Case Study: Email Still Beats out Print and Social Media for Engagement

top 5 challenge Case Study: Email Still Beats out Print and Social Media for EngagementNow I’m going to go ahead and admit upfront that we don’t have full tracking in place to measure the actual dollar amounts that this campaign contributed, but I think it’s still a good example to show people how we actually measured a recent Alumni Campaign.  This is a learn as you go process so next time we will hopefully get a little better, but we do have some takeaway knowledge about how to do it better the next time and which means better reaching of this audience segment.

The Terrier Top 5 campaign was based around Homecoming and was meant to encourage recent alumni (2003-08) to donate even if it was only $5, but also to reconnect with the College through Facebook and each other.  Visit the Terrier Top 5 Challenege Page.  This campaign is still ongoing throughout the end of the year, but through September and early October we did a little measured campaign to see which of three sources was driving engagement with this audience (Young Alumni).

Measuring traffic to the site generated by this campaign through tracking setup specifically for this campaign we are able to measure relative success across different medium.  This campaign was pushed across a few different medium including Print, Email, and Social Media (through Facebook).  Each Media type was targeted twice.

Below is the campaign outline

Campaign Date Source Medium # Recipients
Gimme 5 Challenge Sept. 4 postcard (letter) snail 1800
Gimme 5 Challenge Sept. 11 mailshot email 1113
Gimme 5 Challenge Sept. 18, 25, Oct. 2 facebook1* social 382
Gimme 5 Challenge Sept. 22 woffordtoday print 21000
Gimme 5 Challenge Oct. 1 mailshot email 1122
Gimme 5 Challenge Oct. 7 facebook2** social 639

*Received by 2003, 2004, 2005,Facebook group members.
**Received by 2003-2008 Facebook group members.

So you are probably wondering how did we measure off line campaigns and email?  Using and destination urls and off line tracking techniques of course.  Just to show the examples here were the shortened versions of the URLs that were used.

  • - for the letter snailmail
  • - for the Wofford Today
  • - for 9/2 Facebook
  • - for 10/6 Facebook

So let’s look at the various medium results.

Different Medium Comparison
Medium # Recipients # Web Hits Response Rate
print (snail+WT) 22800 11 0.048%
email 2235 597 26.711%
social 1021 250 24.486%

Pretty revealing results.  It is near impossible to get exact data, but here are some loose numbers that state a rather obvious picture when communicating with our Youngest Alumni.  They do not respond to print.  It’s a little close to say that Email is more effective than Facebook, but the data obviously states that email is not a dead medium for communicating with this audience.

Also let’s take a look at a little of the Email Results for these campaigns.  I pulled data out of our email account with Bronto and crunched the numbers in excel to create these graphs.  The data is from the two separate mailshots that we sent out.

email comparison 8 26 Case Study: Email Still Beats out Print and Social Media for Engagement

email comparison 10 2 Case Study: Email Still Beats out Print and Social Media for Engagement

Finally this last chart is pulling the data from Google Analytics

traffic according ga Case Study: Email Still Beats out Print and Social Media for Engagement

gimme 5 challenge example 150x150 Case Study: Email Still Beats out Print and Social Media for Engagement(Click on the image to the left to see a larger version of what one of these targeted emails looked like) I think it’s good to note that although it’s not exact the numbers are fairly consistent across the different emails and according to Google Analytics.  I’m not exactly sure why theclass had the best response.  Maybe that is the perfect age where you feel established but still want to be connected with your alma mater?  Finally notice how the second email had better responses almost across the board.  This shows that it doesn’t hurt to remind people and hit them up again.  You will have a few people that are early adapters and respond the first time, but coming back and reminding them again in a month is perfectly acceptable with this audience.  Also in this example they responded better closer to the deadline.

So Key Takeaways

Like I said this is an ongoing thing and every little step we make forward helps us better understand what does and doesn’t work.  The data helps drive marketing decisions.

  • Always Be Testing!
  • Measuring across different mediums established this audience responses well to Facebook along with Email.
  • Send multiple emails is ok and well accepted
  • Print is DEAD to this audience at least from a call to action standpoint

13 Responses to “Case Study: Email Still Beats out Print and Social Media for Engagement”

  1. Says:

    Very good post. We shared this with our development office who has been collaborating with us on a new GOLD Alumni e-Solicitation which will be going out sometime in December.

    You should attend the Young Alumni Directors gathering in Atlanta on December 10 and bring your findings and info to share with other YA professionals.

  2. Says:

    This is pure gold, thanks for the great info and the crystal clear breakdown. Can’t wait to share this with the alumni office.

  3. Says:


    Great analysis. Will be sharing this with the Bronto team.

    You rock.

    dj (bronto)

  4. Says:

    Glad that this was helpful. Makes my day to come in and have positive comments like these, thanx!

    I realized I left a little out so I think I’m going to follow up first of next week showing GA new Advanced Segmentation of the Email traffic. Actually showing a practical application of the new features seems to be hard to find on the web. Stay tuned.

  5. Says:

    Founder- this is super interesting and I’m sure other schools will benefit from this information!

    It will be interesting to see how social media and email results will evolve over time. I’d love to know if you are still seeing similar stats a year from now.

    I’m also curious what you did in Facebook. Did you simply create a page or did you actually email within Facebook as well to promote your fundraising campaign?

  6. Says:

    Hey Kristen,
    That’s a good question. I kind of didn’t really get to much into the marketing of this campaign more looking at some hard numbers and even then I didn’t share to much digging. We have a Young Alumni group that in the past we have promoted through Email marketing and whatnot to draw them to that platform as another way to connect and for us to have a communication channel to them. We currently have 523 members of the group. Our Alumni department and specifically Lisa Ware could probably give you more information about the marketing and planning.

  7. Says:

    This is great, I’m helping on some campaigns comparing facebook and email and I’ll throw this into the mix for the marketing strategy.

  8. Says:

    This is really enlightening information! I’m a grad student at The George Washington University, and I’m researching the differences between the use of Web 2.0 in alumni relations and development. It’s good to know there are more people out there looking at this data.

  9. Says:


    Very cool but we are missing one very important number here the final ROI or $$$ amount earned by the campaigns. The numbers about engagement are great but remember the overall goal was to get the donation of $5 or more.

    Any chance to see a comparison of the total $ value earned compared to the medium. This will let us see which medium was most effective for the final goal (getting money).

    After all if the print piece generated $1,000 but email and social only generate $100 each then I’d say print is still worth it.

    Thanks and good info.

  10. Says:

    @Paul - You are absolutely right. I wasn’t really focusing on that piece with this post and the number is still kind of out. Like I said, unfortunately, we aren’t fully to the point of being able to measure dollar amounts from campaigns. It sucks, but it is what it is.

    That is something that is been in the hopper for a while, but just not there. The campaign is also running through the end of the year so some of the numbers have still not arrived yet.

  11. Says:

    Amazing work as usually Kyle. Thanks

  12. Says:

    In all my campaigns I have found that there is one constant: The money is in the list. If you send out useful tidbits of information to your list via email, you will eventually have a very responsive list. Those who don’t want to hear what you have to say will eventually drop off the list. I am gratified that your results mirror my own experiences.



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