Why Email Marketing Crushes Social Media Marketing (and How to Get Started)

by Derek Halpern · 54 comments

email marketing

If you’re serious about blogging and business, you need an email list.

Yes, there are some social media naysayers, but here’s the truth:

When you have someone’s email, you’re allowed to communicate with them when you want, how you want.

And when you communicate well, you’ll see a MUCH higher response than any other mode of communication.

Don’t take my word for it though… Here’s the proof:

What’s Better? 1,000 Clicks or 50 Clicks?

Silly question… I know.

1,000 highly targeted clicks absolutely crushes 50 clicks :-).

Well, that’s the difference between email marketing and social media.

Recently I sent out a link to my Twitter following, and that earned around 50 clicks in an hour. I also sent that same link to my Google Plus stream, and that earned around 75 clicks.

Not great… but not bad either.

However, here’s where things got interesting:

When I sent out that same link to my email list (it’s about twice as large as my Twitter and Google Plus following), I received more than 1,200 clicks.

Yes, my email list might be twice as large as my social media following, but it generated about 24 times more clicks.

That’s the power of email.

Stop Promoting Social Media Profiles, and Focus On Your Email List

The other day someone emailed me and said, ” Derek, why don’t you link to your social media profiles on your sidebar of Social Triggers?”

After seeing my results, you can probably guess why I don’t promote my profiles, right?

Right! I get better results from email.

This isn’t a fluke either… It appears to be the facts.

I know a lot of people who focus on both social media profiles and their email lists, and in each case, the email list absolutely crushes the social media profiles.

So, beginning today, you need to stop promoting your social media profiles at the expense of growing your email list.

What do I mean by that?

You can still link your social media profiles… at the bottom of your sidebar.

But at the top? That’s where the email signup form belongs.

And you don’t want those pesky social media icons anywhere near it because it might tank your conversion rates.

How Can You Start Growing Your Email List?

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve likely sold you on the power of email marketing.

And that means you’re ready to get some real results :-D.

Here’s how you can start growing your email list:

First, you’ll need a reliable email provider. I recommend Aweber because its easy to use, and has loads of stat-tracking.

(Note, if you’re using Feedburner by email, you’re missing out on the power of real email marketing)

Then, you’ll need to add email-signup forms to your website. If you’re using Thesis, it’s a cinch. Follow this tutorial here.

Finally, to kick-up your email list growth, find your most valuable pages, and optimize those pages for email conversions. Read more about that here.

Once You Get Emails, Here’s What You Do Next

Once you follow those three steps, you’ll be well on your way to building an email list.

However, if you want that list to get you great results, you’ll need to treat that email list right.

If you don’t, people will unsubscribe, and worse, people may not even open your emails.

To prevent that, you need to be more personable and approachable by email because that will make people WANT your emails instead of simply pressing delete without reading them.

The best way I know how to be personable and approachable is by using my famous Welcome Email that asks each and every new subscriber “What are you struggling with?”

The real email is much longer than that, and you can read more about that here, but here’s a quick summary:

When you ask people what are you struggling with, you’ll learn how you can help your subscribers. That will give you ideas on what content to write, and what products to create.

But most importantly, when you ask that question, people often reply to that email. Then, when you reply back, most subscribers will be amazed that you took the time to talk to them directly because it’s uncommon.

This will help you stand out, and now people may start looking for your emails, instead of deleting them.

The Bottom Line

Email marketing is powerful, and when you do it right, you can see great results.

Now I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment.

About the Author: Derek Halpern ran marketing at DIYthemes, and is the founder of Social Triggers. To get more tips on how to be confident, sign up to his list here.

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Mtn Jim Fisher

The stats don’t lie right Derek?

The focus on email marketing and tips are appreciated.

But of course, you should be doing the social media stuff, too. Another 125 clicks ain’t too shabby…:-) How many Facebook clicks did your link generate?

Mtn Jim

Gregory C.

I almost feel as if the social media stuff is only important for social proof and the sharing of individual posts sometimes.

Social media proof seems to resonate with some people more than a large Feedburner count (many people outside of blogging still don’t know what Feedburner is), and sharing of posts is still a useful aspect (including links to share that is), but the sharing of your own material on your respective social media accounts just can’t compare to an email.

I think this post puts to rest something many of us have known for a while.

Mike Van Horn

Derek, with all your good stuff here, one thing I don’t see is a way for us to forward this to someone else’s email address. (Not sign them up, but just send them this messsage.)

Wilson Usman

Mike, you know you can just copy the link and email it to a friend or download add this addon to firefox if you use that browser.

Wilson Usman

100% right I’ve been using email marketing strategies on my audio niche and it works like a charm. People ask questions and I find content that solves their problems.

Of course don’t put all your eggs in one basket, I would say. This should be part of your marketing mix not just the only tactic.

