Ego vs Profit: Focusing on What Matters

by Travis Ketchum · 12 comments

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You would think everyone would be on the same page by now, after all nearly ever single reputable personality (and a few that aren’t so reputable) have been touting the value of having a big email list.

In fact, even a publication as mainstream as The Verge, who I love by the way, ran an article last year about “Scamworld” that talked about the raw power of email that results in millions of dollars of revenue (even if you don’t agree with the practices to do so).

Also last year a buddy of mine, Derek Halpern from Social Triggers did a test to once and for all put the nail in the coffin about the misconception that social media is even worth your time in comparison to email. He posted a link about a new blog post to his 30,000 Twitter Followers and emailed his 30,000 email subscribers (at the time).

The results: Twitter sent 300 clicks while e-mail generated 4,200 clicks. Which would you rather have for your list of 30,000?

Why Social Media is for Your Ego

I STILL get hundred of emails from people saying that their #1 goal is get more Facebook likes, Twitter followers etc. The biggest offender of the social media black hole appears to be people in the hunt for Facebook likes.

Now look, I totally understand that seeing a bunch of “likes” for your brand can make you feel really good. And, I’ll even concede that a well managed Fan Page can generate some decent traffic. But for now at least, it pales in comparison to email marketing.

I’ll even take it a step further and say this:

“Social Media has it’s place, but if it takes precedence over building an email list you’ll be stuck chasing 2nd place” – @TravisKetchum [Click to Tweet]

So you have a decision to make, to want everyone to think you’re a big deal by having a sizable social media presence? Or would you rather actually be a big deal by having a much bigger business by focusing on gathering your audience on an email list?

Why Email is for Your Business

The year 2012 was a banner year for me, because it’s the first year that email became a corner stone of how I operate my business. I had been involved with helping grow everyone else’s list before then, but had neglected my own.

Then, I launched a little WordPress plugin for running Contests because I wanted to focus on generating more leads for each part of my business by running contests people loved to enter with their email and were incentivized to get their friends to do the same.

In short, people absolutely loved it and we scooped up thousands of customers in a very short amount of time. Then we started getting interviewed on other popular blogs and the list kept growing exponentially.

Between the various aspects of what we do, we are collecting many thousands of emails each and every month segmented by interest. We now control the flow of traffic to our content, products and overall success of our business. E-mail marketing was directly responsible for hundreds of thousands in revenue between our own products and products we promoted via email.

To date, email has hands down been the most concrete driver of revenue growth and customer retention for us.

My Biggest Marketing Anxiety

I wish more people fully understood the value they are leaving on the table by ignoring their email list and focusing on building their audience where someone else really controls the relationship. (For example, needing promoted posts on Facebook to actually reach your customers.)

But I guess selfishly, the more people who keep ignoring the data about email marketing the better it is for people like me who do leverage it as it keeps the signal to noise ratio down πŸ™‚

The biggest anxiety I have about our current marketing strategy is that I wish we would have started collecting emails WAY sooner (notice the trend here, nearly every successful marketer feels the same way).

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About Travis Ketchum
A smart ass marketer who doesn't take no for an answer and always questions the status quo. Connect with me on Google+. Convinced yet? Get more tips and great content 100% free.

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Building a sustainable business is all about how well you can gather and maintain an audience. An email list is still one of the most viable ways to do just that.

We wanted to find a way to build an email incredibly fast, in a way that people actually find interesting, engaging and well - cool. It took a lot of testing to weed-whack through all the hype and find something that really worked.

The result? We ended up building our own solution, focused around the idea of contests and rewarding people for taking the actions that ultimately led to more leads on our email list. Everyone wins (and some literally do!), because as it turns out people love contests regardless of their market place.

Click to continue…

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike From Maine January 15, 2013 at 11:54 AM


I agree that the most important thing you should be doing for your business is building a list. Period. However, social does have it’s benefits, as I’m sure you’ll agree. For example, when you see a person has 30,000 followers on Twitter or 10,000 likes on Facebook it serves as social proof that the person is doing something right. When I see that proof I might be more likely to take the action that the website owner truly wants…giving them my email.

Great post…got me thinking.


Travis Ketchum January 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM


Yeah there is an aspect of social proof you’re definitely right. But wouldn’t wouldn’t you agree that social proof would take care of itself if you focus on building a list of engaged people? They will tweet your content, talk about you on Facebook etc way more frequently and easily than someone who doesn’t have that rapport via email.

It’s almost a self fulfilling prophecy that just makes it easier over time, but in the early days have that proof can be useful – I just don’t think it’s necessary to devote a bunch of resources to it.


Mike From Maine January 15, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Yeah, I completely agree that people spend WAY too much time and resources worrying about social.

I loved the comment about spending the money we used for college on building our lists.

Oh well πŸ™‚


Travis Ketchum January 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Ha! You win some and lose some. I absolutely loved my College experience at WSU, but it’s incredibly hard for me to quantify the ROI of that experience.

I guess now I’m fortunate enough to have that experience, the degree and an email list to boot πŸ™‚


Jay Eskenazi January 15, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Travis – you are right on! There are tons and tons of social media “vanity” metrics that people tend to focus on. Retweets, Twitter rankings (according to various websites), Facebook likes, and many more. Social media “professionals” are trying to create value for their companies, so most of it seems well intended. And a counterpoint to your article is that it is clear that some of these factors are impacting SEO and organic search results, so there is some merit. But, as a whole, you’re on track here and social media is not the same as email marketing. More companies need to focus on the latter.

ps – great post to start 2013 with – looking forward to seeing what you have in store for your readers this year.


Travis Ketchum January 15, 2013 at 12:13 PM


Without a doubt social is one of many signals used to determine ranking in search results, but wouldn’t you agree that this just an extension of your ability to get initial traffic to your content in the first place?

For instance – I’m assuming your talking about the influence that G+ has on search results in particular. In my eyes, given that this platform didn’t even exist not all that long ago.. and Google could decide to make it more difficult for people to find your content etc unless you pay to play. It’s their platform, not ours.

In comparison with an email service you pay a monthly subscription (usually) for the right to message any of your users with (nearly) anything you want so long as it follows reasonable CANSPAM guidelines.

The segement of your audience who loves you and wants to share your content will do so on whatever the social network of the moment is, so long as you have a constant medium of communication independent of the trendy way to share.


Jay Eskenazi January 15, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Travis – yes, I agree that social is an extension of your ability to generate traffic. If you focus on actually providing VALUE to your customers in the form of quality content that helps them, then mostly the other “stuff” takes care of itself if you have the proper work flow and the right plugins to automate things.


Matt Morris January 15, 2013 at 9:46 PM

Hey Travis,
Great post. I spent about a year focused on getting likes and after about 12,000 with very little ROI I went back to email.


Travis Ketchum January 15, 2013 at 11:57 PM

Matt – I can totally understand.

Do you have any data or insights you’d like to share about the effort, expense and the kind of returns you did see focusing on getting likes?

We could do a follow-up post for everyone if you’re willing to share.


David King January 24, 2013 at 4:30 PM

I think both are and can be important, one can be more about ego (facebook) but at the same time it can be a valuable way to send new traffic to blog articles, videos, pre-selling content etc.

It really depends on the business more than anything, but it seems that email marketing is still more valuable for me currently! Although I do use both mediums… obviously.

Thanks for sharing this article! sharing now!

David King


Travis Ketchum January 28, 2013 at 9:49 AM

I guess there is always the aspect of cultivating your community outside of the blog. There’s also certainly a good business use case for developing a brand page so that you can target your audience with FB ads in addition to your email strategy when doing a launch to blanket your warmest prospects.


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