Many businesses feel like they have to be on social media. There is a perception among many entrepreneurs that social media is one of the only ways to attract customers in our fractured internet space.
However, the truth is your business does not need social media to thrive. However, if your business is going to be on social media, you only need it for one thing — and that one thing isn’t collecting likes and follows.
You should only be using social media to build your email list.
Social media is a tactic for building your email list and making sales. Posting on social media and collecting vanity metrics is not a business strategy, it’s a hobby.
Social Media Ethical Issues
Social media platforms always seem to grab headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Whether it’s a platform’s potential as a government espionage tool or how it operates as a kind of clearinghouse for hackers dealing in confidential personal data, social media platforms seem to be under the spotlight in ways they haven’t ever been before.
On top of privacy and data security concerns, there is an increasing consensus among mental health experts and artificial intelligence researchers that social media is bad for your health, and that the platforms’ reliance on addiction algorithms poses a serious public health threat.
Every business needs to carefully consider if their use of social media is making the world a better place, or if it is just feeding the beast.
Social media can be a force for good, and it can be a tool to help you build your business. But, you have to go into social media marketing with your eyes wide open.
Email Converts Better Than Social Media
One thing that social media isn’t is a shortcut to profits. Many social media posts are ephemeral by design. They are not evergreen like web content. An hour, a day, or a week after you post something to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, it disappears from newsfeeds. YouTube and TikTok content may be more lasting, but it is also a lot harder to create.
Most businesses find that the only way to get regular engagement on social media is to pay. Again, this is by design. Social media companies are businesses, not public service bureaus.
Another issue is that it is difficult to get someone to leave a social media platform to go and buy something. In the near future, you may be able to sell directly on social media platforms if you are willing to pay a piece of your sales to the platform.
Email is a much better tool for driving sales. A well-written email campaign will outperform a well written social media campaign. When you have a healthy email list, you don’t have to worry about a gatekeeping algorithm hiding your offer unless you pay a toll.
Social media vanity metrics are intoxicating. Who doesn’t want a million followers?
However, dollars are a better metric of success than likes or followers.
If you are in business to make money, email will get you there much faster than social media alone.
Plus, you own the data on your email list. Facebook owns the data about your business page viewers and community members.
The best way to use social media, if you are going to use it all, is to get people onto your email list. Every status update and ad you run should serve your goal of building your email list.
That doesn’t mean you have to put a link to your newsletter in every social media post, but it does mean you need a clear strategy for using social media to build your email list.
Problems with Keeping Your Audience on Social Media
Why can’t you build an email list and a social media following? You can if you have the time and resources. But, there are several problems with keeping your audience on social media.
Social media algorithms are not designed to benefit you. Many social media algorithms are designed to agitate people. They reward content that stirs outrage. If you don’t have a business that runs on outrage, and I pray that you don’t, the algorithms may be working against your content.
Another role algorithms play is in maximizing the platform’s income. That means it will gradually get more expensive to reach the same number of people with your content and ads.
The sooner you can convert a social media follower into an email subscriber, the faster you can turn that person into a true fan and a happy, paying customer. As a bonus, it will cost you less to market to them. The longer a person is your follower on social media, the more expensive it is to reach them. The longer a person is your email subscriber, the less expensive it is to reach them.
People who don’t like you enough to be on your list aren’t your ideal customers
Some people will correctly note that many people who follow you on social media won’t want to join your email list. I hate to break it to you, but it is true that not everyone likes you that much.
The good news is that you don’t want everyone to join your email list. You only want your ideal customers.
Social media should be used to identify your ideal customers and to persuade them to join your email list.
This doesn’t mean you don’t care about the people who only like you enough to follow you on social media, but not enough to hear from you every week or two in their inboxes. But it makes the most business sense to prioritize the people who are most excited to hear from your business.
Social media platforms change all of the time without any advanced notice. It is hard to adapt to changes when you are continuously getting blindsided. Content that is popular today could be shadowbanned tomorrow.
Keeping your audience on social media increases the risk that you will wake up to your entire business disappearing because of a capricious rule change.
The cruel irony of social media is that while the platform and algorithm can change on a whim, it is extremely hard to pivot your business to something new. Many accounts have found that a change in their business model or niche made their large following useless.
I have been making money online for eight years. I pivot all of the time. Because I have an email list of people who enjoy my voice, it is easier for me to evolve. My email audience is growing with me. That is much harder to do on social media.
The Limits of Social Media Communities
Read the comments on any article about the dangers of social media or how social media marketing often fails businesses, and you will see social media marketers screaming about communities.
Facebook has a robust community-building feature. But it has its limits.
The most significant limitation is, who owns the data of your community? It isn’t you.
It may be easy today to reach your community, but social media companies have to keep making more profits to keep their shareholders happy. That means it is just a matter of time before social media communities become pay-to-play.
If you have people in your social media community on your email list, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Your fans can talk to each other on social media, and you have a low-cost way of talking to your community without dealing with social media algorithmic gatekeepers.
Instead of thinking of social media communities as your primary way of connecting with your customers, think of them as an optional add-on to your email list.
How Do You Move People to Your Email List?
Now that you are convinced that you need to prioritize building an email list, how do you get people from social media to your list?
This topic could be its own full-length article or book. However, there are a few things that any business can do to use social media to build their email list.
You can share content from your website that has an email newsletter opt-in initiation at the end. However, that content has to be really good. You will need to share long-form blog posts or cornerstone content that provides exceptional value.
You can also share social media posts that tell your followers about a bribe that may want. They get the information that is so good that they would’ve been willing to pay for it for the low cost of their email address.
Another method is to chop up bits of your long-form content and use it as teasers on social media to get people to click through and read the entire piece. Hopefully, some will love what you write so much that they will sign up on your website to join your list.
The fastest way to leverage social media for email list building is to use advertising. You need to turn pay-to-play to your advantage. Use targeted ads to drive traffic to an irresistible lead magnet.
If you are going to use social media in your business, it needs to be part of a business strategy that prioritizes building your email list. Otherwise, you are just lining the pockets of marketers and social media tycoons.
Join my Weirdo Poetry substack newsletter to get small strange stories and haiku in your inbox. You get new posts 2–3 times a week with the free version.