Larry BraunerI’ve written about list building extensively in connection with social media.

It’s time to revisit social media list building once again. In this article, however, I focus more on where to build lists than how to build them. In other words, I focus on social media list building destinations.

A few remarks are in order before I address the where-to of list building.

Importance of List Building

In List Building Using Twitter, I discuss the importance of list building in marketing. List building is equally important in PR, CRM and other types of communication.

Reach is the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency is the average number of times each person is reached.

Frequency builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is rarely effective. Marketers rely on list building to repeatedly reach their audience and achieve their target frequency levels.

New List Building Paradigm

List Building DestinationsIn List Building Paradigm Shift, I discard the stereotype of list building as “a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an auto- responder” and redefine it as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers.

More precisely:

List building is the process of subscribing members of your target audience, in order to engage and nurture them and brand yourself and that which you represent.

This definition leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization of the list building process, yet it defines our objectives: engaging, nurturing and branding. Prescribing our objectives enables you to gauge the relative merits of each list building venue at your disposal.

List Building Destinations

These are my five favorite venues for list building. They are just as useful to owners of static websites as they are to bloggers.

I use all of them and let people choose for themselves which they prefer.

  1. Autoresponders - Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. Everybody receives email and knows how email works. Every website should provide email subscription. Emails sent to opt-in subscribers will have an open rate of about 30% and a click through rate of approximately 10%, which is excellent. The downside of email subscription in general is anonymity, lack of interactivity and changes of address. I use an autoresponder service to maintain my database and deliver my email. My service has a high delivery rate, many important features, good customer service, and it integrates with Google’s FeedBurner RSS if you have a blog.
  2. Ning Social Networks - You can connect with members of a Ning network, interact with them and broadcast messages to them as the site creator, as an administrator, as a group creator and as a friend. They all work. However, only as the site creator do you actually own their data. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network. Subscription through Ning can be powerful, but it takes much more work to join a Ning site than to opt into an email list. A big problem with Ning is that if somebody joins more than one site or group of yours, they can receive duplicate mail from you. If you’re already established on Ning, incorporate it in your list building strategy. If not, to Ning or not to Ning will not be an easy question to answer.
  3. Facebook - A Facebook fan page widget lets Facebook members register for your page with one click. Based on my experience, response to posts runs at around 5%, about half the rate of email, which is good. The quality of traffic is superb with high average time spent on site. Your posts on Facebook can promote interaction and draw comments themselves from the members of your page, which helps you brand yourself. The potential also exists with Facebook pages to benefit from viral effects.
  4. Twitter - Posts on Twitter, or tweets as they’re called, can easily be retweeted and spread virally throughout the site. In a future post, I might list the reasons why, not withstanding the viral effect, I like Twitter much less than I like Facebook for list building. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to make Twitter subscription available, and I love all the traffic it brings me. (I’m @larrybrauner.)
  5. Google Friend Connect - This is Google’s attempt to add a social element to every website.  I doubt that it’s very successful from a social perspective, but it’s from Google, so I’m in. If Google uses or will use GFC membership to assess the relevance of websites, I’m covered. One nice feature of GFC is its newsletters. Make sure you enable them and use them to email your GFC subscribers.

I also use RSS subscription for my blog, but it doesn’t support interaction, and I believe that the response rate from RSS is very low.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, please choose a destination and subscribe.

Your comments about list building or social media list building destinations are welcome. :-)

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Larry Brauner
I read an excellent article this afternoon in the Wall Street Journal by Jessica E. Vascellaro about the declining role of e-mail in our day-to-day communication, as services like Twitter, Facebook and lots of other social networking sites continue to grow in popularity.

According to Ms. Vascellaro, we obviously still use email. However, email was better suited to the way we used the Internet in the past, when we’d go online intermittently to read our messages.

“Now we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.”

E-mail MarketingIf more of our attention is being directed toward social media and away from email, is there a future for email marketing?

The success of email marketing depends on our ability to efficiently reach our target markets via their email inboxes. As people increasingly turn to social media, and internet service providers apply more aggressive spam filtering, email marketing becomes less viable.

