You always hear the phrase “Don’t build your house on rented land” when people talk about using social media as their main marketing platform.
I can tell you from personal experience that building your house on rented land is a very painful, emotional experience when you lose that house. The sad part is I’m not talking about a social media channel—I’m talking about an actual house.
Growing up, I had a beach house made from the bits and pieces left over from house projects my grandfather didn’t use in his house building business. It was cobbled together from things that didn’t match and certainly was more of a shack than a house. But it was ours!
My childhood summers were full of swimming in the tidal marsh creek at low tide, days spent reading books in the summer sun, eating as many fried clams as I could. It was sun-soaked, blissful, and beautiful. I was so privileged to get that experience in my life and love how it tied my brother and I to our mom through a shared childhood experience.
But the house was built on, you guessed it, rented land.
My family had a fifty year lease that would expire in 2013. In 1963, that seemed like a long way off. An impossible distance of time probably.
The thing is that my nana’s family also had houses in the same area and she wanted to be nearby. My grandad, however, knew that building a house on a leased lot wasn’t super smart. He wanted to buy land in the adjacent community where they could buy the land instead. It was within a short boat-drive distance.
Nana won out though. Women in my family tend to get what we want.
When 2015 came around, we lost the house. It was gut-wrenching. It’s still one of the most painful things in my life. I can’t talk or think about it without tears coming to my eyes—even as I write this now. I won’t be able to share that experience with my own children like my mom got to with me.
And yes, we knew this was going to happen. But my family built the house there anyway because it seemed like a better idea to be closer to our other family. They’d deal with the lease when it came time, I’m sure my grandparents thought. Little did they know that wasn’t an option in the future.
Why you need a email list—to spend more time on it
Spending all your time and attention on social media instead of your email list isn’t that different. It seems like a better place to spend your time.
Just like my nana wanting to be near her family, you want to be near your audience. You’ll deal with platform changes when they happen, cross the bridge when you come to it.
Facebook isn’t what it used to be for businesses and lots of people saw huge declines in their reach. What’s worse is that for some it was their livelihood they lost, not just a vacation home.
I’m sure that like me, you get into the habit of spending more time on social media than on creating great content for your newsletter. Creating a post on Instagram is so much easier than writing an epic email. It’s addictive. It’s fun. It’s fast-moving.
But at the end of the day, social media isn’t going to be the ultimate traffic-driving, business-goal-achieving thing for me. And I’m guessing it isn’t for you either. It’s my email list.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t spend time on social media. It’s just to say that you need to be aware of how you spend your time and the impact it has on your bottom line.
If your top referral source of traffic, be it Instagram, Pinterest, or even Google, stopped sending you traffic tomorrow, how would you cope?
Your email list is the only place where you have 100% control over what happens to your business online. But how much time do you spend on it versus social media? How much does your email list impact your bottom line over other things you spend time on?
Why I focus on building my email list more than other things
If there’s anything I learned from losing a house built on rented land, it’s that I always need to plan for the future. If my grandad had won out, things would be different now.
Email is the best way to stay in touch with your audience that you have entire control over. That’s why it’s my top focus for my marketing. It helps me to keep cultivating and growing my audience, transforming my traffic into meaningful relationships and buying behavior.
It takes more time, sure, and it doesn’t feel as good when one person opens an email versus when ten people like a post. But I don’t have to be constantly worried that I’m going to lose my business because I relied entirely on social media or algorithms to work in my favor.
And that’s a pretty big statement from someone who helps people do SEO for a living!
More than anything else, my reasoning behind my email focus is the structure of my sales funnel and what role different platforms and marketing strategies have to do with my overall success.
Every business is different and so the focus will be different throughout the marketing funnel—but at the very bottom of it, I use my email as a way to cultivate my audience and convert them into pay customers, supportive referral sources, and door-openers to new opportunities.
Think of this as a kick in the pants and start your email list right now.