Social media followers are your new Opt-in E-mail lists

For much of the early 2000s I spent my life using and selling e-mail newsletters.  My company at the time, TechRepublic, had amassed millions of e-mail addresses of tech professionals of all stripes who had requested regular newsletters on specific topics in their inboxes.  They worked REALLY well for driving site traffic and as an advertising vehicle.

TechRepublic wasn’t alone.  Publishers from all sorts of markets invented better mousetraps for collecting e-mail lists and the practice of e-mail marketing became a big business very quickly.  Many marketers followed suit accumulating opt-in lists that enable regular access to a potential customers inbox.

The focus within the marketing community on Facebook and Twitter followers strikes me as very, very similar.  A brand or publisher with a large Twitter following can drive their followers to virtually anywhere.  A good Facebook fan page can drive commerce, build brand affinity, entertain and enlighten a customer/fan, and become a destination in its own right where all things (good or bad) can be discussed.

Let’s hope marketers do a better of treating their Facebook and Twitter followers than they do (generally) their e-mail opt-ins.  Just like the best e-mail marketers, the most effective social media marketers will treat these 0pt-in relationships like a publisher.  They will provide meaningful content and create a cadence for communication that their followers will come to expect.  They will personify their brand and use these communications to move their customers while informing.  In short, they will treat this customer access as a rare and valuable asset rather than a tool to be exploited.

Most of the e-mails manually categorized as SPAM aren’t (technically) SPAM.  It is bad e-mail marketing that people call SPAM.  The new social media equivalents are easier to leave and the information options for your customer are richer than ever before.  Let’s all learn from the mistakes of bad e-mail marketing and emulate the best marketers in the medium.

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