Grow your audience. Build your list. It’s a very common piece of advice given to people who are interested in Internet marketing and making money online. This is true for people who want to make money through strategies like affiliate marketing and blogging, just as much as it is true for more traditional businesses who want to develop their brand presence on the web. Build your list and reach your customers, followers, fans and readers.
And most of the time when people talk to you about building your list, they’re talking about collecting e-mails and adding them to your mailing list. When you send out an email newsletter or an email blast, you capitalize on a direct channel of communication between you and your subscribers. They don’t have to take the initiative to visit your site, because you’re talking directly to them.
The Social Web
A growing number of Internet marketing and branding experts, however, are telling people that social media is the new mailing list. They’re saying that this trend has been going on for the last several years and you’d be foolish to let it pass you by.
The problem is that while email blasts give you that direct channel of communication, networks like Facebook are limiting your organic reach. If you have 1,000 people who like your Facebook page, maybe only a couple dozen will see the post you just published.
Sure, you might encourage your fans to opt-in to getting notifications, but that can be a hard sell and it’s an extra step that many people might not be willing to take. This is one of the most common arguments for why email isn’t dead and you should still focus your efforts on building your traditional mailing list.
And while I don’t necessarily disagree with that point of view, it is inherently flawed in its argument for one very simple reason.
The Visibility Problem
When someone decides to “like” your Facebook page, they may not see every post that you publish. It’s all based on the secret Facebook algorithm. Even so, there’s a good chance that they’ll see at least some of your posts some of the time. Your job is to work on increasing that percentage. This means that you need your fans to engage with your content more often. You want them to like (and react to) your posts. You want them to comment. And you want them to share.
Discussion threads and contest posts are good methods for encouraging that kind of interaction. The nature of Facebook will continue to evolve and you need to be prepared to adapt to the new environment. To bolster your organic reach, you might need to pay for a “boost” every now and then. It’s the cost of doing business.
When someone subscribes to your mailing list and provides you with their e-mail address, they will receive all your messages, assuming they don’t get caught in the spam filter. That sounds great, right? The challenge is that you are in no way guaranteed that every person will actually read all your messages. In fact, it’s very unlikely that everyone will read all your messages all the time. Not even some of the people will read all your messages all the time.
The notion of a consistent 100% open rate on email messages is a pipe dream and an unrealistic goal to attain. The real world percentage can vary greatly, but it must be understood that the effort you put into improving your email open rate is not unlike the effort you put in to improving your organic reach (and paid reach) on a social network like Facebook.
Extending Your Reach
We also have to remember that Facebook, as powerful as it may be, is not the only game in town. Growing your tribe through channels like Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest are still very much worth your while. When you strategically cross-post across these networks, you unlock a far greater chance that your content will be seen. Because if someone likes your Facebook page, they probably follow you on Instagram and Twitter too.
Think about your social reach the same way you think about the open rate on your mail-outs. And grow those lists — all of them — to give yourself the best shot at success.