What’s the news?

There’s another warning sign that your business could be in trouble if you only access your audience on social media networks or other third-party platforms.

What’s happening now?

The digital privacy movement took another step forward. Google started beta testing its cookie-free browser. And while Facebook wasn’t happy that Apple will require users to permit app tracking, it has been more conciliatory recently.

Why is that troubling?

It’s a reminder that social platforms make the rules. You’re beholden to their policies. It’s privacy today, but what’s next? And that is especially troubling because they, not you, control access to fans and followers. 

Need proof that your content business operates on social at the platform’s whim? Last fall, YouTube updated its terms of service to run ads without paying the creators who weren’t eligible for the ad-revenue-sharing YouTube Partner Program. That’s only available to YouTubers with over 1,000 subscribers and whose videos have accurate over 4,000 hours of watch time.

What can I do?

Build an email list. It’s the most valuable asset a creator can have.

That’s what personal finance YouTuber Erika Kullberg tells Insider she did: “Over the past six months or so, I’ve put much more focus on growing my email list and have now grown it to over 20,000,” she says. That’s a big chunk of her over 93K YouTube subscribers (even though every email subscriber probably is not a YouTube subscriber.).

Isn’t email dead?

Nope. It’s growing. Almost 320 billion emails are expected to be sent this year and that number will grow to over 376 billion by 2025. As Statista reports: “Email has managed to remain central to digital communication and continues to grow in uptake. “

What about millennials and Gen Z?

Yep, they use email regularly too. One survey showed 90% of millennials and 70% of Gen Z say they check their email at least once a day. Another study found Gen Z (60%) and millennials (64%) picked email as the most personal communication channel. (It was higher for Gen X [72%] and Baby Boomers [74%].)

Any benefits besides ownership?

Many. Email allows you to develop and grow a more personal one-to-one relationship with your audience. You no longer have to hope they’ll stop by your social media page or even your website. They’re inviting you into their home (i.e., inbox.) 

With email as the core of your customer-access model, it’s easier to add revenue options, like selling merch, products, services, events, courses, etc. Your sponsors and partners also will be glad that you have that direct access.

How can I get my fans to give me their emails?

Make it a fair trade – their contact info for an amazing deliverable.

The incentive could be an e-book, newsletter, webinar, template, guide, giveaway, etc. In Erika’s case, she created a 12-page book that recipients provided their email to receive the download. She followed up in a series of emails with additional tips and promotion of her online course. She had over 100 people enroll and earned over $36,000.

What should I do first?

Create your wow deliverable. Make sure it’s unique, relevant, and substantive – something that your audience can’t resist. Use it as your business’ calling card – something that represents your voice and type of content.

Then what?

Start focused and small in your email collection promotion. Work out the bugs before you do a wide-scale launch. Then, point all your promotion opportunities to the email subscribe page – signature lines, CTAs on social and blog posts, bios and profiles, etc.  

BTW, email collection forms on videos had the highest conversion rate (15%) among Wistia’s three conversion options: call to action, annotation, and email collection forms. (Wistia 2021 State of Video Report)

Anything else? Here are some more detailed resources to help you take control over access to your audience:

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.