If you have been involved in online marketing for any length of time, you've probably heard the saying, "The money's in the list." Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably also heard online marketers getting excited about the potential of social media as the big hot thing for reaching a wider audience. How, though, do you get people from social networks onto your mailing list?
Social networking sites that are free to use have to make money to stay open for business, and in most cases this means advertising revenue. The beauty of advertising on social networks like Facebook is that you have access to a wide range of demographics with which to target your advertising to the people who are most likely to respond to it.
You can create an advert to run in the sponsored slots of Facebook pages, which will only appear to people in selected countries or territories, of a certain age, with a certain relationship status, who have previously liked or not liked a certain page, and so on. If you tailor your advertising words to the demographics you are targeting, you can increase your conversion rate. For example, targeting people whose relationship status indicates that they are engaged and using "Engaged?" in your advert heading.
Simply using run of site advertising on social networks, though, even highly targeted ads, is failing to make the most of the social aspect of Social networking. Users quickly get used to where the sponsored slots on a given page are, and start to filter them put much like banner ads on other sites. To get the most out of social network, you need links to your sites to appear in users' feeds, the place where they see what their friends have been doing on the site.
You can get your links to show up in user feeds by creating an app for Facebook (or whichever social network you're targeting) or creating a fan page. Then, provide interesting information, competitions, offers or customer service through these pages and apps. Now each time a user interfaces with you through your page, that interaction shows up in their activity feed, and therefore in all their friends' feeds as well.
Of course, if you want your app or page to 'go viral' you have to make it fun, interesting or valuable, preferably all three. This is the online equivalent of "Word of mouth" advertising, and although to some extent you can generate it by pointing traffic to your apps and pages and being active on them yourself, you can not force it to happen. You can not buy viral, no matter what any internet-marketing salesman tells you.
Once you have people on your app or page, use an opt in form to collect their email addresses and get permission to add them to your email list, via a newsletter or members only offer. Once you have them on the list, do not treat them like users who have signed up on a static site. Use the information you have you personalize their emails, and make it part of the experience of connecting with your brand.