Building a Following: Social Media Followers vs. Email Subscribers



Whether a consumer subscribes through a website form, as part of an online order or on your social media page, the simple act of subscribing implies interest, and you need to remember this.

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As social media continues its domination as the major source of information and news, many companies find themselves questioning older internet marketing strategies. Some have already made the decision to move content away from their conventional websites. This move begs the question: Is email marketing next to go?

I don’t think that time is here just yet, and it may never be. Each company is different, and maybe you don’t need to prioritize an email subscription program—or maybe social media isn’t as important for your brand. For now, email and social media both have their place within a mature content marketing strategy, but there may be reasons why your company prioritizes one over the other.

Expand and Engage with Social Media Followers

There is little doubt that one of the most effective ways to engage with consumers is through an active, well-managed social media campaign. When social media followers can interact directly with your company, they become engaged in your business and your message in a way that simply wasn’t possible 15 years ago. This level of engagement allows you to respond directly to customer concerns and provide specific solutions.

At the same time that it allows for individualized attention, social media also provides an opportunity to reach an unlimited number of consumers. Much like traditional word-of-mouth advertising, shared posts allow prospects to find you without ever actively seeking you out, while putting your message in front of consumer groups you never thought to target. Even if you only have a handful of followers, the right share could pivot that post to get it in front of thousands—even millions—of people. If it goes viral, the sky’s the limit.

Social Media Won’t Reach Everyone

Unfortunately, simply relying on social media followers to spread your message and drive sales won’t be enough for your business. Even if you have thousands of devoted followers, your post will only reach a small fraction of those individuals, and that reach is steadily declining. In the first half of 2016, the average Facebook post received just six interactions per 1,000 followers. To put it another way: Fewer than one percent of your followers will interact with any given post, and Facebook still has the highest engagement among social media outlets.

There are many factors at work driving this low interaction rate, including:

Facebook continues to change its News Feed algorithms
These recent updates resulted in a 52% drop in publishers’ organic reach. Since these changes were designed to promote content tailored to user interests, your posts are less likely to reach casual followers.

Following a company on social media is low-risk for consumers
Aside from the occasional post in their feed, there’s no other forced interaction. This means that just because someone likes your page doesn’t mean your content will ever match their expressed interests (and show up on their feed).

With these changes, it’s more important than ever to build as large a following as you can—because the more followers you have, the more of them will see your posts and potentially share it with others.

Social Media Success Takes Effort

It’s also important to keep in mind that social media includes a lot more than just Facebook and Twitter, and that the type of interactions that appeal to consumers change over time. Picture posts used to be the biggest draw, but their impact has dropped in recent years and video posts now drive the most engagement. If you’re going to run a successful social media marketing campaign, you need to:

  • Understand your ideal customer’s social preferences
  • Stay on top of trends
  • Be ready to shift course when those things change

Email Subscriptions Offer More Qualified Leads

As you build a social media following, the key is largely in numbers—more followers equals more shares and more interactions. With an email campaign, it’s all about the quality of your leads.

Whether a consumer subscribes through a website form, as part of an online order or on your social media page, the simple act of subscribing implies interest — either they were interested enough in your existing content to want to learn more, or they have already purchased from you.

Regardless, they’ve engaged with your company on some level, and they’re interested in further engagement, which will improve your chance for sales. According to a study by DMA, 66% of online consumers said that email marketing influenced their purchase.

Email also guarantees a much higher percentage of viewership. Your subscribers don’t have to hunt down your post or happen upon them in their feed because your message arrives directly in their inbox—coming from a name or brand they recognize. On average, over 21% of all emails you send will get opened and 2-5% of your subscribers will click through for additional content.

With email marketing software such as Emma or MailChimp, you can track subscriber behaviors and set up automatic follow-up campaigns targeting specific behavior. You can send subscribers who never opened your first email a similar follow-up communication, while you can send focused follow-up emails, catered to customer interests, to readers who clicked on specific links.

Email Isn’t Perfect

Spam filters are getting smarter all the time, and new “clutter” filters are starting to pick up all the things spam filters leave behind, which could have a major effect on open rates. Additionally, not everyone uses email. If you’re targeting a younger demographic, many of them prefer to communicate through social media or chat tools.

Arguably the biggest drawback to email marketing is that it requires subscribers to come to you. Your email won’t get shared with subscribers’ friends the way your social media post might. While recipients might click through on links in your email, such as an article, and share it on their wall—that’s a long shot. View email as a direct communication from you to your subscribers, with a goal of engaging those individuals specifically, and hopefully moving them along to the next step in your sales funnel.

Which is Right for Your Company?

When deciding whether to invest in building your social media following or increasing your email subscriptions, you need to consider the specific needs of your business:

Are you looking to increase your exposure or are you a known commodity?
If you already have significant brand recognition, chances are consumers are seeking you out, providing the perfect opportunity to build a highly profitable email marketing subscription base. If you’re still building your brand, an effective social media campaign can help you reach thousands—maybe even millions—of new prospects.

What’s your demographic?
Depending on your target audience, social media may not have the reach you or your marketing team wants. According to Pew Research, nearly all young adult internet users (aged 19-29) are on social media, but only about half of internet users over 65 are posting and tweeting. That trend is shifting, so it’s critical to stay on top of the behaviors of your target consumer.

The Best Approach: Integrate Both into a Powerful Marketing Plan

The most effective content strategies involve a combination of social media and email marketing. An effective social media strategy should expand your brand and create opportunities for direct interactions with your customers. At the same time, you should encourage your social media followers to subscribe to receive additional information.

Meanwhile, you should target your email campaigns and seek to engage specific audiences who have already proven their interest in your services. Links within each email should drive social media followers, and subscribers to your website, blog and other owned channels, allowing them the opportunity to respond directly to the otherwise one-way medium.

The more ways you can engage prospects, the more opportunities you have to turn them into returning customers. Neither email nor social media offer the perfect, all-in-one solution for engaging consumers—so don’t settle for one or the other. Use them together, and allow them to build off each other.

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