What should you take into account when developing an email social marketing campaign and how can you tackle the barriers to its success?

If you haven’t already done so, take a look at the theory behind using email to change minds and influence behaviour.

This simple process can apply to a single email, or to an entire campaign:

Plan > Execute > Evaluate

It’s actually a virtuous circle: after you evaluate the impact and effectiveness of your message, you can use it to plan your next message and continue to make each one better than the last.


At the planning stage, you should be asking yourself lots of questions about your message.

  • Who are you emailing?
    The tone of your email and the language will be different depending on whether you’re addressing a member of the public or reporting on policy developments to a professional or expert in the field. Change your language accordingly – one man’s natural language is another man’s jargon.
  • Who is sending the message?
    Is it a local councillor or a staff member?
    Does it make a difference? Are you trustworthy? Do you have expertise? Are you being transparent? Is it easy to verify the accuracy of your information/sources?
  • What behaviour are you trying to change?
    Are you trying to change a physical behaviour or an attitude or opinion? Either way, you need to understand the motivations behind the original behaviour
  • How will you change that behaviour?
    This is your marketing message. Are there health or financial benefits to the behaviour change? What else is likely to motivate your target audience to modify their behaviour? Is your argument persuasive? (Make sure they’re credible sources!)
  • How often are you emailing? Imagine willpower doesn’t exist. How will your emails keep reminding people to make changes?
  • When are you emailing?

Ask yourself lots of questions then adress each question to make sure your mesage addresses those questions.

Consider your organisation’s communications policy. Save time and fight the pitfalls of potentially restrictive policies and “design by committee” by standardising your message & language beforehand.


Here are some practical tips to consider when sending out emails which are asking for some level of behavioural change.

  • Behaviour change is usually triggered by something. Make your email that trigger. Information doesn’t always lead to action – we don’t always connect the dots.  Be explicit & make sure that each message has a clear, unambiguous ask.
  • Don’t be too vague: “get fitter” isless easy to measure and certainly less achievable than “walk for 20 minutes during your lunch hour today”
  • Encourage baby steps rather than big leaps. Don’t be too ambitious but set regular, smaller targets which might get more demanding over time. They’ll be easier to do, will require less motivation and wil have less chance of failure.
  • Seek to make long-term changes through shorter, fixed-period asks. Giving up smoking for 14 days is more achievable than “forever”
  • Create new behaviours rather than stopping old ones – focus on action rather than avoidance. It’s easier to convince someone to eat an apple after a meal than it is to give up chips.
  • Behaviour change isn’t difficult. Be persistent.

Remember why new year’s resolutions fail and make sure your asks don’t fall into the same traps.


It’s important to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of your message, otherwise you won’t know whether it was successful or not. How can you know what to improve if you don’t know how you’re doing?

Evaluating the response to your message can help you get better engagement using a constant process of improvement. There are two primary analytics tools you can use to track email engagement:

  • Website Analytics, such as Google Analytics. Use unique codes to identify which web pages were looked at as a result of your email messages. You can track individual messages and entire campaigns to build a picture of the success of your messages over time and the resulting effect on your website traffic.
  • Email analytics. If you’re using an email management system such as Campaign MonitorMailchimp or GovDelivery, you’ll be able to track how many times your emails have been opened, who clicked through to your website, how many emails were forwarded to friends and who unsubscribed as a result of your message.

Consider tracking the cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability of your email campaigns. How much money did you save as opposed to a printed leaflet campaign? How many kilograms of CO2 did you save from not sending out delivery trucks with council newspapers? Email helps you be seen not to be wasting public money, but rather using it efficiently & effectively.

If you’re a government department or a local authority, consider whether you’re catering for all your citizens. Diversity isn’t just about writing “Welcome” in twelve languages on your homepage – consider whether your message is appropriate to the audience and whether it accounts for cultural sensitivities and norms. It might be better to send targeted emails to different groups rather than try to be everything to everyone in a single message.

Further information

If you’re interested in social marketing and want to learn more about how you can use digital technology to change minds and influence behaviour, check out the following websites:

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