Using social media to grow an email list is not a new concept, but it is one that may be under-utilised. That’s largely because social media platforms make it seem so easy to connect with an audience, many people wonder why they should bother with an email list at all.
While that’s a good question, the truth is that an email list is a valuable business asset when you take the time to build one, even more so than your social media following. Keep reading to find out why.
Why build your own email list?
Social media is a great tool for connecting, brand building, marketing, and growing an audience. However, if you never move that audience onto your own personal email list, you’re leaving yourself at the whims and mercy of the ‘powers that be’. That means you could lose everything you worked so hard to build in an instant.
Let’s be real, social media accounts get suspended and deleted all the time, and there’s often not a discernible or reasonable explanation as to why. They are also notoriously difficult to get back.
Additionally, though you can do a great job at raising brand awareness, crafting your brand identity, and creating a bond of trust with an audience through social media, the truth is that email marketing can foster an even closer relationship and make that bond of trust even stronger.
When someone gives you their email address, they are giving you access to something that is quite personal, almost the equivalent of giving you their phone number. That definitely indicates a higher level of trust than a follow or a like on social media.
Which social media platform is best for growing your list?
This is a question that really boils down to personal preference and knowing where you will find your audience. If you know your audience would never be caught dead on Facebook, then you also know it’s probably not a platform you want to waste your time on.
With that said, arguably the top four social media platforms being used successfully right now include:
Keep in mind that you don’t have to use all of them. Especially if you find social media marketing overwhelming, try starting with just one platform that suits your style and needs best. Use your time to cultivate that audience, and then you can spread your attention to other platforms, if it fits your goals.
How to use social media platforms to build an email list
Depending on which social media platform you choose to use, what you do to attract an audience and grow an email list can look a bit different. But there are several different tactics you can employ that can work equally well regardless of platform.
1. Use your socials to promote your newsletter
If you have a newsletter that you create content for on a regular basis, you can repurpose it for your social media accounts and draw new sign-ups that way.
Feature the content – or an excerpt of that content – as a new post and create a clear CTA at the end of it that directs people to sign up for your email list if they want more content like it.
If it’s a platform like Instagram where you can’t include a direct link, you can place a temporary link in your bio, or use a link service like Smart.bio to serve as a home base for all of your links. Then you can simply direct your audience to your bio.
2. Wield stories like a weapon
A weapon of connection! Granted, you have to have at least 10,000 followers or be verified before you can share a direct link in your stories – at least with Instagram. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still use your stories creatively to drive viewers to your website.
For instance, you can direct followers to your bio and place a direct link there that will lead them to your website or landing page.
Once visitors click that link in your bio, your own website can do the heavy lifting in guiding them to sign up for your newsletter. Check out these 10 powerful conversion tips for better newsletter landing pages to help with that.
If you do happen to have a larger audience already, then it’s even easier. You can simply include a direct link in your story that leads straight to your sign-up page, and there’s no confusion on what you want from viewers!
3. Create ads
Today, pretty much all of the social media platforms mentioned allow you to create ads. Depending on the platform and its individual features, you can try creating targeted ads that can be shown to your followers.
Again, depending on the platform, these ads can also be extended out and shown to a targeted audience you know will be interested in what you have to offer, but aren’t people that actually follow you.
To utilise ads effectively, try creating one that directs visitors to a landing page, where you give them a cool freebie in exchange for opting in with their email.
This practice is known as ‘lead capturing’, which is essentially any method that collects the contact information of people who could be potential customers for your business. It’s a reliable way of growing your email list and there are always opportunities to optimise your lead capture strategy.
4. Don’t ignore your social bio
You can create a bio on each of your social media accounts with a compelling CTA and link to sign up for your email list. This is where brevity and your ad copy skills can shine.
Your bio is prime social media real estate and it’s one of the first places new followers will look to learn more about you. It only makes sense to use that space to move them forward into a deeper connection with you and your brand.
Try using a tool like Tailwind to schedule your Instagram posts and add a link to the images in your bio using Smart.bio. That gives your followers a contextual landing page so they know exactly where to sign up and get the special offer.
If you’re a coach or counsellor, maybe you offer a free 15 minute consultation. If you’re an author, maybe you offer a free short story. Whatever your offer, make it relevant to your brand with a clear CTA.
5. Run a contest
Everyone loves a great giveaway or contest. They’re a wonderful way to engage your audience in a fun and ‘unique to your brand’ way. Offer something compelling as a prize and put a time limit on the contest to create a sense of urgency and competitiveness.
Just make sure that you follow each platform’s rules of engagement for contests and giveaways, and make your terms clear to your followers. Also don’t forget to make opting into your email list as part of the steps to win, with clear instructions on how the winner will be chosen.
If entrants don’t know up front that opting-in is required to win, they may not do it and that can make it difficult for you to contact your winner to notify them of their win, as some platforms may not allow you to do that within the app.
Again, check the rules of your chosen platform carefully to make sure any contests, sweepstakes, or giveaways are legal and in compliance with the rules.
6. Use the ‘Live’ feature
Both Instagram and Facebook have a ‘live’ video feature that allows you to go live with video and interact with your followers. ‘Lives’ are a great way to connect with your audience on an up-close and personal level, and while you’re interacting with them, you can tell them where they can go to opt-in for more information from you, whether that’s your website or a specific landing page for something you are giving away as an incentive.
The great thing about going ‘live’ is that the algorithms tend to favour them, which means more of your audience sees them. Additionally, you can save them so that they are available for visitors to watch later, if they missed the live event. There are a ton of ways to use the ‘live’ feature, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
7. Create videos and reels
Videos and reels are tactics that are best suited for platforms like Instagram – which is moving more and more toward heavily favouring video content – and fast-rising stars like TikTok. Reels are short video clips that may be funny, cutesy, or solemn, depending on the message you’re trying to convey.
Reels can be used to direct people to your website or your bio, where you can then prompt them to sign up for your email list. That makes videos and reels a simple, yet powerful, way to connect with your audience and move them toward connecting with you more personally.
While these aren’t the only methods of using social media to build your email list, they are a handful of the most tried and true. The best thing to do is start testing what works for your brand or business, and then spend more time doing what works, and wasting less time on what doesn’t.
Melissa Megginson Axtell is the Director of Community Marketing at Okendo, the new standard in customer reviews. Before joining Okendo, Melissa spent 9 years at Tailwind helping build the early marketing function and cultivating a thriving community. You can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram at @MelMegg.