I Refused to Grow an Email List, Just Like You. Here’s What I Learned
I placed all my efforts on social media; (un)surprisingly it didn’t pan out
When I started writing online, one of the first pieces of advice I received was to start my own newsletter. I thought to myself ‘why bother?’
I was on social media, people could easily see what I had to say. Right?
Over the past few years, as I dipped my toes in the entrepreneur waters, I’ve had to face the consequences of my stubbornness.
I thought I knew better than those who were already successful. I thought I was special and I would make it work for me, my way.
I thought I was learning and pacing myself. The truth is that I was unfocused, unclear on my goals, and on what I really wanted for myself.
Lesson 1: Social Media is Fleeting, Stop Chasing It
Four years ago, I had a dream. I wanted to create an online space to sell courses aimed at helping young professionals advance in their careers.
Online courses were just starting to boom in 2015, and all the rage was about monetizing your Facebook account.
There were webinars, there were podcasts, there were so many efforts put into that one social network.
A few months into 2016, the internet started turning towards Periscope marketing and the same cycle started — courses, podcasts, booklets, communities, and so on.
Periscope didn’t last for long, and since last year, Instagram has been the go-to network for online marketing.
Now, in 2019, people are slowly turning to Pinterest. I see this social network being brought every other day, either on Medium or on one of the many newsletters I’m subscribed to.
What I learned from studying social media marketing
Over the past four years, I’ve been wasting my time learning how to market on each social network. By the time I figured it out, they were irrelevant.
To effectively monetize your social networks, you need to be an early adopter or pay someone else to do it for you.
Instead of focusing my efforts on growing my list of followers in an environment I could control, I tried to chase my audiences wherever they went.
If you are going to invest time in learning any online marketing techniques, you should first master how to grow an email list. Then, and only then, you should start looking into other channels.
Solopreneur Tip: What works on social media today will probably not work tomorrow.
Lesson 2: Be Who You Are, Not Who the Internet Wants You to Be
Depending on how you brand yourself, you may want the freedom to communicate and share whatever content you want.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent trend for brands to be edgy and current. Some even like to throw some curse words in their copywriting. Some writers do, too.
You may have an opinion that’s controversial and doesn’t sit well with most audiences, other than your niche. Or you’re all about the #freethenipple movement.
All of that is perfectly fine if that’s who you are. Sometimes, however, the internet is a confusing place and it doesn’t want you to be who you are.
It wants to control you and force you to comply with its vision of what’s acceptable.
What I learned from growing up online
We are all different people, born and raised in different locations, with different cultures and moral codes. We’re bound to clash every now and then.
People following your newsletter do so because they trust you and they are interested in what you have to say. These are people ready to support you.
Growing an email list allows you to have a private and safe space to reach out to your people, without fear of being censored or hated for your message.
Solopreneur Tip: Reduce the hate, kill censorship; invest in a channel where you have complete freedom to express yourself.
Lesson 3: You Don’t Have to Start from Scratch Every Time
Ever since I’ve been online, I’ve always been involved in one project or another.
I’ve written for Fanfiction.net and Fictionpress, I’ve had several blogs on Blogger and Wordpress, I’ve been involved in Facebook groups, online communities, and all sorts of social networks.
Every single time, I’ve had to start from zero. In every one of my projects, I had to work really hard to build an audience for my work.
The truth is that, even though my focus has shifted throughout the years, my message hasn’t changed all that much — I’ve always been invested in helping other people.
What I learned from starting over
Platforms and projects come and go, but the essence of who you are it never changes. Your work may attract audiences but ultimately people follow you because of what you have to say.
I could’ve started an email list 10 years ago. Can you imagine how powerful that would be; having people who watched me grow, and stuck with me through it all?
Even though I wasn’t active the entire time, I could’ve kept that communication channel open — isn’t that what we do on social networks, after all?
Solopreneur Tip: Your followers won’t move between platforms as you do.
Lesson 4: Separate Professional from Personal
Most of my projects have been one-person jobs. No one else can write as I do, no one has the same approach to people as I do. I am unique, as you are.
That being said, I leaned too much into my uniqueness. I’ve often used personal accounts for professional purposes and blurred the lines.
Whenever I failed to engage with my audience on a professional level, I’d do it on a personal level and tell myself it was okay. They were following me so they should be interested in my personal life. Not exactly.
A great example is Amy Porterfield, an online marketing guru. I love what she does, and I listen to every word she says. I want to know how she does what she does, and what were the steps she took to get to where she is.
That said, I can’t say I’d be particularly interested in knowing how often she goes to the cinema, or to a park. It would be fun, the first few times, but at the end of the day, that’s not why I follow her.
What I learned from mixing my personal and professional lives
I thought if I kept sharing my life in social media, my audience would stick with me until I was ready to start over. I was wrong.
People want to know who you are in moderate doses, not in a constant stream — unless your last name is Kardashian.
Social media makes it so much easier to just shoot a quick post to your audience. It’s far more convenient than composing an entire email.
That’s why it’s important to keep your fans separate from your family and friends.
In an email, you won’t feel inclined to share a picture of what you had for breakfast, or what were the five quotes that inspired you in a single day.
In an email, you feel compelled to make a point, precisely because of its added effort.
Solopreneur Tip: Don’t confuse noise with value.
Lesson 5: Be Honest, Be Accountable, Be Successful
Like any other millennial, my trademark is to start a project and give up midway. It’s shameful and true.
The great advantage of using social media to grow your audience is that you (falsely) feel you’re constantly engaged because you’re always there.
You are online, you are available. You are reading and commenting, sharing and posting. People see you being active. I thought I was being active!
I wasn’t. I’d usually have a strong start, I’d be heavily present in social media. I’d be involved in all sorts of threads and discussions, helping out as many people as I could.
Until I’d get bored and my personal-turned-professional accounts, would just go back to being normal personal accounts with analytics.
My accounts all remained active, I was still using them so I didn’t feel like I had abandoned anything. I never really felt accountable.
What I learned from not doing as I was told
From the moment I created my first newsletter, I have felt a huge sense of responsibility. These are people who voluntarily gave me their email, and asked me to communicate with them.
These are people that every week are expecting my email, people who want to know how I’m doing, people who need my help to achieve their dreams.
Unlike with social media, I can’t just share with them my favorite superhero shows — at least, not forever.
I have a responsibility towards these people, I pledged to contribute to their lives with value and meaningful content. And I have every intention to meet those expectations.
Solopreneur Tip: Set up an accountability system for yourself if you want to achieve success.
Should You Start an Email List? YES!
I’m sharing my story so you don’t wake up in 10 years' time and have the same epiphany I had. Don’t waste your time because that, too, is fleeting.
If this cautionary tale isn’t enough to convince you, keep in mind there are many other benefits to growing your email list.
Five added benefits to starting a newsletter
- You can easily share documents and resources with your audience;
- You have full creative control on how everything looks;
- Your emails can be as short or as long as you want;
- Your message isn’t lost in a never-ending scrolling motion;
- You have a direct channel to sell your products.
Have you started your newsletter yet? If not, you may want to check the article below.
If You’re a Solopreneur, Here’s How To Start Your Email List Today
Which platform, what to send, and how to find your frequency
If you’ve started your email list but you’re not sure how to convince people to join it, I have 3 ideas you can use.
My name is Mauro Sacramento, currently a Solopreneur and Writer. I’m originally from Portugal but I’m currently living in Bulgaria. I’m obsessed with Superheroes, Netflix, anime and video games!