pace. After all, 66% of users say they made a purchase as a result of email marketing as opposed to 20% via social media.

The bottom line? You should send your most important marketing messages via email and don’t rely on social media too much. Combine these two real estate marketing channels but never miss out on email.

4) So does email have a higher ROI too?

Yes, it does. Here’s a bunch of stats that explain email ROI better than we can do:

  • ROI (return on investment) for email marketing is about 3800% (Direct Marketing association);
  • in absolute numbers, this means email ROI is $38 per $1 spent;
  • the average order value of an email is at least 3 times higher than that of social media (McKinsey).

(Here are even more of the email ROI stats that might be interesting to check out.)

When email is part of your real estate CRM functionality, it’s easy to cut costs down. You can stay scalable because the expense is the same, even if your database is growing rapidly. Besides, it’s always easier to engage and convert existing leads in your database than invest more and more in lead generation.

5) Don’t forget about mobile

Last but not least, remember the power of email on mobile. In our previous posts, we mentioned how mobile starts impacting local search. The same can be said about email on mobile devices.

In short, here are the most important things to know:

  • 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices (Campaign Monitor);
  • 75% of Gmail’s 900M users access their accounts via mobile devices (TechCrunch);
  • 23% of readers who open an email on a mobile device open it again later and are 65% more likely to click through the second time they opened it (Campaign Monitor).

The bottom line? Make sure your emails are optimized for mobile and are displayed properly wherever they’re viewed.

What’s next?

Contrary to recent views, it seems that social networks are not the most effective real estate marketing channel. In terms of customer acquisition and conversion as well as ROI, email goes far beyond and is a reasonable investment of your marketing budget and time.

Of course, it doesn’t mean you should abandon other real estate marketing channels like social media or portal advertising. But if your email marketing intelligently powers the rest of your channels, chances are bigger that you’ll generate way more business.

Finally, don’t forget you don’t have to be all online, in real estate direct mail isn’t dead yet.