I see a lot of people who build their following on Instagram and other social media platforms. Much like the dog who chases a car – what do you do when you catch ’em?

Having an online business with the “best” (however you define that word) product or service means nothing as far as sales goes. It’s the relationship that you have with your target audience that allows you to make on-demand sales. Many Influencers have well over 100k followers – some even into the millions. But simply having a certain number of people who follow you, or the influencer you want to connect with, is in no way a guarantee that you’ll be able to sell products and services to those followers – or even reach them with your message.

Instagram and other online social media platforms are constantly tweaking their algorithms, not for your benefit but for theirs. Right now, a post made by an account on Instagram reaches only about 8% of their followers – 8,000 people for every 100,000 followers. And when I say a post “reaches” 8% of an audience, that in no way guarantees that they read it, or take any other action based on that post. At best, you can expect about 30 percent of those 8,000 followers to respond. That means out of 100,000 followers, only 2,400 interact with you based on that post.

Building and having a relationship with people online, and then monetizing that relationship, requires three steps:

  1. Owning access to those people
  2. Owning the product or service that you offer to those people
  3. Owning the sales process (or store) that offers your product or service to your target audience

If anyone else controls even one of those steps in this process, you cannot own the relationship with the individuals in your target audience. It can be taken away from you at any time, either temporarily or permanently.

If you have followers or fans on a social media platform, they can disappear at any moment, and so can any influence you have with these people. You must start moving them off the media’s algorithm and onto your own list. A “list” is simply a contact list, where you have an individual’s permission to reach out to them with the contact point they’ve provided to you. For the past several years, I’ve focused on building email lists with my clients.

Depending on factors like message frequency and interest level, email lists have an overall open rate of approximately 16%. Right off the bat, this is double the interaction rate of a social media post. From 100,000 people, you’ll get about 16,000 people to see your message. Using the same 30% action rate example, this means 4,800 people will take some kind of action based on receiving your message. That’s double the number of people from a social media post alone.

Recently I’ve been working with clients to collect mobile phone numbers, and encouraging them to reach out to their list via SMS message instead. Why? Because studies show that over 90 percent of people who get an SMS message read it within 10 minutes of receiving it. Let’s say your list is only 25,000 individuals – one-quarter the number of followers we’ve been talking about. That means approximately 22,500 people will read your message within 10 minutes of sending it. Again using a 30% action rate approximately 6,750 individuals will take action based on that SMS message. That’s a forty percent bump in interaction from sending an email! If you’re selling at a price point of one-hundred dollars, that could be an increase of over $195,000 with a switch to a different messaging medium. That is, of course, based on the assumption that you own the relationship with your clients and prospects.

In just the last few months, Instagram has made it possible to automate direct messaging. Within that automation, you can collect personal information, including contact information like email address and mobile number. That makes it possible to automate list-building from within a direct messaging sequence without your prospect leaving the Instagram app.

But list-building is only the first step down the road towards monetization. I’ll explore owning your offer, and owning the sales process, in upcoming articles. I encourage you to reach out if you want to know more.