Alexander Zagoumenov

Derek! Great point and a very clear example. I coordinated email marketing campaigns for some big clients at Critical Mass and was absolutely in love with what it accomplished, even though most of my non-digital friends called me “spammer” :). Time has passed, social media boom has come in, I still believed in the power of email marketing. Ironically, I still don’t have an email list πŸ™‚ however your points has just pushed me to make the move and start campaigning. BTW, thanks to Roger Kondrat (West17Media) for sharing the link to this article in his email newsletter. Thanks again for the article, Derek!

Kyle Porter

I saw yours and Pearsons tweet, but ended up clicking the email a bit later.

Here’s one: instead of me having to click the email link to comment, how cool would it be if I could just reply to the email with my comment? I’d be 5x more likely to do it that way…bc I’m on my phone so much.

Derek Halpern

That would be awesome heh. Now lets figure out how to build it πŸ˜€

Sanjiv Manifest

As always great advice Derek … presented in a easy to read manner … thank you for your ongoing posts.

Derek Halpern

You’re welcome Sanjiv


Great post Derek. You definitely amazed me when you replied to my email! And you’re absolutely right, now you have me on the edge of my seat. Thanks man.

Derek Halpern

Thanks Evan πŸ˜€

Hashim Warren

Derek, I think your test is flawed. The same campaign that’s used for email will tank in social media, and vice versa.

One powerful feature of Twitter is that you can sequence several different messages or even repeat messages.

Guy Kawasaki is known to tweet the same link multiple times in one day when he really wants a response. Imagine doing that in email. If you’re not skillful, you’ll burn your list. On Twitter, this tactic might increase your list.

Derek Halpern

You’re missing the point. Obviously you need different links for different spaces, but in the end, the amount of clicks you generate per email will always be higher than the amount of clicks you generate per follower.

I’m not discounting social media as a great traffic source though. It IS a great source for traffic. What I’m saying is, if you’re growing your social media following at the expense of your email list, you’re making a fatal business mistake.

Tom Watson

Derek….What a powerful post! Love it, thanks!


I think Hashim has a point. And it brings up that there is probably different ways to market to different social media sites.

However, I agree with the premise of post here, that email is more responsive. One reason is that readers probably are connected a greater part of the day to email than to Twitter or other social sites.

Think that has an impact?

Derek Halpern

He does have a point. There are different ways to market on specific social media sites, but as you said, my premise still stands. Email marketing trumps social media marketing every single time.


I lose track of incoming feeds, twitter and fb, but email is always there. It hits my up everyday, and I’m honestly hooked those email marketers who send daily update. If they miss a day, I left with the feeling something is missing.

Ben Settle is a great example of the power of email. He doesn’t really have a blog, he happens to post his daily emails in his blog, but his philosophy is all about email marketing. And he comes up with some of the most creative, thought-provoking material, seemingly off the cuff, many of which lead to “ah-ha” moments for me personally. If you really want to harness the power of email marketing, check out BenSettle.com, it’s well worth it.

Ahmad Wali

Hey Derek once again you nailed it there.. I hear a lot that build email lists and join aweber or get response. However, there are so many people who just cannot afford to take risks or spent money on domains, web hosting, themes, email marketing, and many more things. How would start-ups settle this thing out?

Good thing is with Thesis I finally signed up to Aweber and building an email list, but my above question is very important.

Martyn Chamberlin

Domain: $9.99/year
Hosting: $14.99/mo
Theme: $100
AWeber: $30/mo

If you’re a business, that’s not much. It’s far less expensive than traditional distribution models. πŸ˜‰

Derek Halpern

Here’s one of the few times you’ll see me agree with Martyn on anything. He’s right. That’s peanuts.

30 years ago, you needed to spend thousands of dollars, and maybe even 10,000 dollars (or more) to start a business.

Martyn Chamberlin

Hahaha you’re so funny.

I’ll try to be wrong next time.

Martyn Chamberlin

This is really good advice man. You’ve got me thinking I need to remove my social icons from my sidebar …

Just one thought. My two sources of traffic are my list and social media. My list won’t grow by sending emails to it. My stuff has to spread externally.

Perhaps we best show our love for our list by promoting social media?

aditya menon

I would only be rehashing the obvious by saying: “Awesome, sage advice”. I do believe that being praised feels sweet no matter how many times it happened before πŸ™‚

However, growing an email list requires traffic to your website, and for that, social media can help. It’s easier to get someone to follow you on twitter than sign up for your email list on the first visit to your site – simply because it’s basically easier to click the +Follow button than fill up a form.

Get 120 clicks from your social media, then make them come again – they’ll automatically sign up for your email list. Then you get to see great results! That’s a little bit of advertising money saved right there!

Philippe ZAMOR

Hey Derek, myself and maybe a lot more of your readers can attest that your blog post is not only super generous but very helpful as well. I strongly feel that you are right-on in your approach.

