The biggest social media lie about engaging with customers

Social media would like business owners to believe that the people following them on that platform are all potential customers. And that when you post to your page you are engaging with customers. They try to convince you that advertising to your followers and others just like them will grow and develop your business hugely. The truth is that people may respond and “engage” but relying on this to create growth won’t work for many businesses. That followers are going to equal customers is more than an exaggeration; it is a lie.

Admit it, you’re slightly relieved aren’t you, because the lack of conversion from social media to sales makes you feel like a failure?

You are not a failure at all and you don’t get to chuck in your hard work on social media because it still has an important place in your marketing strategy. But you do need to take the next (and hugely important) step to developing your business by engaging with your true customer base in a safer, more controlled and often, more economical way.

So, buckle yourself in as I show you the best way to engage with your customers and potential customers with no algorithms just ownership and control every step of the way. By the way I will now just use the term customers meaning both existing and potential because it’s quicker and more positive because you know they will come on board eventually.


Imagine a place where you address your customers by name, have total control over who sees your information and where no-one gets annoyed by advertising that they aren’t interested in. Welcome to email marketing.

But, I hear you say, I thought emails were dying and didn’t you say I have to do social media anyway? Why do I want to take on more work?

There are so many great reasons why email marketing is worth your time that even in my long article I may have to leave a few out which I am sure you will forgive. But, the first and most important one is only email marketing gives you true engagement with your customers. This is because they give you consent to interrupt their day to share your communication with them.

Think about it this way, you are only communicating with people who have already shown some interest in what you are selling or have purchased from you previously. In old sales terminology we would call these “hot leads” and we would always follow these up first. And these “hot leads” have given you written permission by signing up to your newsletter, notifications, promotional updates or whatever offering you have captured their interest with. They would have to be the hottest leads ever.


This permission means your communication is person to person not scattergun. And, you can only engage with people who have agreed to it so you are not wasting your time telling your story to those who are not interested in hearing it. On the other hand, advertising on social media (even if you think you are setting target markets characteristics carefully) is very scattergun. This is because the people whose timelines you appear on are mostly unlikely to be ready to consider buying your product or service right now so you are not engaging with customers necessarily.


You can also choose when to communicate and they can choose when they read it rather than just leaving it to luck that they will be on social media when you choose to communicate. That means your message is not reliant on timing and is not surrounded by so many other messages but can be viewed when your customers are ready. This gives you a much better chance of engaging with customers when they are interested.

But of course there are more positives because not only do they want to hear what you have to say but you also get the chance to divide them into segments easily so you can focus on just one segment at a time if you wish.

You might offer a special of a new product or service to customers who have previously bought something similar from you. You are then engaging with motivated customers rather than promoting it to customers who aren’t interested. But a seasonal promotion might target everyone on your database.

The choice is yours, as there is a multitude of ways that you could choose to segment your customers. Suddenly you don’t have to segment according to what social media businesses have set up – you can use your own unique choices and tailor your marketing to suit these choices.


And importantly, you can measure what works because email marketing allows you to check who opens your email, whether or not they click on a link within your email and many other analytics which reflect how well you are engaging with your customers.

This is so valuable when you want to decide what type of promotion works best or what kind of communication is the most powerful because you can track individuals not just anonymous “engagements”. 

And you can test which subject line works best because you can try different ones on different sets of customers (the fancy name for this is A/B testing) then see which one was opened the most times. The potential here is limitless – you just need a bit of imagination.


You can also use email marketing for engaging with your customers whenever they wish without losing any sleep. Setting up automated emails which are sent when a new customer contacts your business means that depending on your business you can sell to them 24/7. These days people want instant responses – instant gratification and now it is possible to provide it easily and economically. Email marketing providers offer a huge range of services which you can set up to work automatically when a customer communicates via your website.

Another important feature of email marketing is that people notice emails more, especially if they are personalised. They also have a longer lifespan than any form of social media. Emails are often left in people’s in boxes and every time they check emails they may see yours again and again. And if they are interested they may archive them which make them very easy to find again. Think about how many emails you currently have sitting in your inbox (and why) and which ones you notice again and again.

Research has also shown that they have a higher conversion rate than social media. That means that you are more likely to make a sale to someone who reads your email than your social media posts and that’s the whole purpose of your business isn’t it? It isn’t enough just to attract attention you need to convert that attention into actual sales (or at least another opportunity to connect with them to allow a sale later).


Emails inspire people to take action – but only if you include a call to action within it. What do I mean by this? You need to actually tell people to call for a quote, or click on a link or call today to place an order. Yes, it’s strange I know, but people usually need to be called to take action rather than just doing it naturally which is what we often assume when we send out an email with a great offer.

That’s why emails are better at engaging with customers because they allow you to ask your customers to take further action. And it doesn’t feel as pushy as it does in social media advertising when the customer doesn’t yet know you or feel engaged with your business.

Another great reason why email marketing is valuable to your business in engaging with customers is that you own your list and this provides freedom which is not the same for your social media followers. There are many examples of changes to social media platforms that mean an established community disappears or decisions made by the owners of the platforms that a person or business is no longer allowed to have an account. You have no control over this.

This ownership allows you to make contact outside of social networks which are controlled by companies who have their own financial reasons for choosing what and who to include via their algorithms.


This freedom extends to the content you choose to share with your customers so you can promote other marketing activities including a range of social media platforms. Suddenly you can be engaging your customers across a wide range of media without being stopped by any of the owners of these platforms. Now that’s true freedom isn’t it. And of course there are no restrictions on what you choose to communicate with your customers about.

Owning your list also means that if your business changes or you decide to sell it then the list belongs to the business and adds huge value because of the engagement you already have with these customers. The same cannot be said for social media followings as it can be very difficult to change the administration or name of a business within various platforms.


Another very cool thing about an email database is that most people check their emails on mobile devices regularly (maybe too regularly but that’s another topic) so there is every likelihood that your email will be seen and opened in a timely way. You will of course have some very, disciplined customers who only check their emails at set times during the day but mostly that “ding” that notifies them they have mail will mean that your email is noticed almost as soon as it is sent regardless of where they are or what they are doing.

By now you will be wondering what you can do to set up an email database. It isn’t difficult I assure you. You need to think about what information you can offer your customers which they will find valuable. If you are already using social media (remember I said that you needed to keep using it) then a great place to start is with the social media posts you create which attract the most attention. Offering content that people want to read and would be sad to miss out on is the key because it will be easier to show them how receiving it via email will ensure that they are never overlooked.

It is also important to reassure them that you won’t bombard them (please don’t) and to keep your communication simple, short and interesting so they are intrigued when they see that email arrive.

If you are really interested in engaging with your customers and building a base of fans who want to buy from your business then forget followers. Start creating a database of people who not only give you permission to communicate with them but who are very likely to read what you write. If you need more information about this check out The biggest mistake a business can make.


The keys to customer engagement via email are receiving their true consent, creating person-to-person communication, targeting the content to match their needs, including a call to action, using automation so you’re available at their convenience, checking your results and constantly trying out new ideas to make it easier for you to solve their problems.

Once you realise the power of having a database, rather than a following or as well as a following, you will be on your way to creating a steady stream of satisfied customers who will lead your business to success.

© Robyn Forryan

The Biz Coach NZ

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