Building an email list is a tactic that savvy internet marketers have been using for well over a decade. But for a lot of bloggers, email marketing is a struggle. Welcome to our Building Your List series to help food bloggers start, grow and leverage the power of their email lists!
Today is all about why it's so important for bloggers to have an email newsletter list in the first place.
It's rare that a week goes by when we don't hear a fellow food blogger getting seriously irritated with social media. Hmm...does any of this sound familiar to you?
"I can't even reach my own followers - the people who actually want to hear from me"
"The algorithm changes every week - how on earth can I keep up?"
"How can I compete when people are trying to game the system?"
Follow/unfollow, spam and bot accounts, stolen content, viral, not viral, videos need to be 2 minutes long - no they need to be 15 minutes long, you need to post 5x a day - no you need to post once a day, long pins - short pins...
It's exhausting, isn't it??
But as much as we love to complain about social media, it's not all social media's fault! (It's really not!)
Social Media Is Rented Real Estate
Social media has given us the luxury of free marketing for over a decade now (and you can still use it to get the word out without paying a cent). Prior to the advent of big platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, small businesses had to pay for brochures, mailers, paid ads in print, radio or tv and billboards, etc to get themselves in front of a potential audience or paying customer.
Now we have the ability to share our content for free on massive platforms with millions and even billions of users if we choose! But... and it's a big but... we don't control those platforms. They're not ours - they're simply rented real estate.
While renting does have pros over owning, you're still at the mercy of the landlord, who can change the algorithm tomorrow, or update your Terms of Service without warning and you don't get a say. And there's really no tenancy board that you can appeal to... all you can do is gripe to your fellow bloggers!
But can we really complain when something we get for free is no longer providing us with a big return?
We don't really love it when a reader complains about our recipes or our ads when they're getting free recipes in return so, why do we expect social media to be any different?
Protect The Assets That You, As A Creator, Own!
In the blogging world you only have a few assets that you own. They include
- your website
- your mailing list
- any products you've created - either digital or physical
- any intellectual property you've created like books, ebooks, blog posts, videos, podcasts, photographs etc. (unless you've given up your copyright to any of these items)
These are the assets you need to nurture, baby, promote and protect like they're your children. Because they're YOURS and you sweat blood and tears over them.
You do not own or have control over third party platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Etsy, YouTube or Pinterest. And don't forget Google (SEO is just another algorithm that can change tomorrow).
Even Amazon appears to have entered into a "pay to play" arena for people selling on their platform (including authors) in the last few months.
Why Take The Time To Build An Email List?
When you build your business on rented real estate you will always be at the risk of the landlord upping the rent or evicting you. That's not a good position to be in.
The reality is that only a small percentage of your audience ever sees the (unpaid) content you put up on social media (some estimate it as less than 6% which is a shockingly small number).
By contrast Mailchimp publishes benchmark open rates for most industries. The Home and Garden, Food Services, Health and Fitness, Media and Publishing and Hobby industries have benchmark open rates in the 20-23% range! We chose those industries as examples because most of us, as food bloggers, would fit into those categories.
Isn't that a much better rate than less than 6%?
Not to mention we think that even higher open rates are totally possible - we see open rates of 38- 45% on our Food Lovers Newsletter! We'll take that any day over 6%!
Not only will more people see your content through your newsletter but, they're engaged people. They're not seeing you as they quickly scroll through a feed. Instead, they're consciously taking a moment out of their day to OPEN an email! And they're doing that because they want to see what YOU have to say - because they're legit interested.
It's that simple - you need to take the time to build an email list because it gives you direct access to the people who want to hear from you.
An Email List Helps You Build A Community of Raving Fans
Growing an email list gives you a much more stable way of building your audience. And here's why:
- as we've mentioned, you have a direct line to your followers with no filter and no gatekeeper (other than your email marketing provider but that's a topic for another time)
- you control the data - Facebook is so powerful because of the marketing data they collect, which you have no access to unless you pay for it. But with an email list you can directly poll and survey your readers and gather your own data. This is so valuable to understanding who your audience is and how you can best serve them.
- it helps you serve your audience better, which makes them feel even more valued - and that's important, especially if you ever want them to buy something from you
- an email list can help you build a community of raving fans that's reciprocal - you get direct access to them and they get direct access to you
- an email list helps you grow a ready and willing customer base when you have something to sell, be it a book, a cooking class or a meal plan.
Not only that but according to Jenna Kutcher, the online marketing world has calculated the value of each subscriber to your list to be $1/month in revenue. From our experience, that's a pretty accurate estimate.
Social Media is A Gateway To Your List
The best thing about social media is it's a huge community sitting right there with only a screen between you and them. You can connect with people down the street or around the world. You can find the millions of people who love cats as much as you or people who only like to wear the colour yellow on Tuesdays!
But that's also the worst thing about social media. It's a massive community but it's not YOUR community. And you still need to do a lot of work to find your people in that giant haystack.
That's not to say you should neglect social media. Not at all!
Social Media is an invaluable tool, especially when it comes to building your email list. But if you're going to do all that work to find your people on another platform, shouldn't your end goal be to bring them to your platform and your community? Where you can talk to them whenever you like and they'll actually listen? Instead of quickly scrolling on by or worse, probably not even seeing what you had to say? (remember... less than 6% of them will even see your latest social update!)
Social media is your gateway - the tool to find your people. But your end game should always be to bring those people to you so you can form your own community.
Not sure how to do that? Don't worry because we're going to show you in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, you have homework!
Your job right now is to think about the 5 Ws and How:
- WHO is your community?
- WHY do they like you?
- WHERE do they hang out? And WHERE do you want them to hang out with you?
- WHAT do they need?
- WHEN is the best time to talk to them?
- HOW can you make their lives better?
Think about these things and jot down some notes. In the coming weeks we'll talk about the different email marketing providers, how to get started with a list, how to grow your list, and how to use that list to earn revenue.
In the meantime we hope we've convinced you that yes, you DO need an email list!
- Blogging Tips: Owning Your Own Real Estate
- Real Talk Around Building A Blog Community (And 10 Tips)
- When Is It Time To Hire a Virtual Assistant For Your Blog?