Just last night, a friend messaged me on Facebook saying that she was “shifting over from an e-newsletter to blogging,” and that she was looking for a little advice.

Email marketers want to know how to react to the trend toward social media and social marketing.

Advice for Email Marketers

Here are seven tips for coping with the decline in email communication:

  1. Act Now - Don’t sit on the sidelines like your old media friends. There are still plenty of newspaper publishers scratching their heads wondering what they’re going to do about their failing businesses.
  2. Diversify - Adopt a variety of new social marketing channels, but do not discontinue your email marketing campaigns. Build on your past successes.
  3. Stay Cool - Don’t overreact. Email communication isn’t going away any time soon. Gradually make adjustments and find the allocation of resources that delivers you the best ROI.
  4. Learn Social Media - There are many social marketing resources and a fairly steep social media learning curve. Either make social media training a priority for yourself and stick with it or find someone to whom you can delegate or outsource all or part of it.
  5. Learn SEO - Learn search engine optimization as well, or again, delegate or outsource it.
  6. Keep Testing - Just as you’d test different lists or advertising copy, test different social media venues and content to determine what works for you, and what doesn’t. Be flexible.
  7. Get Help - Even if you do decide to educate yourself, look to social media and web marketing experts for help along the way. Their guidance will save you much time and money in the long run.

I still use my email autoresponder to communicate with many of my blog subscribers. However, email accounts for only 2% of my total blog traffic. Google, Entrecard and Twitter combined account for about 80%, and all other sources add to the remaining 18%.

I will have more to say on email marketing and on list building in future articles. I suggest meanwhile that you read List Building Paradigm Shift which I wrote at the beginning of the year.

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Larry Brauner

My social media experiences have dramatically altered my thinking about list building.

This article may cause you too to rethink everything you’ve been taught and believe about list building.

My Articles on List Building

I have discussed building a list and its importance in several blog posts, which I list here for your convenience:

List Building Before Social Media

I remember the Rolodex, “a rotating file device used to store business contact information” according to Wikipedia. I still have one in a carton somewhere at home.

I long ago replaced my Rolodex with a spreadsheet, but contact information I collect online I store in an autoresponder, a widely used e-mail marketing tool.

Most online marketers today would tend to visualize list building as a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an autoresponder. While this type of list building is still extremely important, especially in conjunction with online or offline advertising, it is nevertheless List Building 1.0.

Concept of Follower

In order to broaden our view of list building we introduce the concept of follower, a term frequently used in the social media world.

A follower is a person (or organization) who subscribes to (or in some other way receives) messages, sometimes called updates, from the person (or organization) whom they follow.

Examples of Followers

The concept of follower applies to List Building 1.0. A subscriber to my autoresponder is certainly one of my followers.

However, a friend at a social network (to whom I can send messages whenever I wish) is just as much a follower as my autoresponder subscriber. What’s interesting in this case is that I’m also that person’s follower. We’re mutually following each other.

A subscriber to my blog’s RSS feed (who receives an update whenever I post an article) is also a follower. What’s of interest here is that my follower is totally anonymous.

I have no way to identify this follower unless that person (or organization) chooses to step forward. For all I know I might even be following my follower without realizing that he or she is following me too. We could be mutually following each other without ever knowing it.

Suppose I own a radio or television station, or I host a talk show, my listeners or viewers are followers who keep track of me and receive my messages without subscribing in any way.

List Building 2.0

When list building is viewed as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers, you can easily understand how in List Building Using Twitter I could claim that “list building possibilities are endless”.

They really are, and the many reaching out methods you devise can be mixed, matched and synergized to develop a rich and heterogeneous following. Welcome to the world of social marketing and List Building 2.0!

Would you care to follow me?

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Larry BraunerNearly every day I hear from people who want to know how to start a blog or how to have a more successful blog.

I admit that I’m still learning myself, but I’ve made great progress in the nine months since I started blogging.

