This is the title of an article on Medium, written by Shaan Puri, the CEO of Blab, explaining why he shut the social media platform down permanently on August 12th.
In the article he explains that Blab was created as a hackathon project. They grew this crazy project, which they built in 3 weeks, to 3.9 million users in less than a year. Yay for them.
But now they’ve shut it down.
This means that nearly 4 million people can’t connect with each other via Blab anymore.
What this really means, is a lot of entrepreneurs, social media stars and business people just lost their audience on Blab. That sucks. Especially if, for some odd reason, Blab was the only place these people paid attention to those businesses.
“Well, yeah,” you say. “But those folks can find those businesses on other social media platforms.”
Yes, they can. But will they?
That’s the kicker. People tend to pay attention to what’s in front of them. If someone follows you on one social media platform, they may not follow you on others.
And if that social media platform suddenly disappears, like Blab just did, can you guarantee that every member of your audience will find you somewhere else? Can you rest assured that your audience on another social media platform will grow by just as many followers as you lost on your other one?
No, you can’t.
Perhaps people just prefer a certain social media platform and won’t use another one. Perhaps they’ve got too many other things they’re following on other social media platforms and adding you will overwhelm them.
Guess what. If you didn’t collect email addresses from those folks, you’re stuck with no way to contact them directly. Which is why you really need to have an email list.
Why Do I Need an Email List?
“I’ve already got a great following on social media. Why would I duplicate that?” I hear you say.
Yes, you probably do. But, what happens (like in the case of Blab) if one of your social media channels disappears? Or worse yet, what happens if your account is deleted (either by mistake or because the social media company believes you violated their rules)? Can you still contact all of your followers? Not without their email addresses.
Email is more personal than social media. We all “know” people on social media (meaning we’ve friended or followed them, but we’ve never met them in person). But when an email hits our inboxes it tends to feel more like a real relationship. And people want to buy from people they like and have a relationship with.
Think about it. You may check your social media channels a few times a day. How many times do you check your email? Most people check their email boxes multiple times a day. We’re still used to getting important messages via email. Your message could be very important to some, or all, of your subscribers.
How Do I Start an Email List?
To start an email list, you need five things:
- An email service provider (ESP): MailChimp, Drip, or AWeber are all good examples of ESPs. There are dozens of others out there.
- A way to collect email addresses: This can be a static or pop-up form on your website, or a landing page dedicated solely to collecting email addresses.
- A lead magnet, or opt-in bribe: This can be a one-page resource guide, a chapter from a book, a coupon, or anything else you come up with. You want to give people a reason to sign up.
- A “thank you” page: A thank you page tells people you’ve received their email address and helps you continue your relationship with your new subscribers.
- A “welcome” email: This gets sent out as soon as someone subscribes to your list. It’s an acknowledgement of receiving their email address and letting them know they’ll receive useful information on a regular basis.
String these together and you’ve got a perfect lead funnel sending email addresses to your list.
Here’s a little more detail on each step:
Email Service Providers
Email service providers are basically SaaS (software as a service) companies that help you collect email addresses and send bulk emails while being in accordance with the CAN SPAM act (yes, that’s really what it’s called, it makes me giggle every time I read it).
As mentioned above, there are dozens of them out there. An ESP collects and stores email addresses (or subscribers) in your account and lets you send out emails to them whenever you have something to share, on a certain schedule, or when someone triggers an automation sequence.
MailChimp offers a “free” version for folks who have under 2000 subscribers. It doesn’t give you all of the functionality and automation of a paid account, but it’s a good place to start.
Drip is offering their full service for $1.00 (Yes, you read that right, one buck) for anyone with a list under 100 subscribers. Once you hit 101, they do start charging the full price of $45 a month. The price goes up as your list gets larger. But their automation system is pretty slick, so if you’re going to sending automated emails, it’s worth it.
AWeber offers a 30-Day free trial. After that, your monthly price is determined by how many email subscribers you have, much like Drip.
Lots of other ESPs offer free and trial memberships. These are just three I have experience with.
Forms and Landing Pages
Your email service provider will have static and pop-up forms you can install on your website. These are usually HTML code snippets that you copy and paste into your website code. Some (like Drip) have plugins you can install on your WordPress site.
You can add as many or as few fields as you want to your email subscriber form, but generally speaking, the fewer fields, the better. Studies have shown that people are more likely to click on the “submit” button if they don’t have to give up tons of information about themselves.
Email address is required (that’s sort of a no-brainer). You can also add first and last name, and other identifiers that you may want to know about your audience. Most ESPs will also let you add radio buttons or dropdown menus for multiple choice questions.
