I once made a terrible mistake.
I told anyone who would listen email was a dying tool and that RSS and platforms like social media were more important. And I didn’t make an effort to build an engaged email list on my website.
Now I know I was wrong.
I will always put my email list first, and if you want to build a following online or increase website traffic, you should value your email list over your social media presence.
There, I said it.
There’s something about confession that’s good for the soul.
Yes, email isn’t as sexy as social media, but it’s personal and it’s direct.
If you’re a business person with a limited about of time and resources, you will get more value if you invest in your email list.
3 reasons why your email list is king
#1. When they change the rules, you’re less vulnerable
Earlier this year, Facebook changed the way it displays people’s content in favour of those who pay for advertising (or sponsored stories). Google also regularly changes how it ranks content in its result, and last year it even killed its RSS tool Google Reader.
With an engaged list, your website is less vulnerable to these types of changes and you have more control than RSS can provide. For example, if your blog falls down the rankings after a Google algorithm update, you can still communicate directly with your readers via your email list.
Similarly, if your favourite social media network suddenly stops to display your posts, you can keep customers up to date and promote your page yourself. And you won’t have to explain to non-techies how RSS works and what they need to use it.
Takeaway: you own your email list; you don’t own your search rankings or social media channels.
#2. Members of your email list want to engage with you
Email will always attract more customers, leads and readers to your website. This is why it makes sense to spent more time adding value to your list than it does to spend time tweeting or sharing content on social media.
You can use your email list to conduct useful reader or customer research. I sometimes email members of my list and ask: “What frustrates you most about writing?” This type of research helps because I can use my reader’s answers to create more meaningful and valuable content for them.
You could do the same by emailing your list and asking them what they find frustrating about your industry or even about the types of products or services you provide. Then, you can use this free information to improve your products, services and online content.
Takeaway: if you’re limited on time or resources, engage with your email list before you turn to social media.
#3. Your email list contains your biggest fans
I’m fascinated by how creative people use their email list to engage with their biggest fans. Several authors I’ve come across improve their books and other high-value content based on feedback from members of their list.
My favourite example is Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt, the authors of Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success). They send members of their lists “beta” copies of their books to read, they offer discounts to members of their list and they let their list know as soon as they have a new book out.
I know readers of Tweak Your Biz aren’t necessarily looking to promote a book. You can still take advantage of this strategy by providing your biggest fans early access to your latest products or services. Then, you can use their feedback to iron out any problems before you go to market. That sounds easier and cheaper than spending money on pay-per-click advertising or commissioning customer research.
Takeaway: members of your email list know best what you’re about, they’ll forgive your mistakes and they will help you improve products or services.
Social Media Is Dead. Long Live Social Media
I’m not writing off social media altogether. I use networks like Google+ and Twitter all the time. And LinkedIn is an ideal network for business to business networking. If you want to do the same, consider social media as a secondary channel for amplifying your existing content, for making connections and for conducting free research.
You can even use social media to give users what they want and to support your email marketing activities.
For example, you could:
- Provide links for joining your email list on your social media profiles
- Share extracts on social media from high-value content that you provide email subscribers
- End your emails with a call-to-action that asks customers and readers to share your content on their social media channels
The goal here is to get maximum value from the limited amount of time and resources you have for online marketing. And nine times out of ten, your email list will deliver first.
Do you value your email list over social media? Are you an RSS fanboy/girl at heart? Where do you spend your valuable time and marketing resources? Please let me know in the comments section below.
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