Despite having oodles of Twitter followers, Scott Stratten still believes email marketing is more powerful.
Scott Stratten is a small business owner. He’s also the best-selling author of the book Unmarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging (Wiley) and he spoke in Melbourne earlier this week at PMP’s Schmart Marketing conference. He speaks in Sydney today.
Although Scott built his massive following on social media – think more than 117,000 followers on Twitter at last count – he still believes that email marketing trumps social media in the long run.
Why email still matters
“Email address and sign-ups are still, to me, exponentially more valuable than a follower [on Twitter] or a ‘like’ [on Facebook],” says Stratten, who is based in Toronto, Canada.
“Today, the sexy thing to talk about in business is followers and likes. But they are not worth as much as a subscriber to me,” says Stratten, referring to those who sign up via his website to receive his email newsletters or blog updates. “They are 100th as valuable, or even 1000th as valuable as a subscriber.”
It’s a curious stance for someone who is a big proponent of social media. This is also the man who ensured his book was a national bestseller before it was even released, through a strategy entirely reliant on Twitter.
Stratten decided to go on a book tour with a difference. While most book tours are organised by publishers, including appearances and book signings in major book stores, Stratten organiseD his book tour – or UnBook tour as he calls it – via Twitter. “I went on Twitter and asked: who wants me to come to their city on an UnBook tour?
“You had to pre-order 100 books, fly me down and put me up in hotel. Thirty people in 30 cities put their hand up – all through Twitter. If you want to talk about the ROI [return on investment] on social media, there’s an entire book tour at no cost to me, no cost to the publisher and 3000 to 4000 books bought.”
How to build a following
Sceptics might say this was only possible because Stratten had a ready-made following on Twitter. However Stratten is quick to point out that he started with zero followers when he first ventured on to Twitter. “I had no name recognition two years ago,” he says. “Nobody knew who I was. I didn’t have any celebrity pull.”
In fact, after eight months dabbling with Twitter he was almost going to abandon the platform. However, he decided to give it one more try. “In January 2009, I decided to live on Twitter for 30 days. I had about 1200 followers at the time.”
In that month, Stratten Tweeted 7000 times, with 75 per cent of those Tweets being replies to other people. “I went from 1200 followers to 10,000 followers,” he says, also pointing out that he has never repeated that volume of Tweets since.
Focus on one platform
These days, there are so many social media options for business owners to choose from. Just think Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Path, Google+, just to name a few. Stratten’s advice: pick one and put time into it.
“The problem I see entrepreneurs making is they open an account on every platform and spend five minutes on each,” says Stratten. “That’s like trying to go to five networking events in one night. It won’t work, so you have to focus.
“You’ve got to pick one. You cannot try to be everywhere at once. Social media is not about being everywhere. Social media is not being scalable on every platform – it’s being great at a few.”
Gain a competitive advantage
Stratten says that small business owners have the upper hand when using social media. ”One of the biggest things for small business owners is that they have the advantage with social media.They don’t have the budgets like the big brands do. All they have is themselves. All they have is their personality. So use your personality as your strongest point.
“You can’t out-brand Coke. You can out-advertise Walmart. You can’t out-direct mail Qantas. But you can out-personality them. You can out-engage them because they’re still doing a horrible job of it today.”
However, Stratten is quick to emphasise that business owners shouldn’t rely entirely on social media. “Be careful that you don’t put all your eggs into somebody else’s basket though. If you put everything on Facebook … you don’t own the basket. That’s why I built my blog, so I could own the ‘eyes’ and readership as well.
“A Tweet will last minutes, a Facebook status will last minutes – and that’s if it’s even shown in the news feed – but a subscriber has to do something with that message. They’ll see it in their inbox and to me it’s much more valuable.
“Email marketing is alive and well. Don’t ignore what has been the backbone of communication for a long time now.”
Engagement, not promotion
When it comes to email, Stratten preaches the tagline of his book “Stop Marketing. Start Engaging”. In a world of impersonal autoresponders, Stratten says that the personal touch is vital. While productivity gurus may advise that you ignore non-critical emails, Stratten believes the opposite. “Find a way to differentiate yourself. I get emails every day – from Australia, South Africa, Brazil – and it’s not hard to say thank you. We’re very spoilt people if we can’t say thank you.
“I’m surprised at the number of business owners who don’t reply to these types of things. That’s rude. And it will actually change the perception of the sender of the message. If you never write back, they’ll think you are ignoring them. It can take someone from being a person who loves what you do and it will drop their opinion of you.”
Using Stratten’s approach, it’s social media that provides the day-to-day conversation with your community. It’s the Tweets that are helping people connect with your business today. But it’s their email address that will ensure you have a long-term relationship with them in the future.