A landing page (also referred to as a “squeeze page” if it’s collecting email addresses) is a single page, dedicated solely to collecting emails. Check out my landing page to see how simple they can be. And download the lead magnet while you’re there, to get an idea of how to create one.
I use Leadpages to create my landing pages. It’s a simple system that doesn’t require me to code or do a lot of design work (which is a really good thing). It also lets me upload my lead magnet to its system and it delivers the lead magnet automatically when people subscribe to my email list. (Which is really nice and saves a lot of time.)
A lead magnet is something you give away as an incentive to get people to give you their email addresses. (That’s why the other common term for them is “opt-in bribe.”) Your lead magnet can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
If you go to my landing page, you’ll see a picture of the lead magnet in the upper right hand corner of the page. It’s a single page resource guide. It took me about an hour to make, including formatting and converting it to a PDF. But it’s something people are interested in, so they enter their email addresses to get it.
You can use any of these things as a lead magnet:
- Resource guides
- A chapter of a book
- An entire eBook
- A coupon for your product
- A free trial of your service
The important thing is, you want your lead magnet to be something useful that people will download. You want it to be interesting, and you want it to benefit your new subscribers so they remember you when you email them.
Thank You Page
So, usually when you subscribe to someone’s email list, you get a message that says something to the effect of “email submitted” and that’s about it. Or you get a page that says, “We’ve gotten your email address, thanks.”
This cuts your relationship with your new subscriber short. It’s kind of like saying, “I got your email address, that’s all I really care about.”
The better thing to use is what’s commonly called a “Thank You And…” page. This page thanks the subscriber for subscribing, tells them their lead magnet is on the way and it asks them to do something additional.
Take a look at this Thank You page. It’s what you see after you download the lead magnet from my landing page.
I thank my subscribers for downloading my lead magnet. Then I ask them to share that lead magnet with their friends. When people share a link, it tends to get more response than an ad, because it’s coming from someone the viewer probably knows.
I’ve got a picture of myself, so people know who will be on the other end of future emails. For folks who are interested in my copywriting services, I have a big green button that goes to my website.
I’m continuing my relationship with my new subscriber. I’m welcoming them to my community. I’m asking them to share the cool new thing they found with their friends. And I’m giving them the opportunity to learn more about me and my services.
You need to have at least one automated email set up in your ESP and ready to go out as soon as someone subscribes to your list. It doesn’t need to be long or complicated. All it really needs to say is:
- Welcome to the community, thanks for subscribing.
- Here is the download link for the lead magnet (if you’re not using Leadpages or a system that offers a similar lead magnet delivery service)
- More cool stuff will be coming your way every (day, week, month, however often you intend to send stuff to your email list).
- Thanks so much and enjoy the content.
As soon as your ESP receives the new email address from your form or landing page, it will send this email to your new subscriber.
That’s it. You’ve set up your email list. Now you’ll have a way to capture email addresses from your audience. And, you’ll be able to stay in direct contact with them on a regular basis.
Okay, What do I do Next?
You tell your audience on social media about your cool new lead magnet and you direct them to your landing page. You can also drive paid traffic to your website or landing page. You probably already use paid traffic on your chosen social media channels anyway, so use it to get folks to download your lead magnet.
Once you’ve got some names on your email list, you start writing content regularly so you have something to send.
What Do I Write?
That depends on your business.
My weekly emails usually promote blog posts, like this one.
I also have a monthly newsletter that I send out to clients, prospective clients and folks who may refer me to others. (By the way, if you downloaded my lead magnet, you’re now on that list.) Once a month, I send out a quick update with an interesting copywriting or business tips that only goes to these subscribers. I also include a list of the blog posts I wrote that month.
I also receive a lot of these weekly or monthly emails.
Some of them are similar to mine, with a short note and links to that day’s or week’s blog post. Others are a quick note from the person I’m following and a long list of cool articles that person found to share with me. Some are newsletters with information that is exclusively for subscribers to the email list.
You can also send out weekly or monthly specials on your products. How about a “deal of the week” coupon? I’m sure you can come up with all sorts of ideas.
To give you some more ideas, and to help you set up your email list correctly, I’ve created an Email List Set-Up Checklist so you have something to reference as you go through all of these steps. Click on the button below to download your copy. (Yes, you will be added to my weekly blog email list. That’s the whole point. See how nicely it works?)
Now Go Start Your Email List
You’ve got all the tools you need to start communicating directly with your audience. So go do it.
Do you have an email list? If so, what do you typically send them and how often? If not, why don’t you have an email list? Please tell me about it in the comments.