Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing? Which is Better?

I get asked this question all of the time! Should I focus on social media marketing or email marketing? Which one is more important for my online business? 

Ok, I am going to preface this by saying that I absolutely love social media marketing.

The arrival of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media networks we use today completely changed what digital marketing meant for small businesses. Before that, your digital marketing options were limited. There was your homepage, landing pages, and maybe pop-up ads on some websites, and that was it. 

Social media changed all that. It allowed small businesses to reach out to their customer base like never before. They could now build a following on these networks to keep them informed about new products, services, sales, and content. Best of all, it was CHEAP. When it came to making the most of your marketing budget, it was hard to beat social media!

But while social media changed everything, there is one proven marketing strategy that’s been around for decades, even before the widespread adoption of the internet: the newsletter. Equipped with a mailing list, small business owners could reach out to their customers in a personal way: through the mail! Since then, email marketing has revolutionized the newsletter, but the basic process is the same:

Build a list, create valuable content, send it to your list. 

The Importance of an Email List

Believe it or not, the most valuable asset your business may have is your email list, especially if you’ve spent years building it (even passively).

Here is the thing about your email list: you own it. Unlike social media, email lists offer you a direct connection with your customers outside of a media company’s influence. When and where your posts show up on someone’s newsfeed is up to an algorithm, but your newsletter is always going to be going straight into your customers’ inboxes (provided they whitelisted you, so be sure to ask).

However, the main reason why an email list is so important is that it connects you with actual, interested customers. If you are putting out an Instagram post it’s going to be seen by people, but how many of them are going to take that extra step to find your website or link in bio? With an email list, the people on it trust you enough to give you their email address. There is a huge component of trust there! 

How to Build Your Email List

Building up your email list will not happen overnight. No matter what kind of incentives you put in front of your followers and potential clients, not all of them will give you their email addresses.

Why? Because email addresses are valuable. There was a time when people really didn’t think about guarding their email address, but then came the arrival of SPAM! Nowadays, almost no one gives over their email address out of fear that someone will give it away, sell it, or otherwise abuse it. 

SIDE NOTE: I have to share a funny story with you! Eben, my son is 19 and he has always called junk mail, spam! It cracks me up every time he checks the mail. I ask, did we get anything fun? He says, no, just a bunch of spam as he drops it in the recycling bin! Haha! Anyway…

Trust is Key

Rule #1 about building an email list, assure the customer that you will NEVER abuse their email address. Communicate that you know it’s a privilege to be given someone’s contact info, so you will never send them endless amounts of spam or WORST, sell their email addresses to someone else. GASP! Trust me, this is a vital step.

But even if you assure them that you will treat their email like gold, they usually still need a great reason to hand it over. It’s a transaction: they give you their email address, so they should get something valuable in return. And often, the best way is by offering them a free download loaded with value and actionable tips that will give them a small win.

A lead magnet or opt-in is a piece of content that should be at the same standards as your paid products. It should be a polished and professional document that provides genuinely valuable information. By promoting your lead magnets everywhere, including your webinars, podcast, blog posts, and YouTube videos, you can double your email list in one year alone! P.S. It’s true, I do this every year! 

Oh, another reason why you want to provide them with excellent free content is that it will give them a taste of everything you have to offer. If your lead magnets are super high-quality, they will say to themselves, WOW! I bet working with her is going to be amazing! 

Next Up: The Email Funnel

So, you’ve gotten a ton of folks to sign up for your email list! 

Now what?

Here is the thing about email lists: just because you get someone’s email doesn’t mean that you will keep them. They can hit that unsubscribe button at the bottom of your emails at any time, which is why you need to make sure to provide them with other great content to keep them on the hook.

Yes, you should have regular email content (a newsletter!) that keeps them up-to-date with all of your new content! Maybe that means your weekly blog, podcast or video, but it could also include promotions, testimonials, tid-bits of value content, and a personal greeting at the beginning of every email. That’s long-term, though. 

In terms of getting them to convert to paying customers, you should have a series of about five targeted emails designed to nurture them and bring them about to try one of your products or services. This is called a welcome nurture sequence and in these emails, you can introduce them to some of your products, provide testimonials (social proof is key!), answer FAQs and simply offer them small wins to solve their problem. Do it right, and by the end of the funnel, they should convert.

