Social Media is Sexy, But Email Still Wins!

October 2, 2017  •  Audience Growth

In a given week, how much time do you spend building your platform?

Out of that time, how much is spent on social media, whether it’s posting content or growing your audience?

It’s true, social media is the global phenomenon that everyone is talking about (which we know because they’re posting those conversations on social media).

It’s sexy and it’s fun! There are so many exciting platforms, like Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and YouTube and Instagram and so many more!

But there’s one problem very few platform-builders are talking about… social media is a waste of time.

Sure, it’s a time-suck and distracting—but I mean more than that. If you’re spending more time and energy on social media than you’re spending on email marketing, you’re putting your focus in the wrong place.

If you’re spending more time on social media than your email list, you’re doing it wrong.

John Meese

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Why Email Still Trumps Social Media

Email marketing isn’t as glamorous or exciting as social media, mostly because it’s primarily a bunch of words (the less design, the better), and it’s been around for a long time.

The internet has done a lot to change the way in which we interact, but the core element of what we do online is still the same as it was long before the internet:

Human people interacting with human people.

Social media is like a park or a coffee shop: it’s great for meeting new and interesting people; but it’s not enough to sustain your relationship. Email marketing grows that meet-up relationship beyond coffee shop banter, and into an actual connection.

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Giving away your email address  is like handing someone your home address. There’s a lot more trust involved, because the relationship you build there will be more intimate.

And, if someone gives you their home address, they’re typically thinking one of two things:

  1. You seem nice, why don’t you come hang out?” OR
  2. Please, send me cool stuff!

That’s a broad concept, but let’s dive a little deeper. Here are three primary reasons why email still trumps social media online:

1. Email Gives You Direct Access to Your Subscribers

Social media counts on the fact that you’ll post content, and other people will log on to check it out—but email is completely different.

When your customer gives you their email address, they’re giving you an opportunity to reach them directly―there’s no longer a need to wait on common ground for your customer to show up.

You send out new content, and they receive it—every time, for as long as they want.

Of course, they still have to check their email (but research shows people conservatively check their email up to three times per day).

2. Email Has Higher Engagement Than Social Media

This may seem counterintuitive, because all the engagement happens in private inboxes instead of out in the open in the social space.

Still, it’s true. The average social media post will be seen by roughly 5% of your followers on Facebook, and the results are similar on most other b platforms.

By contrast, the average open rate is more than 20% for email broadcasts—and speaking from experience, you can get above average open rates with a little work (we regularly see 25% – 35% open rates, ourselves).

Finally, the proof is in the pudding: ConvertKit ran a study and found that an email subscriber is 15 times more likely to make a purchase than a social media follower.

Social media is great for attracting an audience, but email is where you build a relationship and make the sale.

John Meese

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3. You Own Your Email List, But Borrow Social Media

This is one of the most important differences between email marketing and social media marketing to understand, especially when you’re building a platform as a business and your primary income.

On social media, you have no control over the platform, content delivery, or long-term plans.

This was a rude awakening for many people who relied heavily on Facebook, when they changed their algorithm and slashed organic engagement overnight.

The same was true for anyone who relied heavily on Vine, which Twitter shut down earlier this year—leaving heavy users without a backup plan.

When you build your platform around your email list, you’re building your house on a rock. Social media, on the other hand, is an unreliable foundation.

It may not be flashy, cool, or even new—but email is the most effective marketing outlet around.

John Meese

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In summary, building your email list is important! What next? As it turns out, you’re in luck.

Next week, we’re hosting a 72-hour list-building challenge with our friends at ConvertKit!

Click here to sign up for the list-building challenge, where you’ll get daily tips & tricks from ConvertKit as well as support from our team, to help you get at least 100 subscribers in just three days! You’re gonna love this.

QUESTION: Are you spending more time on social media or email marketing right now?

About John Meese

John is the Dean of Platform University, and spends most of his time looking for new ways to serve Platform University students. He lives south of Nashville, TN with his wife and two young kids.

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  • Great article John. Wow – it’s easy to get caught up in social media tactics. Nice to be reminded that email is still way more of a personal connection. Thanks!

    • Thanks Dan! I know, it seems social media has so many different fads it’s hard to keep up. This research simply says that’s okay ?

  • Wendy Hamilton

    Well-written article, John! Getting caught up in building what doesn’t work must be avoided for anyone serious about being who they are created to be.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Wendy! And yes, we all have to say no to more things than we say yes to, to succeed.

      • Wow! Thanks for the article-but-also thanks to Wendy and John for those two golden tips about proper focus and how it is often important to say NO.

  • Quick question, John – What’s the difference between having people sign up to receive my blog in their inbox (through the sign-up form on that page), and having their email address in a separate email list? When I start a separate email list through a mail service, can I include those blog addresses, or do I have to ask them to sign up separately? Thanks!

    • Hey Mike! Good question, are you using WordPress’s built-in blog subscription option to get followers instead of a service like ConvertKit, right now? If so, you don’t actually have access to those email addresses and can’t take them anywhere else even if you wanted. Not ideal.

  • When I first started posting I only posted on Facebook. After having quite a bit of success on Facebook (over 850,000 individuals have liked my page) I started a website. Shortly after that Facebook change their algorithm to what it is currently. Now less than 1% percent of the people Who liked my page actually see my current post. I now have a growing email list, but it pales in comparison to to what I had on Facebook. I have not been very successful in converting these Facebook followers into email addresses, because Facebook never shows them my post anymore. Hopefully I can gain something from the List building challenge.

    • Dawn White

      Pat, have you tried boosting or running a campaign? With so many people using and posting on FB, there’s only so many posts one person can see and there has to be some sort of prioritization, I would think.

      • Thanks Dawn. I have. But I don’t sell products and the only way I make money is through ads on my site. My past campaigns have gotten me more likes, but then Facebook doesn’t show my future posts to those new likes. I am thinking about doing an ad campaign to get people to download my new free devotional ebooks. I hope to set it up so that when someone clicks on the ad they will be immediately taken to my site and not to my Facebook page. Taking people to your Facebook page really doesn’t do anyone any good.

  • Maya Spikes

    Very helpful post! Do I have to sign up for ConvertKit’s 30-Day trial to participate in the List Building Challenge? I respect ConvertKit, but I’m already with another email service provider for my blog (not WordPress’ built-in subscription service).

    • Nope! The challenge was open to everyone, regardless of what tool you use.