This past month alone my Online Social Networking blog received 5,202 visits including 1,993 visits from search engines.

My Google PageRank is up to 3, and my Alexa traffic rank is 181,032. These stats put my blog in the top 1% of all websites.

What are the critical success factors contributing to my rapid progress?

My Personal Blog Philosophy

There are ten success strategies that shape my blog philosophy.

  1. Blogging Mindset - Writing and publishing a successful blog is a major project that requires very big commitment. Blogging requires that you move forward at all times. So often people start blogging and give up. They didn’t have the blogging mindset, and they weren’t willing to do what successful bloggers do.
  2. Research and Planning - Before I wrote one word on my blog, before I decided what to call my blog, before I purchased a domain name for my blog, I did plenty of research. Where should my blog be hosted? What platform should it run on? What will I write about, and which keywords will I optimize for? These questions and more were addressed up front and their answers formed my initial plan of action.
  3. Bias for Action - Getting started and keeping your momentum going is essential if you want to have a successful blog. While adequate preparation is important, a time comes when you must “draw a line in the sand”, stop preparing and begin writing. Your ongoing research and writing need to become routine. Don’t worry if your articles aren’t perfect. You can edit your posts after publishing them, and it could even help with the search engines to do so.
  4. Experimentation and Tracking - Every blogging enterprise is different, and you’ll need to find the mix of strategies and tactics that are right for your blog. If you install Google Analytics, you’ll be able to track your blog’s traffic. You’ll know what is working and what’s not. Materminding with friends and mentors is another way to gain valuable insights.
  5. Correction as Needed - When you discover something that’s not working, you’ll look to refine it or replace it. Ongoing tracking will provide you with the feedback you need to make the necessary correction in your direction to stay on course.
  6. High Quality Content - Quality content to me means writing with both the reader and the search engines in mind. It means writing well, revising the text many times, proofreading, etc. It also means choosing topics that will make readers want to return to your blog. Please don’t write long run-on paragraphs. Make it easy for your reader to go through your article on the screen without having to print it out… Because they won’t. And one more thing, until you have tons of visitors reading your blog every day, don’t even consider cluttering it up with cheesy ads.
  7. Online Social Networking - The best way to find readers and subscribers for your blog is at social networking sites. For this purpose you can use most business networking sites or networking sites that cater to bloggers such as Entrecard and MyBlogLog. I happen to prefer Twitter and the Ning family of social networking sites. Carefully inviting site members to visit your blog is a nice way to reach out to them — not at all spammy. Make it easy for your readers to subscribe. My readers have two ways to opt in RSS Feed and autoresponder.
  8. Search Engine Optimization - Treat every blog post as a website that will one day stand on its own, because it will. It will eventually works it’s way down and off your blog’s cover page. Use keyword research to find the best words and phrases to use in your articles. Make sure that your main search terms are neither too general nor too competitive to earn you good placement in the search engines. Don’t limit yourself to using only your primary keywords in your text. Using all relevant search terms, even the ones that are hard to compete for, will turn you article into a search engine magnet.
  9. Social Bookmarking - Using social media sites such as Digg and del.icio.us to anchor and promote your blog posts is very important. Social Marker will help you find more bookmarking sites and facilitate the bookmarking process. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the terms of service of each of the social media sites you use, so that you don’t get banned. Bookmark articles using their individual URL, not your blog’s URL, since each article is its own website, not just a part of the blog.
  10. Patience and Time - Over time your traffic will increase, so will your credibility, and you’ll gain subscribers. Don’t expect much before three months, and give yourself a full year to become a blogging superstar.

For more articles on blogging, blog marketing and SEO see Blog Marketing and SEO Training.

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Larry Brauner

List building today isn’t the exclusive domain of autoresponders.

Sure, a reliable autoresponder is still a vital tool if you’re marketing on the Internet. However, online social networking and friend lists ought to weigh more heavily in your permission based marketing strategy.

I started realizing this in 2006 when I first joined MySpace. I noticed how much richer and more effective the two-way communication of social networking sites was than the ongoing monologue associated with e-mail marketing.

