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Although you could make the argument that social media is all about vanity, judging your success by vanity metrics won’t get you very far. Fans on Facebook, Followers on Twitter and Instagram: these are those sexy metrics that look nice but won’t always help you get your content in front of the people you want to see it. Here’s why we’ve been telling our clients that instead of paying to increase their fan counts, that money is better spent increasing social engagement and growing their email list.

Having tons of Facebook fans isn’t what it used to be

Facebook used to put fan counts front and center, earning them the name ‘vanity metrics.’ But now they’re virtually buried, reflecting Facebook’s shifting business priorities. Facebook is now almost completely pay-to-play: Posting organically on your business page, you can expect about 1-3% of your fans to see your content. Facebook has made it nearly impossible to get decent organic reach on posts, which used to be the entire reason for gathering large fan counts.

There are certain situations where having a high fan count is valuable, such as for brands such as one brand we spoke to for this piece. Their more than 10 million fans help them leverage better licensing deals with companies such as Target. But for most brands, this is not a relevant goal or strategy to pursue.

You own your email list

Email might not be as young and sexy as social media, but you know what? It works. And you own it. You can message your list whenever you want. You can write as much or as little as you want. Even though an open rate of 20% is considered excellent, that’s still about 20 times better than posting organically on Facebook.

Also, as you build your email list, you can create a custom audience of the people on that list so you can reach them on email AND social. Then you can import it into Facebook and use it to create a lookalike audience to target. This is a great way to expand your audience to other people who are likely to find your content relevant.

We still use email every day, and according to Hubspot, “86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly, and 15% would like to get them daily.” Those are pretty compelling numbers.

But I have to spend money on Facebook advertising too, right?

Well, yes. But if you are spending money on Facebook, don’t spend it all on fan acquisition. Instead, focus your resources on engagement. Create the best content you can, and then focus your ad spend on garnering likes, comments, shares and clicks. Engagement helps build relationships with the fans you do have, and when fans engage you know they’re seeing your posts.

We love email marketing, and think it generally gets short shrift. But if you’re looking for something that really drives sales, brand awareness, and meets your fans where they want to be met, nothing beats good old email.

John Franklin

John Franklin

John helps brands to better articulate who they are and their purpose through our customer insights and category design work. Before Room 214, he spent five years running marketing and partnerships for eCommerce businesses. He has an MBA from Georgetown University, loves riding bikes, backcountry skiing and gets fired up about baking bread.