Email marketing or social media – where should you invest your time?

A frequent sentiment I hear from promotional product distributors and sign shops is that they have a great audience on a specific channel (for example Facebook, Twitter, or their email list), so why do they need to focus on building audiences elsewhere?

You don’t necessarily have to have a presence on every single social media network, but I strongly recommend building an audience in at least two key places: the social network that makes the most sense for your business (usually the network your customers and prospects are on), and your list of email subscribers.

NeighborsTo understand the importance of having audiences in both places, think about this: Have you ever made small talk with a neighbor on the street? Someone you’re friendly with, but not someone you’d invite into the house for a drink?

This is a good illustration of the difference between social media and email marketing.

Social media followers are like the neighbors who chat with you on the street, while email subscribers are like the neighbors who would invite you into their homes. The groups are different, but both are important to your online success.

But on which group should focus your efforts?

Facebook LikeLet’s look a bit more closely to answer that question. Social media followers connect with you on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter. These people are usually interested in exclusive content, special offers and discounts.

They are also interested in what you have to say, are looking to learn more about your organization or business, want to keep up-to-date with events or happenings, want to share feedback and are interested in finding ways they can further support you.

Email MarketingEmail subscribers give you permission to contact them directly via email. These people are usually interested in exclusive content, special offers and discounts.

They are also interested in what you have to say, are looking to learn more about your organization or business, want keep up-to-date with events or happenings and are interested in finding ways they can further support you.

Yes, both groups may want the same things from you, but it’s the nature of the tool that makes all the difference.

Social media transactions require a much lighter commitment. It’s easy to follow someone on Twitter or “like” a page on Facebook. There’s a bigger commitment made by the person who hands over their email address and invites you into their inbox.

Another big difference is that social media has a fleeting nature, while email gives you more control.

Tweets flow past the stream. Facebook has algorithms to determine who sees what. With an email, you’re in control. You decide when and how often to send a message, and it goes straight to the target.

This doesn’t mean that you should give up on social media followers. Social media is a crucial tool that allows you to start conversations and attract more people to your cause.

Instead, focus on turning social media followers into email subscribers and vice versa so you can make the most of your reach.

So what should you take away from this?

All audiences are not created equal. Your prospects and customers are going to have individual preferences as to where they choose to connect with you, based upon the level of communication they are interested and the specific social networks that they frequent.

It’s your job to have a presence in each of these places, and engage with your audience where they choose to connect.

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