I always encourage my e-mail contacts to write me back, but few actually do. And I never learn enough about them, unless of course they choose to join me on MySpace, Facebook, Yuwie or one of the other online networking venues I frequent.

There is another big reason to incorporate online social networking in your online marketing repertoire.

Consider the ease with which you can add thousands of friends on MySpace compared to the cost and difficulty of building your autoresponder list. Whether you use one of the “friend adders” and risk suspension of your profile by the networking site owner, or whether you add friends manually, it’s still much more straightforward to build a permission based marketing list through social networking than it is using more conventional opt-in list building techniques.

I myself do both. I add new subscribers to my autoresponders on a regular basis and simultaneously add new contacts to my friend lists on LinkedIn, MySpace and Yuwie. I have a good reason for doing so.

Not withstanding my previous remarks, it’s easier for me to broadcast a message on demand to my opt-in list than it is to my social networking friends.

Most people check their e-mail at least once a day. If they want to hear from me, they will.

If I post a bulletin on MySpace they can easily miss it. I have to post it several times each day to keep it “on top”. And if they don’t log in, or even worse, if they’ve abandoned their profile, they won’t see the message at all.

So why should you put all your eggs in one basket? Diversify. E-mail people and contact them through multiple sites and through multiple channels on each site to maximize your message delivery and response rate.

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Larry BraunerI was away yesterday with my family. About once a month we all spend a day in a group home for multiply handicapped girls. Our hope is that they will enjoy, at least for a brief time, a warm family environment.

When I arrived home I found three pleasant surprises.

  • Another reader had registered as a user of my blog bringing the total to 105.
  • My blog had moved up to #8 in Google for the keywords online social networking. I’m back to #51 today, but it felt good to receive validation, however temporary, from Google.
  • An envelope had arrived by Priority Mail with my very own copy of Mike Dillard’s Building on a Budget.

Today I’m feeling jetlagged from the advance to Daylight Savings Time, but I’m happy to report that I’ve already read Mike’s book cover-to-cover. Here is my feedback.

My book review of Building on a Budget is mixed.

The advertising promises to show network marketers how to leverage a one-time cash outlay of about $500 to acquire new skills and resources and generate a continuous stream of leads without further expense.

Building on a Budget outlines an excellent marketing approach and provides great tips that all marketers could learn from — not just network marketers. The Internet and social media marketing concepts presented in the book are explained very clearly and concisely.

The book discusses one pre-requisite and five marketing strategies which are more effective than the strategies that most marketers currently employ. There’s a chapter each for lead capture pages, Craigslist classified ads, video marketing, press releases, blogging and funded proposals. I feel that these are all excellent choices.

Social networking sites are mentioned but only in passing.

Here are my reservations about Building on a Budget.

I have the knowledge and the resources to implement Mike Dillard’s suggestions. I’m already using several of these techniques in my online marketing, but what about a newbie?

Let’s say that our enthusiastic new marketer decides to follow the book’s instructions. He or she sets up web hosting, domain names and an autoresponder, all absolutely essential tools, and purchases Magnetic Sponsoring, MLM Traffic Formula, Black Belt Recruiting, a camcorder, Camtasia Studio, and one or two other items. The $500 figure can very easily top $1,000, and paid third-party assistance might still be needed.

I have spent much more than that to educate and equip myself to market effectively in today’s environment, and I’m a former IT professional with more than ten years network marketing experience.

I don’t regret it at all.

What I object to is an unrealistic $500 price point established by Building on a Budget. And not only is it unrealistic, the book itself is a powerful sales letter — not an academic marketing text. It’s written to sell information and recruit affiliates. Mike points out that he’s a great copywriter. I totally agree. However, I don’t fault him one bit.

I will make good use of Building on a Budget. It’s a compact reference that I will want at my fingertips. You may find it useful too. However, please be careful about your expectations.

Oh, before I forget to mention it. I will schedule conference calls to help. So if you purchased the book, expect to hear from me.

I welcome questions and comments about the book, but please, keep them upbeat.

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