And if you aren’t sure how to do this, well, we’d be delighted to design your “Welcome” email nurture sequence for you! 

Social Media Marketing

Again, let me repeat: social media is great! It’s awesome! I love it! I use it every day in my online business! You should be using it to build your small business and connect with your customers.

However, you need to know that unless you are putting a ton of your budget behind it, social media is more of a “long game.” Believe me, I know! I have people ask me all of the time about my Instagram numbers! I wish I could say there is a magic wand you can wave to get thousands of followers and comments, but really it’s all about engagement! Social media is exceptional for real-time engagement with current and potential customers and driving people to your content. But in my option, you should also be using it to convert your social media followers into email subscribers ASAP.


A Terrifying Story

Let me tell you a terrifying story about social media that impacted me a few years ago.

I’m very proud of my following on Facebook. I’ve worked hard on building it over the years and have created an incredible amount of content on it. (I definitely don’t put as much effort into it as Instagram and Pinterest, but it’s still a vital part of my business marketing.) I can’t begin to tell you the hours I have spent posting, commenting, and engaging.

So, one morning I woke up and discovered that all of my posts were GONE. All of them, all 15+ years of them! Talk about a shock! I immediately contacted everyone on my team to find out if they could see any of my posts. Maybe it was just me! But no, they had vanished.

I immediately contacted Facebook Support to ask for help, and was told there was nothing they could do. There was some kind of a site error or glitch, and all of that content was gone forever. 

A Wake Up Call

It was an incredible wake-up call and shifted my point of view on the permanence of social media. Eventually, all of my posts reappeared (thank heavens), but it was a stressful few weeks. The reality is that social media algorithms and automated filters can make mistakes, and by doing so, inflict massive amounts of damage onto your small business

All of this isn’t to say you shouldn’t be putting a ton of effort and resources into social media. It’s still an incredible way to reach out to your audience and actively engage with them. But putting all of your eggs in one basket is a mistake, which is why I’m such a big believer in developing your email list. That is YOURS, and no one can take it away from you. (As long as you follow email marketing guidelines!) 

So, What Did We Learn? 

Let’s review what we learned:

  1. Social media marketing and email marketing are two of the best ways to reach out to your customers online.
  2. They both offer incredible value, often showing the best ROI of any other marketing method. Email marketing is definitely #1 on the list! 
  3. A well-developed email list is one of your business’ most valuable assets.
  4. Unlike with your social media followers, you OWN your email list. 
  5. Building your email list can take time, it’s not going to happen overnight, but that list that you grow is pure gold! 
  6. You need to prove that you’re worthy of being given your customers’ emails.
  7. A lead magnet is a great way to incentivize people to sign up for your email list.
  8. Once someone signs up for your list, you should send them a series of emails that will convert them to a paying customer. “A welcome nurture sequence.”
  9. Social media can be a “long game” that requires constant engagement with your followers to build up your community. 
  10. You can terrifyingly lose your entire social media followings if a site closes down or something goes wrong. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversity your online digital marketing efforts! 
Customer Avatar Worksheet Download Image

Tools to Get You Started

Email marketing is unquestionably something that every small business owner should throw themselves into. By building up your email list, you can create a direct line to customers, unfiltered by social media companies. But if you want to get emails, you should be providing them with an incentive! One way is by creating a ton of free valuable content, including lead magnets. If you want to start creating opt-ins and lead magnets, you should first know your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) and then Identify Your Core Lead Magnet! In my free downloads, Discover Your ICA and Identify Your Core Lead Magnet workbook, I go through how to determine your ICA and identify your first core lead magnet.

How to Identify Your Core Lead Magnet

But if you’d prefer to have a lead magnet ready in record time, then I invite you to contact me here for a free consultation. We can talk about the types of content you want to create, the kind of customers you want to connect with, and design a lead magnet that will get them to sign up for your email list and become paying customers in no time!  

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About Jennie Lyon

Jennie Lyon is the founder of Jennie Lyon Virtual Assistant Services. Jennie specializes in helping busy entrepreneurs organize, manage, develop and promote their brand! She is devoted to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs with social media, content creation, email marketing, client relations, website management, and administration services. If you are a small business owner, coach or self-employed entrepreneur struggling to find enough time in your day to focus on what you really love - schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Jennie.

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