AzureCollierRecently, we’ve been talking a lot about contacts and the importance of building an engaged audience for your business online.

If you’ve been using tools like email marketing or social media for business, you know how valuable having an audience can be. After all, with all the work you put into creating content for your email newsletters and coming up with stuff to share on Facebook and Twitter—you want to make sure there’s someone there to see it, right?

Without an engaged audience, you’ll never drive the type of results you’re looking for from your online marketing efforts and without an appreciation for the value of that audience, it’s unlikely you’ll grow your contacts or your business as much as you’d like.

This week, I wanted to learn more about the different audiences small businesses can cultivate online and why these audiences are so valuable to your marketing efforts. I was lucky enough to sit down with Azure Collier, social media education developer here at Constant Contact, to pick her brain about how small businesses are building these audiences and why it’s so important to bring your social connections and email contacts together.

Check out what she had to say in this week’s Ask an Expert.

(No video this week. But make sure to check out our free on-demand webinar, Beyond the Inbox: Extend the Reach of Your Email with Social Media. Learn the basic steps you need to take to extend the reach of your next email and bring your email and social audiences together!)

What is the biggest difference between social media connections and email marketing contacts?

The difference between your social connections and your email contacts is that you don’t really own your contacts on social media. What you’re doing on social media is really renting space from those providers. They set the rules, they determine what you see, and they control what your audience sees in their newsfeeds.

But with email, you have much more control because you own those contacts. When you decide to send to them, you’ll know your message is getting delivered and you’ll have the data to prove it. The reporting you receive from email marketing is important because it lets you see exactly who is opening your emails and which audiences you’re actually reaching. And this information can go a long way in making you a smarter marketer.

There are tools like Insights on Facebook, but you really don’t get the type of granular data that comes in your email reports.

Now, that’s not to say you don’t need social media—you do. You can add social media to your email marketing to help reach a whole new audience. Sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for your fans and followers to share and spread your message for you.

But turning those new social connections into email contacts will really be the next step to continue those relationships and help you grow your business.

Why is it so important for businesses to bring their audiences together and combine their efforts on social media with their email marketing?

Again, it really comes back to extending the reach of your message.

Not everyone who is on your email list is on your social media channels and vice versa. A lot of your social connections might not know you have a mailing list or that you’re sending a newsletter each month.

That’s why it’s so important to not only share your emails with your current fans and followers, but to also encourage and make it easy for your readers to share your emails with their own network.

From there, you can take steps to get people to join your email list.

What does a small business need to be aware of when looking to grow their email contact list?

The number one thing is to just make it easy for people to join your list. People who connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are likely already visiting your website and coming into your store, so you want to make sure people can find your emails everywhere they go.

Make sure your sign up form is visible on your website—don’t hide it on the bottom because people will never find it.

Don’t just put it on your “Contact us” section of your site, either. You may know your website inside and out, but not everyone who gets to your site will. If they are coming to your website through social or through search, they’re probably going to end up on different pages.

Take an inventory of all your social networks and make sure fans and followers have a way to find your signup form. Each site you’re probably already on, has an area where you can put a description about your business. That’s a great place to put a link for people to join your list.

With Constant Contact, we have a Join My Mailing List Facebook app that you can add right to your Facebook Page.

Make sure you’re sharing your emails as well. If you’re using Pinterest, “pin” your next newsletter—that’s a great way to show off your emails visually, especially if you have some good design going on.

Share it everywhere you can.

And don’t forget the old school approach of putting a sign or a signup sheet at your place of business. Or you can even use a tool like Text-to-Join or Scan-to-Join from Constant Contact , which makes it easy for people to signup right from their smartphones by either sending a text message or scanning a QR code.

And maybe print out a copy of your most recent newsletter, put it in a plastic frame, and make it visible on your counter or somewhere else in your place of business. That way people can get a visual of your email—they see it, they know what’s in it, and if there’s any coupons or discounts they’ll see it right away. Then you can put a clipboard next to it—or if you’re high-tech—put an iPad next to it and use the iCapture app to make it easy for people to sign up.

What you’ll end up doing is covering all your touch points. So, whether someone connects with you on social media, visits your website, or comes into your business—they’ll be able to sign up and stay connected.

What else can a small business do to get members of the audience its already built on sites like Facebook and Twitter to join their mailing list?

In addition to sharing your emails across your social networks, make sure each email you send has links to your social networks and gives readers a way to share it on Facebook, on Twitter, or on these sites that they’re already connecting to everyday.

This will enable you to reach a wider audience and overtime, you’ll have a lot of new readers and new business opportunities coming through social media.

Other than just connecting your social media and email marketing and encouraging readers to share, you can also provide extra incentives to get fans to join your list.

A lot of businesses have had success with running Facebook sweepstakes. With Constant Contact, you can create a sweepstakes on Facebook that not only gets people to “Like” your Facebook Page but also gets them to share their email address to be entered in the contest.

You can also offer a coupon to fans and encourage them to join your list. This is a great opportunity to attract new contacts when they’re already excited about your campaign and want to learn more about what you have to offer.

Take the next step…

Social media can act as a powerful vehicle for bringing new email contacts to your front door. If you’re already building an engaged audience on social media and have been putting in the work to grow your email contact list, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t bring these efforts together.

If you’re interested in getting started, here are a few things you’ll want to consider first:

  • Are you making it easy for people to sign up for your emails on social, on your website, and in your store?
  • Are you sharing your emails on social media and encouraging readers to like, comment, and share?
  • Are you making it easy for your readers to connect with you on social media and share your emails with a single-click?
  • Are you looking for opportunities to provide an extra incentive to get social connections to join your list?

Answering yes to these questions will be an important first step toward building an online audience that can drive real results for your business or organization.

Still have questions about how to bring your social media and email marketing together? Post them in the comments below!