How to get people off social media and onto your customer list

Social media is a fantastic tool for your business, but there’s no point in putting all that work into building up a social media following if none of it results in new customers.

We take a look at how to get your followers off social media and onto your customer list instead!

Social media is an amazing tool for your business, but a lot of companies just ‘do’ social without really having a lot of strategy for it. In fact, it can be really easy to find yourself doing social media just because everyone else is doing it!

But you get nothing for a social media like. There’s no point in having a huge online following if none of those followers convert to customers at some point.

Building your own communication channel

You also have to remember that social media isn’t your platform. You are building an audience on someone else’s and sometimes those audiences can take years to build up. But what if something happens to that platform? You might say that Instagram is going nowhere, or YouTube will always be about, but in the last 20 years we’ve seen Friends Reunited, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Yahoo grow into huge online platforms where people built up massive networks… and then disappear.

Audiences naturally migrate over time too. People who were active on Facebook and Instagram might now have moved to TikTok and Snapchat, but if you get people to sign-up to your mailing list or onto your own platform, then you have complete control over your audience regardless of any algorithm changes or policy updates on social media. By establishing your own channels (for example a mailing list) with both your customers and people who might become your customers, you are creating a direct line of communication with your audience that you control. You’ll always have a way to talk direct.


Deepening the connection with your audience

Getting people onto your own communication channel also allows you to deepen the connection with your audience. Mitali Deypurkaystha, the founder of The Vegan Publisher that helps business founders and entrepreneurs write their own book, sends a really brief email out to her mailing list at least a couple of times a week. She’s a writer so they are always interesting, but they often contain a tip, an insightful thought or notes from an event she’s attended and what she learned from it.

They also take no more than ten seconds to read and Mitali only sends them out when she has something to say, so her subscribers know that the email is likely to be insightful or, if not, at least make them laugh. And what she is doing with these emails is perfect – she knows that if someone has found themselves on her list then they are likely in her target audience so these emails allow her to build up familiarity and authority with her subscribers. And when they get to the point where they see the advantage of having a book, they will likely turn to Mitali to help them write it. If someone is receiving her short insights and isn’t engaging with them or feel like they are hearing from her too much, then they are likely not Mitali’s future customers and that’s why there’s an unsubscribe link on the bottom. People will self-clean themselves from your mailing list if they are no longer interested – remember, it’s only spam if it’s not relevant to you.


You could argue that Mitali could just talk to these people through social media instead. But on social Mitali is competing with countless other accounts that people follow and other distractions. Even posting regularly, your followers will only ever see a small fraction of your activity. However, when you move someone off social and onto your mailing list, you can get their undivided attention every time you have something to say. You can nurture a more personal and meaningful relationship with those in your audience who will later go on to become your customers.

If you also use a professional email marketing tool like MailChimp or Active Campaign, then this gives you far more data about how the people on your list are interacting with your messages. If you have a link in your weekly email for someone to read about a particular service you offer then you can see who clicked on that link, meaning that you can send them a tailored follow-up message asking if they want more information. You can also automate this so that anyone who clicks on a specific link automatically gets a follow-up message the following day.

So while social media is undeniably a valuable tool for expanding your reach and getting people into the top of your funnel, it’s essential to get those people to keep moving down your funnel and into the communication channels that you control. 

This could be your mailing list here, your WhatsApp group or your membership community. Or it could be getting people to follow you in places where there are less distractions so that you can build up trust and familiarity with them, such as subscribing to your podcast.

Social media is a valuable tool for getting people into the top of your funnel, but it's essential to get those people to keep moving down your funnel and into the communication channels that you control.

Offering a value exchange

If you were to Google how to capture your follower’s details or how to get engagement, you’ll find a load of ideas that might seem a bit slimy! All those posts offering free holidays, iPads and give-aways in return for people signing up to a mailing list. Everyone knows what companies are playing at when they do this, and if you’ve only got a small following then you’ll find yourself having to give away a lot of stuff for not many email addresses in return.

Instead, think about a value exchange that works for you both. For example, you probably already know about the concept of a ‘lead magnet’ where you offer something of really high value, such as a PDF teaching someone a valuable skill or providing a really useful template or guide. In order for someone to get that information they don’t pay for it, but instead they give you their email address. And as long as you are following GDPR guidance (and you have to be specifically mindful of GDPR if you are selling to the general public instead of businesses) then that’s a good way to get a constant trickle-feed of people onto your mailing list.

And you can extend the reach of your lead magnet onto your social media. Make sure you promote it regularly to your followers as a way to start capturing their details and identifying the ones who are actively interested in what you offer. You might even pay to ‘boost’ a post about your guide or templates so that all your followers see it, meaning that you can start getting some of them off your social platforms and onto the platforms that you own and control yourself.

Starting conversations with your followers

Another effective way to transition social media followers is to get them into a conversation through the use of semi-automated messages. You have to be careful here, because you can automate a lot of things on social media but the rules around what the platforms do and don’t allow change all the time. If you get it wrong you will find yourself blocked or even banned for life. Few social media platforms allow you to send an automated message to new followers, or even send a message to everyone who’s following you. They want messages to followers to be a manual and limited process because they don’t want their platform users getting spammed! If you want to automate those kinds of messages then you have to use third-party tools and apps – but be aware, you’re playing the risky game of those apps trying to trick the algorithms into thinking it’s not an automated tool sending the messages and you can get your account suspended if you are found out.

However, you can semi-automate messaging on social media and still have a real impact. You can have the messages pre-written so all you are doing is copy and pasting them every time you get a new follower. So for example, if you have a business service then you might send a message to a new connection on LinkedIn or a new follower on Instagram along the lines of “Hey Shyla, thank you for connecting. Have you got a website so that I can find out more about your business?” And you will find, that when you ask an open question like this, a lot of people respond meaning that you can get into a longer conversation with them.


