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If I were to ask “What do you hope to get out of your brand’s social media presence?” what would your response be?  I suppose there are a lot of different answers for such a broad question, but whatever the reply is, it should be the result of strategic planning and quantifiable metrics.  We’re quickly moving past the days where having a certain number of followers meant something significant; what good is having ten thousand followers if none of them are buying your products or, at the very least, promoting your brand?  We haven’t yet definitively established what makes a brand influential online either, regardless of what sites like Klout would have us believe.  If you’re having trouble defining what the end goal of your social media presence is, try thinking of how it can help achieve other marketing milestones.  Here’s one for you to try on: the goal of our social media presence is to increase the size of our email list.  This is an important objective because, as Brian Morrissey notes: email is truly owning a follower and their data, whereas social media only rents you that consumer at a certain price.

Now that you have the concept of what you want social media to be doing for you, the next step is figuring out how to make it happen.  How can social media help build your email list?  It’s a little more complex than tweeting a link to your email sign-up landing page and hoping for conversions, but rest assured there are plenty of tools and strategies out there to help drive followers and fans into your database.

The first thing to do is coordinate your sales, social media, and email efforts.  Seems like common sense, but if you’re offering a promo code to people who sign up for your email list, that’s the type of information that you should be sharing with your followers.  Incentivizing is an easy way to rapidly boost your email list and social media definitely helps spread the word, but here’s the catch: it’s just a quick-fix solution.  You don’t always want to be selling your product at less than market value just to attract new subscribers.  Luckily, there are strategies that won’t diminish the perceived worth of your brand over an extended period of time.

Generating engaging content and teasing it through social media is a more effective way of generating lasting email subscribers.  If you’re telling just a fraction of the story in your tweets and status updates, then giving email subscribers the whole shebang, you’re providing a reason why fans should sign up.  Think of it along the lines of a movie trailer: the preview gets the audience revved up for the upcoming film, so they can’t wait to see it when it comes out.  In the case of social media and email, the tweet is the trailer and the email is the main attraction.  As long as the content is compelling, and you’re clearly directing people to the email sign-up, this social media strategy will lead to subscribers.

There are numerous third-party email providers out there – you should be using one that integrates intuitively with your social media presence.  MailChimp is a fine example, and having used it extensively, I’m not just singing their praises in hopes of getting some free service.  They’ve designed their email platform with social media in mind, so it’s easy to combine and monitor what you’re doing on Facebook and Twitter and track how it’s affecting the size of your database.  Adding an email sign-up tab on your Facebook page is a simple way of converting fans into subscribers and MailChimp handles this functionality with easy to use templates and plug-ins.  They even have a handy guide on how to best utilize the combination of social media and email, further hammering home the point that you should be using both platforms simultaneously to cross-promote your brand.

Next time you’re asked what you’re doing with social media, don’t give a stock “raising brand awareness” answer.  By defining its function as a method of building your email database, you’ve established a quantifiable metric, one that results in increased reach and engagement with consumers.  That’s what social media is all about!