8 min read

Facebook Ads Too Expensive? Brands Investing BIG in Email Marketing

Jun 4, 2020 6:30:00 AM

With over 2.6 billion monthly active users in 2020, Facebook is the biggest social network in the world.

It seems that every business wants to get in on the action; a Salesforce study says 66 percent of a typical business advertising budget will go to paid ads on Facebook and other social platforms.

But there are some problems, and an often-overlooked “oldie but goodie” may be the key to unlocking better ROI from your marketing spend.

Email Marketing is becoming more important with increased ad spend

For All Businesses, Organic Reach on Facebook IS Dead

Before we talk about Facebook Ads vs. email marketing, let’s clear something up. Facebook advertising is not the same as “organic” posting to your Facebook page. In the early days of Facebook, you could be active on your business page, grow your audience, and (in effect) get lots of “free” advertising (or your only cost would be paying a social media intern to run the account for you).

A lot has changed. Facebook has changed its news feed to prioritize what friends and family share, reducing the amount of content that users see from brands. The platform’s business model now depends on businesses spending LOTS of money to reach their own followers.  

Today, at least as far as “organic” reach is concerned, it’s a waste of time, money, and effort for a brand to build a fan base, then try to market to that fan base. 

You simply have to “pay to play.”


For Some Businesses, Even Paid Reach on Facebook Isn’t Worth It

If your ad campaigns are aimed at conversions and sales, you should be able to measure the ROI and decide for yourself if Facebook is worth it. If you’re going for “likes” and other vanity metrics, be warned that most “engagements” are going to be shady profiles (probably bots) and not really anyone who is truly interacting with your business.

In other words, if you’re paying to promote a post and all you get are “likes” from users on the other side of the planet, are you really growing your customer base? Not really.

Another problem with Facebook ads is the trust factor. You can waste tons of money getting “likes” and even “shares.” For the most part, these are definitely people who aren’t going to be interacting with a brand in any meaningful way. Again, many of them probably aren’t real “people” at all.

You can easily burn cash on paid advertising

4 Ways Facebook Can Become a Money Pit For Businesses 

We’re not going to say that Facebook advertising is a bad idea for every business. That’s simply not the case. Often, it comes down to simply not knowing how to play Facebook’s game.

A lot of the mistakes (and wasted money) come from making some rookie mistakes.

The most common Facebook advertising mistakes business make include:

#1 Installing the Facebook Pixel Incorrectly. Using the Facebook pixel, you can match people who visit your website with people on Facebook, retargeting your audiences to build better ads and drive sales.

#2 Not Using Audiences Correctly. Facebook ads can be targeted based on age, location, gender, income, hobbies, job title, education and more. Businesses that don’t use these targeting opportunities are wasting ad budget.

#3 Using Wrong Placements. Part of targeting means knowing where your ads should appear. Depending on your goals, different ad placements may be more or less effective. Facebook ads can appear in the desktop or mobile feed, in the right column sidebar, Instagram feeds, Instant articles or Facebook’s network of third-party apps and publishers. 

#4 Not Having a Marketing Funnel. You should always create a series of complementary ads that appeal to users based on how they’ve interacted with your business before. Note: This is true of Facebook advertising AND email marketing. You want leads to move from the top of the funnel, through the middle and down to the bottom as they convert to become paying customers.

As Facebook had its problems, Email Marketing became smarter.

Reintroducing The Forgotten Channel: Email Marketing

As we’ve seen, social media gets all the buzz, but it doesn’t always deliver the goods.

Email, on the other hand, is old-school. It is less sexy than social media, but it has been an effective way to engage with existing customers—and reach new customers—since before Zuckerberg ever wrote a line of code. 

Thanks to the rise of Facebook (and other social media channels), email marketing has fallen by the wayside in the eyes of many marketers. For too long, email was associated with “spam.” Emails can’t go viral. Emails don’t get all the news coverage.

But email isn’t going anywhere. And as we’ll see, it can drive conversions in ways your businesses may have never imagined. 

With the all the acquisition, remarketing, and retention possibilities you have at your disposal, automated email campaigns can increase your advertising ROI and drive business to your website like nothing else.

And for relationship-building and building authentic connections with your customers, email is simply the BEST digital marketing channel. That’s how email can be up to 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined when it comes to acquiring new customers.