I myself was a lucky “victim” of the above explain process. I really did appreciate the email you sent me asking me what I was struggling with the most. To me, this was unheard of. But on top of that, you did take the time, really quickly, to answer and give me advices.. Good advices; I should add.

Being in the internet marketing world for 2 years, and like many newbies out there and even some veteran IM, lots of us like to get on different email list for different reasons like I tend to do.
Anyhow, after reading this post and looking back and repeating the process in my mind, and putting myself back in that state of mind, it made me realize that this was a very good approach and that is definitely gonna be a solid template for when I’ll be putting up my list.

Anyway, thank you very much Derek for this blog post and ALL the previous ones as well. I really want to implement that technique when I’ll start my own email list. I shall refer to this blog post when the time is right.




well just another great post ^^
I think exactly the same
The duration of a message in social media is about 1 second
Duration of an email is much much longer

Ken Ansbro

Great article. I know I need to start doing this and I have looked at aweber before. Its time to start building my list. It seems like there’s so many things to do with my web sites sometimes I get lost in what’s really important and I keep hearing about email marketing. Thanks for your information on this subject and I will be looking at your other posts.

Ken Ansbro


Email is social media, it was the first mass distribution (1-2-many) capable social media. The key to success in marketing is to integrate all the digital tools, be careful not to over look the emerging ones or you just become that guy that said his tests showed that brochures got a better response than his website so he stopped investing in the web in 1990.

My social following is far larger than my email list – so when I do the same test I get different results. Email helps you reach a highly targeted opted in audience(if done properly) social media helps you engage on a deeper level and increase the trust people have in you and that increases conversion (if done properly). So integration and using the right balance for your sector is they key.


Ed Rivis

Compelling statistics!

I’m always trying to remind my clients that, yes, they do need to get started with social media, but they need to get solid foundations in place first, and email marketing is one of the most important things they need to do online.

Paul F

I have been “pulling-my-hair-out” thinking I have been doing something wrong when it comes to social media marketing and direct email lists.

The email response rates for my clients is always way above the industry averages – and have been very successful.
The social media stuff – even though it’s all the buzz – I have had paltry results.

Thanks for taking the time and doing the numbers.


What a great article and for me you hit a cord. Making it personal will allow me to be me, not only in what I write, but also how I acknowledge my subscribers. Great advice!

Thanks very much and keep up the great work!



This advice is 100% spot on. On a recent gig, this became exceptionally clear because email is where fortune 50 companies spend customer engagement resources, far more than social media. This isn’t because they “just aren’t savvy to social media” – they know full well that Twitter has an audience. The reason is pretty simple: they go where the money is. The numbers you saw in your experiment are consistent with large-scale results.

Really great article – and helps folks to not waste too much time thinking they are building their business by spending 8 hours a day chatting in social media channels. Do some social media work, but stick to the fundamentals (including email) and you will see results.

Nice work.


So…why do you have the facebook like button above your email subscription box?

Derek Halpern

Because DIYthemes is at a different stage of growth than most blogs out there.


I tried to be smart and bought a book on WordPress and creating site but it stated to start with the DIYTHEME which I did then download an FTP client only to read that FTP is not allowed so I spent 80 days for nothing unless I’m just missing something and someone can hep m out.

Book states:
Once your blog is actually set up, what you need to do is make it look the way you want to, and you do that by using Themes. There are tons of themes available online, and I’ll show you some of the best ones out there, but before I do, let me tell you about the theme that I’ve been using for years with incredible results. My absolute favorite theme is called Thesis, and it’s available over at DIYThemes.com. The reason I like this particular template so much is that you can customize pretty much anything about it (from the look of it, to usability or even on page SEO aspects) without touching a single line of code. Pretty much anything you need customized within Thesis, you can do just by messing around with the options which is quick and easy. Just take a look at all the stuff you can do with it

Art Remnet

Hi Brian.

I’m not sure where you are seeing FTP is not allowed unless it is from your webhost. I have used Thesis for years and only FTP it.

Feel free to PM me to discuss. It would be good to “save” your 80 days and move forward with a really terrific theme and platform (Thesis and WP)

Rob @ Atlanta Real Estate


I know there’s no way you can possibly know this but the timing of your articles is often dead-on with issues I’m trying to solve here.

I have a list of 3600 non-bouncers that I need to be marketing to. It was always very tedious to email this group due to limitations on emails/day from my host, and just the mechanics of it all: doing a email merge with ACT! and Outlook…but only 500 at a time.

Anyway, due to this boredom, I stopped emailing everyone for about a year.

Recently I changed databases to a online CRM tool and the old procedure email merge isn’t required, but their emails/day limitation is even worse at 250.

