Can Direct Mail Be Social?

Can DM be SocialThese days it’s hard to turn around without tripping over social media. It’s part of our personal lives, and it’s part of the way we do business. Every time we turn on our computers, tablets or smart phones, there seems to be a new social media tool available. Part of the reason that social media has seen such explosive growth is that we humans are social creatures. These tools enable us to do things we have an inclination to do anyway.

So how does an “old school” tool such as direct mail fit into this new social media world? Can direct mail be social? And why would you want to try for “social” direct mail?

The answer to the first part of that question depends upon how we define “social.” Most social media begins as a one-to-many communication that evolves into a many-to-many conversation. There are lots of people in on the conversation. That’s simply not going to happen with direct mail. There is another social phenomenon, however, for which direct mail can be ideal: inclusion.

In general, people enjoy being part of a group of like-minded individuals or those who share their interests and values. And people like the idea of belonging to something special. Direct mail that’s tailored to a specific “insider community” reinforces that sense of belonging. It needs to be designed and written in such a way that it’s clear that not everyone is receiving this—it’s reserved for members only. The mailing could include a membership card, or a “members-only” coupon, or something else that is offered only to a select group of people.

Why would you want to try something like this? Couldn’t you do the same thing with an email or an online effort—for less money? You probably could. But there’s something personal about receiving a letter in the mail (particularly if the letter is personalized and looks more like a letter than a piece of advertising). And let’s face it—people are receiving less mail than ever before, so a letter can really stand out. Add to that the fact that direct mail is tactile (physically touching something can reinforce its importance) and certain kinds of direct mail pieces don’t get thrown away right away. They are a constant visual reminder of your message.

Will we see a resurgence of direct mail that supplants social media as a means to reach out to audiences? That’s not likely, but it’s good to think about how you can use direct mail as part of an integrated marketing campaign