“How are you capturing data of visitors to your website?”

I recently asked this question to a contact of mine who has just launched her website and about to launch her business. To which I received the response “They need to provide their email address when they sign up for a demo”. “But, but… what if they aren’t ready for a demo?”

Like so many other businesses, she didn’t understand the importance of capturing an email address no matter what stage of the buying decision the potential customer is at. Her business may as well just be a billboard someone drives past and never looks twice at again.

Lately, I’ve had many discussions with business owners about how they are capturing audience data on the web. I’m still surprised to hear how many are focussing only on building an audience on their social media company pages, and I’m shocked to still see content being published to social media pages that is all curated, with no original content that will drive traffic back to a website.

Think about this, you are growing a following on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, or all of these platforms. You are posting someone else’s content once or twice a week, and should your follower want to read it, they are clicking through to someone else’s site. Ok, so you ARE offering value to your online audience, but let me throw this curve ball at you … social media becomes extinct tomorrow.

Now, don’t start having an anxiety attack, as if social media would really shut down tomorrow. But what if that did happen? What happens to your audience you built on those platforms?

This conversation I mentioned above led me to reflect on why it’s a dangerous practice to build an audience on social media only.

1. We have no control

You do not own those contacts on social media, they belong to the platform. Facebook, for example, can do as they wish with your audience, to show them what their algorithms think they want to see. Your followers can drop off at any time and you can do absolutely nothing about it to re-engage these people.

2. It’s difficult to send them on a journey to purchase

We want our contacts to become customers, to do this we need to be able to send them on a journey to a purchase decision. Buying decisions are no longer linear. It usually takes a series of small influences for a consumer to come to a decision.

If you’re no stranger to inbound marketing then you know there are four stages of the buyer’s journey: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. It’s easy to attract an audience to your social media page, but where you really want a follower to get to is the next stage of the buyer’s journey, converting them into a contact, then closing them into a customer until they become a raving fan for your business. Getting them OFF your social media page and onto your website is the first step in turning a like into a lead.

3. It costs more time, effort and money

It costs more time because you need to post daily to keep an audience engaged. It costs more in effort because you need to work four times as hard to try convert a like into a sale. It costs more money because today you need to pay to play in social media land. With the cluttered social media landscape we all play in, it’s easy for our content to become a needle in a hay stack as our audience is drawn to pictures from friends, videos of puppies and Game of Thrones fan theories. This is where boosted posts and targeted ads come into play.

It’s risky business building your audience on social media alone. One of the most valuable assets of any business is their database and this is where businesses should be building their audience, in a database they own and control.

So, I believe I have made my point. The first rule of building an audience on social media … get them off social media and into your database! This is the first step to turning a visitor into a client.

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