So I’m looking at MailChimp which is free for up to 2000 contacts. Figure I will open two free account and put half in each and then I can mass email them something nice as often as I like.

Going to now compare your Aweber with MailChimp and see what the skinny is there as well.


Jane Social Media Marketing

I really appreciate the advantages of using a building envelope in a structure. I’d like to thank you for sharing us this wonderful post.

gabe mott

I’ve used constant contact and now use aweber- I switched based on lots of feedback but honestly don’t find that much of a difference and I probably shouldn’t have switched because when I did I lost too many people. My question though is about google groups. I realize you don’t get the same insight on who clicks what in your email, but FREE vs. $10 a month is a big enough difference to me to consider dropping aweber altogether and going with google groups. Interested in your thoughts.

email marketing

great ideas. thanks a lot! i have something to share to my friends.


Hi Derek, I’m pretty new at this and am just wondering how having the social media icons near the email form lowers the conversion rates? Maybe this is common knowledge among bloggers, but I’m just learning as I go. πŸ™‚

Thanks and great article! Very helpful!

Ted Jee

Having done almost everything there is out there in driving traffic, the latest flashy thing, magic bullet/silver bullet, social media and so on, I came to the deep realization that it is always about the size of the responsive database that matters. And in the online world, we are talking about email lists. I’ve always kicked myself a lot thinking how much better off I will be if I’ve only started to build my list way back when I first started internet marketing 8 years ago. But having tried many things and grown a lot wiser, I say email list is definitely the foundation to everything else. Everything builds around this.

Sean Davis

I’m going to go ahead and focus on both for a while so I can make comparisons myself. I have always stayed away from email for some silly reason. No more, though. I just set up my Aweber account and everything that comes along with it.

Rob Williams

Hi Derek,

Interesting post, I can see where you’re coming from, and I think you’re technically correct, at the moment.

but I think you’re missing a big point.

This is changing.

Slowly, but surely, people are moving away from email, we deal with a lot of younger customers who don’t use their email accounts any more at all… they use Facebook for all their messaging.

Our social response rate is increasing year on year, and our email response is staying still, or dropping slightly… it’s still currently way higher than social, but for younger demographics we get a far higher response rate on social.

So your email list may be massive in 5 years, but by then will the social list be the more useful?

Be careful of putting all your eggs in one basket πŸ™‚


Rona Empfield

Derek – in all my hours of searching out great marketing wisdom I finally connect with all you have to say. I love your approach, your generosity in valuable content and look forward to more emails from you. Cheers!
Rona –

Tanya Malott

Good thing I’m reading this now, while my new blog-site is under construction. I wouldn’t have thought to move the social media buttons down the page, but that makes some sense.

Linda Varone

How to build your email list? I know Derek is big on the features box being front and center, but this doesn’t work for all businesses/websites.
Does anyone have any experience with pop-up email forms (placed and timed to avoid being obnoxious) with an offer of a white paper or brief eBook in exchange for signing up?


Brad Ferris

Hey Derek,

Are there advantages to using an email marketing list for generic blog? If you have 500-5,000 RSS subscribers, is there an advantage to paying aweber or anyone else to manage your email list?


As always an excellent and informative article. My angle is that I use a signup form on my Facebook fan page landing ab to build the list first.



Hey Derek, That is really eye opening. With all of the buzz with social media, you would think e-mail marketing was taking a backseat. You have proven this could very well be incorrect. You have inspired me to take a second look at this form of marketing and I appreciate your post.

Kurt Novak

I always felt that email marketing is much more responsive than posting on social media sites. But here’s another important point to keep in mind as you build your business: you own your email list. If Facebook or Twitter terminates your account, your likes and followers are gone. You lost the platform to communicate with your audience. The email list on the other hand is independent of any website. You can always go to a different provider to email your audience.


Derek! I’m not getting any work done because I can’t stop reading your articles! Can you just put a lid on the brilliance for just 8 hours so I can meet some deadlines? πŸ˜‰ Just kidding, keep it coming! This is great stuff! I’m modeling more and more of my work off of http://www.socialtriggers.com – the articles and just the way you do things there.

Elizabeth Jackson

“After seeing my results, you can probably guess why I don’t promote my profiles, right?

“Right! I get better results from email.”

You may be confusing the cause with the effect.


Hi, after reading several marketing websites, books and getting advice, you are NOT allowed to target individuals via email without their express permission; a new law was brought in, I think back in 2007 here in the UK that makes it illegal to do without their consent and even then you have to give them an option to opt out.

At the moment, it is still ok here in the UK to send unsolicited emails to companies, though I believe this is illegal to do in the US?

So personally, for me, email marketing has been non-responsive and emails to businesses are simply classed as spam/junk.

As for social networks like FB, personally it isn’t good for my business. Effective marketing online, I think someone mentioned earlier, definitely videos on your website/youtube.