This post was originally posted May 18, 2017, and updated on January 17, 2019.
So your business has been online for a while now. You have a great-looking website, and you’re active on two or three popular social media platforms. But you’re still not getting the kind of response you’re looking for. You may be asking yourself, “What am I doing wrong?”
The missing piece might be an email list.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: life moves pretty fast on social platforms. Even for someone like me, who’s online for a significant portion of each day, it’s easy to miss something. Repeating important posts is really helpful, though it does get boring if you don’t at least switch it up every so often. Even then, that may not be enough. Factor in channels with less-than-accurate algorithms, non-linear timelines, and upticks in embedded advertising, and you start to see a trend of decreasing social media usage.
In addition, some of the behemoths of social media have recently come under fire for their mishandling of users’ personal data. As all business owners know, the way to your customer’s heart is to first build trust. That includes using tools that your customers trust, which includes social media outlets. Like it or not, we’re judged by the company we keep. The fact that people are starting to rethink their social media usage should at least start a conversation about how much a business wants to engage.
To grab attention, you have to follow your customers home, so to speak. (Just, not in a creepy stalker way, okay?)
So how do you do that?
The key is to rethink the way people communicate. How people respond to social media is different than how they respond to more direct communication, like email. If you’re like me, you read an email that’s sent to you and you know the message is aimed directly at you. A tweet or a Facebook post shouts, “Look at me! Look at what I’m doing!”, but a well-worded and properly-targeted email says, “Hey friend, did you see this thing I’m doing?” See the difference? The message might be exactly the same as your social posts (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that), but it sounds different when it’s coming from an opened email rather than a skimmed post. It feels more personal. (Even if it really isn’t!)
A tweet or a Facebook post shouts, “Look at me! Look at what I’m doing!”, but a well-worded and properly-targeted email says, “Hey friend, did you see this thing I’m doing?” See the difference?
How to get your email list started
One really simple way to get an email list started is to invite readers to subscribe to new blog posts! In a previous blog post, I talked about why I feel your business needs a blog. The best thing about maintaining email lists is that you can personalize your message to various audiences. If there are a variety of facets to your business or organization, you could use a simple contact form to invite visitors to join a list targeted to their interests. If you do this, you’ll be writing more specialized copy, but it’s well worth it for the enhanced engagement. For example, an arts organization might keep one list for artists and a different list for patrons. Two very different audiences, indeed!
A few words of caution
It bears mentioning that there are certain things to keep in mind when cultivating an email list. Following these rules is essential, not only to be in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, but also to earn the trust and goodwill of your readers. A reputable email list service will guide you through these steps. Also, if you think there’s even a remote possibility that your content might be requested by people outside of the United States, you’ll want to make sure your email collecting method is following GDPR guidelines. It’s always better to be more mindful of privacy than less.
What are you waiting for?
By targeting your audience, and sending your message directly to them with emails instead of just social media content, you should notice a significant improvement in communication and engagement. It may take time, and no small amount of experimentation, but the results will be well worth it.
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