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I hear a lot of things about social media in doing what I do. There has been a major theme lately popping up with people who say that social media is not working for them.  They’re frustrated and ready to throw in the towel on it, convinced it just doesn’t translate into dollars in their business. I patiently listen to their frustrations, and upon digging deeper, I often find a major flaw in their marketing process.

They’re not getting them on the list.

What does this mean?

Well, they are having interactions and conversations, maybe rubbing shoulders with key people in their industry, finding out lots of great information about what their market wants and needs, maybe even getting these people to click through and visit their website or blog.  All good stuff, right?

It is, except it’s only part of the equation. As much as “relationship-building” is touted as the one of the most important benefits business owners can get from using social media, it can only take one so far—at least, that particular form of relationship-building.

In the Internet marketing world, the mantra has long been “the money is in the list,” meaning your list of prospective customer and client names and email addresses.  It is actually more accurate to say that the money is in the value you provide to your list and in the relationship you build with them. (Otherwise we could all go out and buy ourselves a list of a million names, right?)

But wait, aren’t my 42 zillion Facebook friends and Twitter followers my “list?”  Don’t they count?  Those are fantastic contacts to have, but you don’t own these lists!  Though highly unlikely, Facebook or Twitter could shut down tomorrow.  Your own list of prospects and customers is still one of your greatest assets as a business owner.

Social media should compliment your list building, not replace it. That is where I often see people getting stuck and complaining that the time they are spending on social media isn’t paying off.  What needs to shift is the way they look at social media’s function in their overall marketing. It’s an excellent place to begin establishing relationships, they just need to take it a step further and give people a way to more permanently become a part of their community.

So start building that list of targeted prospects who have essentially “raised their hand” to hear more about your business and what you have to offer. Once they’ve joined your list, your job is to continually provide them with quality content, valuable tips and helpful information so that when they are ready to buy from you, that all-important trust and familiarity has already been established.

Treat ‘em well and it will pay off in spades. 🙂

Image credit: ehow.com