Why The Size Of Your "List" Is 10x More Important Than Your Social Following

This content discusses the importance of not relying solely on social media and suggests four alternative marketing lists to grow.

By Will Blunt ・6 min read
Best Practices
Email Marketing
Social Media

With the continual growth of social media networks and their influence over today’s society, businesses all over the world are doubling down on creating, sharing, and distributing content on these platforms to connect with their ideal audience.The problem is, you don’t own your social media audience…Social media is a great way to reach your target audience if things never change. Unfortunately, social media platforms change their algorithms all the time. Some of these changes are small and you may not notice any peaks or troughs in website traffic and the ability to reach your followers. However, some of these changes are drastic.Often, drastic changes to the algorithms and interface of social media platforms happen without warning and you could lose the ability to communicate with your followers overnight.

It is a scary thought, but that is why you cannot rely solely on social media to be the one and only way of connecting with your audience.

There are a lot of businesses that assume that having a large number of social media followers will equal a high number of visitors to their site, and subsequently growth in sales. While this is a definite component to overall success, it is not something that you should focus all of your energy on, because, in the end, you can’t control what is happening.

What You Should Do Instead Of Doubling Down On Social

I’m not saying you should fold up your social media strategy, pack it away in a filing cabinet, and reminisce on it in twenty years time. Social can be an excellent amplifier for growing an audience you do own and have greater control over communicating with.This is where the concept of an “owned marketing list” comes into the equation.An owned marketing list, as it suggests, is an asset that you own the rights to. Traditionally, the term list was associated with email marketing and growing a database of contacts that you could send email broadcasts to. But with the advent of new technology and channels for communicating with prospects, your list should be more than just email contacts - this is a limited view.With your own list of prospects, that you can keep separate from social media and other pay-to-play platforms, you can communicate with your prospects despite what happens on platforms you can’t control. Even if a social media site were to close down or change their algorithm unexpectedly, you would still own your list because it is completely separate from social media.So what are some examples of “owned marketing lists” you should be growing?

4 Marketing Lists You Should Grow Instead Of Your Social Following

Here are four lists you can grow that don’t rely on the algorithms of social media networks:

1. Your Email List

Let’s start with the most common, and obvious, marketing list you can grow - your email list.Studies show that 85% of people that interact on the internet use email as a method of communication. This is compared to all of the social networks that, in combination, only cover 62% of internet users. So even if you had exhaustive coverage of every single social platform it would fall short of the direct channel that is email marketing.Sure, it may not be the fanciest or “trending” form of communication, but it’s still a super-effective pathway to your prospects’ attention.When someone visits your site and gives up their email address with the intention of extending the relationship with your business, you develop a base level of trust. Once you have their contact details it is up to you to nurture that relationship over time and turn each email subscriber into a warm lead.Put simply: growing an email list enables you to extend the conversation with a website visitor beyond the first interaction.So, how do you grow your email list and alleviate the reliance on social media?Here are two of the best tactics you can use to entice web visitors to provide their contact information and join your email list:

  • Offer them something for free - an eBook, whitepaper, email course, video course, cheat sheet, checklist, consultation, quote… anything you believe your prospects will perceive as valuable. Below is an example of a cheat sheet from Chart Mogul:
Chat Mogul

Example of a lead magnet from Chart Mogul.

  • Adopt interactive marketing techniques - such as contests, polls, or calculators, to create buzz about your brand and entice prospects to sign up for your list.
Adopt interactive marketing techniques like the grain father

Example of a contest from growing your email list.Growing an email list and using email marketing to convert prospects into buyers is by no means a new tactic, but it’s important to reinforce its value given the hysteria around social media at the moment.

2. Your Remarketing List

The next marketing list you should grow is your remarketing list.Remarketing (or retargeting) is a type of advertising that enables you to show ads to prospects who have been to your website in the past. It’s a feature available for both Facebook and Google Ads, and the setup is simple.As you build your remarketing list you can use it to promote products, services, get return blog traffic, convert visitors into email subscribers, or whatever other purpose you choose.On top of this list being extremely relevant, seeing these prospects have already visited your site before, remarketing is also 100% segmentable. Meaning you can target people who have seen specific pages or have come from specific locations. This form of targeting is laser focused and typically earns a lower cost per acquisition than advertising to cold prospects.You can’t physically “see” these prospects, they are just code stored in a database. But you likely know them better than any email subscriber, social media follower, or other prospects because you can monitor and target them based on their behavior on your website.

3. Your Browser Push-Notifications List

The third marketing list I’d like to urge you to build is a little left field - not many businesses have jumped on this bandwagon yet so it poses a huge opportunity. It’s your browser push notifications list.Browser push notifications are small clickable messages that pop up in the top right-hand corner of a web browser on a user’s computer. They aren’t to be confused with mobile app push notifications, which are isolated to mobile devices.These notifications are a powerful access point to your target audience because even though mobile is growing, desktop usage still accounts for 42% of total internet time.How do you grow your push notifications list? Here is a simple step-by-step process:

  • Choose a notifications service, such as VWO Engage, and set up your account.
  • Once your account is setup, install the relevant code on your website and begin to collect “opt-ins” from website visitors that land on your website so that you have permissionto send them notifications in the future. A typical opt-in box looks like this:
HCL Opt In box

Example of a browser notification opt-in box.

  • Now you can start to grow your list by driving traffic to your website - from ads, organic search results, comparison sites, social media, or other platforms.

Depending on your notification tool of choice you will be able to automate messages from RSS feeds, set up drip sequences, promote products, and more. Everything happens in real-time and via a method that users are yet to subconsciously filter out. This means that engagement rates on push notifications are considerably higher than many other channels you are used to.

4. Your On-Site Live Chat List

The fourth and final marketing list you should be growing is your on-site live chat list.People visiting your website are there looking for something. If you can provide them with the answer they are seeking as quickly as possible, you are going to pique their interest. That’s where live chat comes in. The ability to connect directly with your visitor, at the moment they have questions about your product is an incredible driver of marketing-qualified leads and sales.See how Baremetrics engage prospects on their Pricing Page below:

Your On-Site Live Chat List for Barametrics

Example of live chat on a website.If you have an on-site live chat, you will likely want to keep a list of people who have used it. These may be everyday website visitors, prospects, warm leads, or current customers. Someone who engages with your live chat feature is more engaged than your average web visitor, so you want to be able to capture their information and follow up at a later date if necessary.Tools like Intercom and Drift enable you to grow live-chat lists and engage with prospects at multiple points of the customer journey, using automatically triggered messages, multi-channel communication, and real-time feedback loops.


As you can see, it’s not all about social media… Social should be a small cog in a bigger digital marketing ecosystem.The old adage that the “money is in the list” is truer than ever, but today your list is bigger and more diverse than it used to be.No matter how you try to reach your prospects or organize your lists, as long as you are not relying completely on social media, you are setting yourself up for success.In short: create a diverse approach to marketing and lead generation or you are at risk of losing that basket full of eggs.

Try a ShortStack template to create your first contest fast and easily.

Get Started Today. No credit card required. Risk-free.

About the author

By Will Blunt ・6 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

Get marketing tips straight to your inbox

Thank you!
Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your info.