What if I said there was something more useful for our photographic careers than any social network we've ever been on? With the ability to reach many more people than all your followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter combined; no restrictive algorithms, no paying to boost posts, no adverts. Do you want in?
I know many of you will think the email is as antiquated as the 56k modem or Myspace, but sending out marketing emails in some shape or form is still a relevant and underrated tool for photographers in 2018. When I say marketing emails, I mean everything from sending out promotional discount codes, to the occasional email newsletter, to updating clients of the new services you offer, to the e-card you send over the holidays. Reminding people you are alive is one of the best ways to get additional business and engagement from people who have shown interest or worked with you in the past. I also want to make it clear that the kind of marketing email I regret not doing sooner is the kind where people have signed up to receive communication from me in the first place. Sending spam out to addresses bought or obtained in some less than favorable way will very rarely have the desired outcome.
I'm sure social media will continue to have a place in helping us to grow our businesses and brands, but no social platform will stay relevant or popular forever. There will come a time when you or your followers will stop logging in and it's at that moment, that all the benefits of growing an audience in one place will be gone. Unless you have other ways of staying connected with those people, they are lost forever. While it's hard to predict what will happen to these social media heavyweights going forward, one thing which is much more certain is that email will still be around in some incarnation for a very long time yet. It's for this reason, that photographers should be taking more advantage of email as a more surefire way of future proofing the connections made online and in real life.
If you weren't already warming to the concept of building an email list and sending out occasional correspondences, here are some of the benefits of using email over the likes of social media.
1. Your Email List Can't Disappear, a Social Media Platform Can
There have been plenty of social platforms which have come and gone over the years and the one you use to help you get clients or make sales could be the next to fall out of fashion. Even if you haven't put all your eggs in one digital basket, all social networks make it difficult to extract the data from the audience you have built. This is the exact opposite when it comes to having your own email list as most email clients will allow you to easily export your lists as a handy CSV file. This means if you ever decide to use another company for your marketing needs, you'll always have your addresses stored safely somewhere.
2. People Have to Act on an Email in Some Way
All social media platforms are designed to digest information at record speeds. A simple swipe of a finger is enough to send your post flying off someone's screen before it's barely had the chance to load. Email is a little different in this respect in that the process is much slower and the user has to act in some way if they want an empty inbox. Even if that act is to go to delete the email, the recipient has at least consciously acknowledged what they are looking at for longer than a fraction of a second, and hopefully, this means they will realize what has been sent is worth reading.
3. There's Much Less Competition in Someone's Inbox
Thanks to the throttling of posts by the social powers that be, there is no actual guarantee that you will even make it onto someone's feed. Even if you are lucky enough to appear where you want to, you will be competing with a barrage of other posts and adverts. People's inboxes tend to be much less cluttered places so sending out the occasional newsletter is much more likely to be read. Personally, I find it a welcome and refreshing change to receive an email from someone I have subscribed to, especially if it isn't too hard of a sell.
4. Have a Deeper Understanding of What Is Working
While social media has got better at showing you how your posts are performing in terms of reach and engagement, they don't go far enough in my opinion. Add into the mix the issue of bots, fake likes, shadow bans, and dreaded algorithms, it can be hard to accurately work out if what you are doing is actually working or not. With an email client taking care of your marketing emailing, you will be able to see which links have been clicked, how many emails have actually arrived safely, and also the number that have been opened. An email also allows you to take advantage of A-B testing which means you can figure out in a more measured way what works for you and what doesn't. The sooner you can fine tune what is working, the better.
5. An Email Has a Longer Shelf-Life
I'm pretty confident that most people's inboxes don't move as fast as the most modest of social media feeds. Typically after an hour, your social media post is old news. Email, on the other hand, can stay near the top of the pile for much longer.
6. You Have Much More Control with an Email
With email, you can decide exactly how the presentation will look in terms of design etc. You can even have clickable links in an email too. We all might be conditioned to only having one clickable link on our Instagram profiles, but not having the ability to easily navigate to external web pages is a serious issue when every possible click could lead to additional work or sales.
7. Emails Can Be Made to Feel Personal
A social media post is as generic as they come whereas an email can be tailored to an individual person. Even the simple addition of someone's name in an email can make the recipient feel like they are being spoken to directly. Various marketing services can help to give your emails an even more personal touch by splitting your lists into sets and tailoring each group especially.
8. Everyone Has Email
Chances are that if someone has an internet connection then they will probably have an email address or two. According to a recent Radicati Group study, there will be more than 3.8 billion email users before the end of the year, which puts this form of communication still ahead of any social media. While I'm sure your marketing newsletter won't be going directly to each and every email address on the planet, it does show how relevant email still is. Presuming that everyone is on social media is shortsighted and could potentially mean you are alienating groups of people who may otherwise become a customer.
9. People Expect Promotional or Commercial Messages via Email
I'm sure many of you have seen this first-hand: mention a commercial element on social media and you'll see engagement drop on that particular post. I think the problem with social media is that it's one big melting pot of content posted by everyone from Fortune 500 companies to your grandmother. Add into that equation the ever-increasing barrage of adverts and the average user can begin to despise anything which has a dollar sign attached to it. When reading an email you are a little more primed to expect that what has landed in your inbox has probably some promotional or commercial component to it. This is always going to be a better starting point for a possible transaction.
I hope after reading these points you are beginning to look more favorably at the idea of building your own email lists. If used correctly they really can be a powerful tool in helping to give you the edge when trying to generate work or increase sales. How you go about building your own lists and most importantly what to put in those emails is something which I plan on writing about in detail very soon. The main thing I wanted you to take away from this article was how useful, less restrictive, and more future-proof email is compared to social media. I started building my email lists back in 2015 with the easy addition of a newsletter form on my website. Three years on and that list is steadily growing with people who want to hear from me and buy my work. When I look back though, I do regret that I didn't start one years earlier. Email marketing is something I think can work for almost any area of the photographic industry because at the core, it is a direct and familiar platform which almost half the planet uses every single day. Make 2018 the year you start diverting some of that time, money, and energy you spend on social media to building email lists and making them work for you.
Do you already make use of email lists? Are they really useful for all genres of photography? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Lead image by Mediamodifier via Pixabay.