When’s the last time you checked your email? My guess is that it wasn’t that long ago. In fact, on average, 89% of Americans check their email at least once a day.

But if you’re like me (and the majority of people in the world), you probably check a few times per hour. Hey, at least I practice Inbox Zero!

For the past thirty years, email has become an integral part of our daily lives. It’s a digital extension of ourselves. It allows us to communicate with one another, express opinions, stay in touch, and get things done.

But over the past several years, another platform has gained traction and seemingly left email in the dust: social media.

The rise of social media

Ahh, social media. Everyone’s favorite love/hate relationship. But you can’t deny the numbers. Social media platforms now drive an overwhelming majority of web traffic. The big players are always jockeying for more users, and of course, more attention.

Instagram, Facebook, Dribbble, and others are a saturated mess. The amount of content poured into these machines by willing users on a daily basis is astounding.

The Four Horsemen (sort of)
The Four Horsemen (sort of)

These platforms have one job and one job only—keep your eyeballs on the app as long as possible. And why is that? So that they can charge their advertisers a premium while boasting about their dwell rate. These “walled gardens” want to keep you and your data on their servers and in their apps.

But something interesting is happening. With all of our “connection” and “access” to seemingly endless numbers of people and communities on social media… it’s actually becoming harder to find an audience. And with algorithms changing almost weekly, it’s even harder to know where to look for your tribe.

With more than 3.4 billion users worldwide, it’s lonelier than ever on social media. So how do we extend our reach? The answer might surprise you.

Email marketing is (still) the answer

As these social media behemoths grow in both size and reach, it’s become clear that you now own less of the content you put on apps like Facebook and Twitter.

When you think about it, there isn’t much you actually own on the web anymore, period. You “rent” movies from Netflix, you “rent” music from Spotify, you “rent” storage from Dropbox.

But there is one thing you can still actually own on the web: your email list. And when you break down the numbers, it turns out that email lists are actually a pretty valuable thing to be in possession of.

Email vs. Social Media Conversion

According to OptinMonster, email has more users than social media (a whopping 3.8 billion people) and much higher conversion rates. How much higher? It’s significant. Email converts at a rate of 6.05% as compared to 1.9% on social media sites.

Furthermore, open rates and click-through rates annihilate engagement rates on social media, producing a ROI on email of 4,400%. If those numbers aren’t enough to get you excited about building an email list, I don’t know what will!

Cultivate your community with email marketing

In today’s online atmosphere, communities are more important than ever. They build us up, they teach us new ideas, and they help us in times of need. As I’m writing about this topic, one phrase keeps coming to mind: “Dig the well before you’re thirsty”.

“Dig the well before you’re thirsty.” — Harvey Mackay

There’s no better time than right now to start finding and attracting like-minded people to join your tribe. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young freelance designer, a wily creative vet, a CEO or agency owner—if you’re interested in building a community, you need to have an email list.

If you’re still on the fence, consider what email offers:

  • Email is a 1:1 relationship where you control the flow of communication. There are no walled-gardens, data breaches, and privacy scandals.
  • You are able to interact with a highly engaged, like-minded audience all there for the same reason—YOU!
  • As I mentioned above, engagement rates are through the roof. If you provide value and listen to your audience, you could see 60%, 70%, even 80% open rates. The potential is amazing.

So how do you get started? Let’s take a look at how you can get the ball rolling.

Your email marketing software doesn’t matter—you just need to take the leap!

The great thing about email marketing is that it takes very little effort to begin. There are far more intricate platforms and techniques you can employ and I’ll go deeper on those ideas in a later article.

But for most people starting off, a free plan on a platform like Mailchimp (hometown heroes and a client of mine) is a great place to start.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp allows you to collect up to 2,000 contacts on the free plan, which is more than enough to get you up and running. In my experience, their platform is reliable and their service is top-notch.

But again… I don’t want to get lost in the minutiae of email marketing software. The point of this article is to encourage you, no matter what stage of your career, to start cultivating and growing your email list.

The concept is simple: Start building the community you want to be a part of. Be helpful. Be valuable. Be thoughtful. And your tribe will find you.

A parting thought and invitation…

Every week it seems like the big social platforms are making changes to their algorithms. In the future, it’s going to become harder and harder to connect with people and find your audience.

Instead of relying on Facebook or Instagram to do the right thing by you and your audience, there’s never been a better time to take the power back and provide for the community you want to serve.

An invitation to join my community

In an effort to practice what I preach, I’d love to extend the offer to join my newsletter. As a thank you, you’ll receive my 32-page e-book, The Business of Web Design, where I give actionable tips for a more successful and fulfilling web design career.

On top of that, each month I’ll send you my latest articles and fresh resources on design, business, tech, and all things new in the world of web design.

I’m growing this community from the ground up—I’d love to have you on board. I’m always available to answer questions and give career advice. I have 13+ years of success and failure under my belt and I’m happy to share everything I know.