And once you get them into a conversation, you can then present them with different options to engage with you depending on their response. 

For example, on LinkedIn, we have a standard message that I send to anyone who connects with me and it’s got a pre-qualifier in it so I know where to take the conversation next. It says that it’s great to connect, it asks them if they’ve got a website I can take a look at and it asks them if they are vegan themselves. We get a really high response rate to that message, and if someone replies that they do indeed have a business and they are vegan, then we’ve got a second copy and paste message saying that they might want to sign-up to our mailing list over at Vegan Business Tribe and asking if they’d like a coupon for a free month trial.

If you use a similar process then you can invite a new contact you’ve made on social to take a step away from that platform towards your own communication channels. 


Test, find what works, implement, move on...

Once you have tested out different messages and know what gets a response, then you can get someone else to do it for you for you.

It can be a member of your team, or you can get an online VA to log into your account a couple of times a week. They can send these pre-written messages to your new followers and reply to people who have responded with the next message in the sequence. 

Your first message might find out why someone is following you, and the next message they get might direct them to a useful lead magnet on your website that relates to their answer. Or it might make them aware that you’ve got a free seminar coming up.

Remember, these conversations should never feel like a sales pitch so take it slow in trying to get them into a sales conversation. The focus should be on making the follower connect with you and establishing yourself as a trusted resource.

You should also go back through your recent posts and see which people are regularly liking and commenting, and if you don’t already know these people then use similar pre-written messages to get them into a conversation and move them over to your website or mailing list. And again, once you’ve worked out what pre-written messages get a response, give that job to someone else to do. Your work as the founder is done and someone else can keep on top of it.

Another way that we transfer people from social at Vegan Business Tribe is by running free seminars. We run free online events throughout the year. Sometimes it will be on a general topic such as ‘how to get more customers’ or ‘how to scale-up a business’, other times we might do them in collaboration with another expert such as The Vegan Publisher

And the great thing about free seminars is that even if someone signs up but doesn’t attend, then they have still declared that they are interested in what you do and you have captured their details! So now you can start to nurture those people through your own channels.

Once you find what works and are regularly converting people over from social, it’s then worth considering paying for social media adverts and boosted posts so that you can reach more of your target audience. Or link up with other people who are already talking to a similar audience to yours so that you can cross-promote and both find new potential customers from each other’s audiences. 

Even if someone signs up to your free seminar but doesn’t attend, they have still declared an interest in what you do and you have captured their details!

Use social to create familiarity - the first step in the buying journey

And finally, social is also a great place to create familiarity with your company or brand. And this is important, because no one will buy from you or your brand until they are familiar with you. It’s the first step in the customer journey: you need someone to recognise you and be familiar with you before they can trust you, and you need someone to trust you before they will buy from you. 

If you jump straight on social and start inviting people to events and to enter competitions when they don’t really know you yet then you are going to get a really low engagement rate. It’s a bit like a stranger in the street asking if you want to go to a party! Your audience has to become familiar with you before they will engage with you, it’s part of their buying timeline. 

The people who do best on social are those brands and individuals who take people behind the scenes and invite you to get to know them. Companies like the Canadian vegan chocolate brand Mid-Day Squares who built their business in public, documenting all the ups and downs on Instagram. Followers who live in regions where you can’t even buy Mid-Day Square’s products feel like they know the brand and its founders intimately.

The more your followers get to know you and your brand, the more likely they are to interact with you, and the more likely they are to reply when you or your team reach out to them with a personal message. And you can also use this familiarity-building to create champions for your business: those customers who tell other people about you all the time on your behalf. 

Another example is Viva La Vegan clothing. If you follow them on social media you get to see what they do with the money you spend buying their clothes. 

You can see the work they do with Camp Beagle and various animal rescues, even using their delivery van to pick up waste food collections to help feed the pigs at Footprints Animal Sanctuary. So that means when you see Jay and Luke on the Viva La Vegan stall at your local vegan fair, you want to buy something from them because you know what being a customer enables them to do. 

And that’s the core of this process. Social media is a great tool, but it’s what we refer to as ‘top-of-the-funnel activity’. Use it to find new followers and make those followers feel like they really know you, but you then need to then ask them to take the next step. Use these strategies to get them onto your mailing list, or to attend one of your free events, so that you can bring that relationship off social media and on a path towards a sales conversation.


A bullet point recap of what we’ve covered in this article:

  1. The goal of marketing is to get people to convert into paying customers, not just to gain visibility for your company. You get nothing for a TikTok like!

  2. If you build an audience on a social media platform, then you don’t own that audience. Platforms change or disappear all the time.

  3. Transferring your social media followers onto your own channels, such as a mailing list, allows for direct communication where you’re not competing with everyone else. And if you use professional email marketing tools then you can also see how your audience interacts with your messages, highlighting who might be ready for a longer conversation.

  4. Offer high-value lead magnets to create an exchange and to capture the details of your social followers, such as a PDF guide or run free events that they have to book on.

  5. Semi-automate your messages with copy and pastes, and use them to engage with people directly and guide them to take the next step. And once you have worked out what messages work and have all your copy and pastes saved, then delegate that work to someone else in your business or use a virtual assistant to message each new follower or connection.

  6. You need to create familiarity on social media before expecting engagement and conversion. Would you say yes if a stranger walked up to you in the street and asked if you wanted to go to a party with them? It is perfectly acceptable to build your business in public these days and the more your audience feels like they know you, the more likely they are to accept an invitation to take the next step.

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