Yes, there are compliance regulations to consider. But the right email marketing agency can help you navigate those legal requirements. Also, email marketing (unlike Facebook) allows you to own the channel you’re using. No third-party can dictate how, when or how effectively you communicate with your audience. Email is “owned media.”

The ROI of Facebook vs Email Marketing

So … Which Delivers Better ROI: Email or Facebook?

As we’ve seen, it’s almost impossible to get organic reach from Facebook these days. And if your campaigns aren’t set up EXACTLY the right way, they can turn into a money pit.

But it’s also not as easy as it used to be to get your money's worth from Facebook ads, either. And why so many businesses are leaving Facebook. For example, in 2018, Facebook updated its news feed algorithm, reducing the number of advertising impressions available. This led to a 122 percent increase in ad impressions cost. 

Targeting, we found, is what makes or break a marketing campaign. As we mentioned already, paid social media ads also offer sophisticated options (like the Facebook pixel) for targeting specific demographics. Organic social media, on the other hand, has little to no targeting potential. If you're lucky, a post will go “viral,” but you can’t decide who shares it and who sees it.

Email marketing lets you segment your list to control who sees your promotions. In fact, you can (and should) segment your subscribers with a great degree of granularity. Customized messages always drive the best ROI.

What about the potential size of your audience on each platform?

According to The Radicati Group, more than 4 billion people regularly use their email (compared to Facebook’s 2 .6 billion users).

You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that email is even more ubiquitous than Facebook accounts—for a long time, you couldn’t have a Facebook account without already having an email account.

But what about the way customers engage with email vs. Facebook?

According to the marketing company LiveIntent, Facebook’s popularity with users has plateaued or even decreased. Of course, Facebook may be more “entertaining” than email, but as an eCommerce business, remember that people making a buying decision aren’t looking to be entertained.

According to OptinMonster, 58 percent of people check their email as soon as they wake up (vs 14 percent who say they check Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter first). These email checkers are more task-oriented than people scrolling through social media. They have specific goals, like finding out about sales, deals or new products.

What channel do most people check first thing in the morning


What about open rate and click-through rate? As of April 2020, the overall average open rate for all industries was 16.22 percent, with a click-through rate of 7.17 percent (according to Constant Contact). Below you’ll see the click-through rate of email marketing from several key industries:


(courtesy of Vision6)

Facebook Ads, by contrast, have a click-through-rate of under one percent for most industries:

Facebook's average click through rates

(courtesy of Wordstream)

While Facebook marketing and email marketing are both great for reaching your target audience, email clearly has a higher click-through rate and a higher level of engagement. 

With both Facebook ads and email, you get out of them what you put in. For example, you can increase your organic reach on Facebook with great ads that provoke your followers to engage with your posts. And with email, you can increase your inbox open rate simply by following best practices. “Best practices” include using an email service with a good reputation and getting your email copywriting down to an art. 

But at the end of the day, remember this: people use social media to relax and to be entertained. While Facebook is a good place to connect with your audience, it’s usually not a great place to push your product or service.

All of this adds up to one thing: dollar for dollar, email gives businesses a higher ROI than social media.


Email Marketing And Facebook Advertising Can Support One Another

A person can’t sign up for your mailing list if they aren’t even aware of your business. Social media can help people discover your brand in the first place. That’s why we suggest using the two platforms in tandem. 

For example: Facebook Dynamic Ads were launched in 2015. They allow businesses to promote their products and services and retarget their audience to increase conversion rates.

Since you can upload CSV files when creating dynamic ads, you can upload your email list and target segments of your email list as well as retarget anyone who didn’t complete a purchase. You simply have to create one dynamic template, which you can configure for each of your audience segments.

The Final Say

The takeaway? Social media (especially Facebook) has been getting all the attention for more than ten years. But email is not going anywhere. And business owners who sink all their marketing spend into Facebook while ignoring email could be missing a huge opportunity.

Facebook has the power to drive awareness, engagement and shareability. For branding purposes, it may be a good way to create awareness.

But only email marketing has the power to connect you to audiences who truly want to get your messages (and who can easily opt out of them). 

If you’re serious about getting your brand heard in a noisy and competitive landscape, consider using the two platforms together. Facebook advertising can drive new traffic to your website, where email addresses can be captured to drive conversions, leads, sales, and retention via a segmented email marketing campaign that nurtures those relationships for years to come. 

If you want to focus on only one channel, whether you're needing customer engagement, click-throughs, or conversions, email consistently has a better ROI than Facebook ads.

Written by Jason Boehle