The biggest social media mistake I’ve ever made.

I have made many mistakes related to my use of social media. I have been a jerk to people. I have been passive aggressive. I have said and done some very stupid things. But in 13 years of writing online, there is one mistake I regret the most.

Want to hear it?

So, in the last 6 years, I’ve had about 7 million people read my blogs. That is awesome, I am blown away by that. Very cool.

Given that traffic, what would you guess my email list is? That is, how many people do you think I have encouraged to sign up for my email list? If I was successful at getting 10% to sign up, then I have 700,000 people on my mailing list! But let’s say I wasn’t.

Let’s say only 5% did. That’s still a pretty low conversion rate, but it’s not horrible. That’s 350,000 people. That’s legit. Pretend I did a really bad job though, maybe only 2.5% of people signed up for my mailing list. That’s still 175,000 people. That’s a lot of people! Well, the truth is, the number is a lot lower than that. In fact, it’s almost half. I have 100,000 people on my mailing list. (I am so out of touch with it that when I initially published this post I had the wrong number, 90,000, in it.) Why does that number matter? I didn’t realize it did until my blogs were down for a month. Can you imagine how much easier it would have been during that month if I had an active, well put together email list?

I could have sent out daily posts. I could have encouraged people with new ideas and challenges. I could have had a lot of fun. Instead, I just had to tweet and hope that a month of silence would make people forever stop reading. Email matters. People don’t change their email addresses. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, people join and drop that pretty often. But changing your email address is a hassle. That’s why you still have friends with AOL and Hotmail accounts. I’m not going to link to my email sign up in this post because otherwise it would seem like that was secretly the point.

And it’s not. The point of this is two folds:
1. If you have a dream that requires other people to be successful, which every dream does, focus on creating value for your email subscribers. I didn’t and regret it.
2. I am going to find the absolute best email marketing company and absolutely crush it in 2014. Promise.

Question: Have you done a good job focusing on email?

About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff


  1. Well, I need to get my list up and going.

  2. Bookmarking this to show to people I help with their marketing. The importance of a well developed email list is so important but so often overlooked. It’s not just that people move between social media platforms much more often than they change email providers as you raised. It’s also that you’re in control of your email list but you’re not ultimately in control of your social media accounts. Social networks can decide to show your posts to substantially fewer of your fans/followers than they used to (as Facebook did recently), they can change the rules about the type of content allowed, they can even permanently delete your account without giving you chance to protest if they wanted to.

  3. Ed Roden

    Why don’t I subscribe to your email list?
    I read you in Feedly, and when I got your email, there was nothing different. It was another delete to hit since I had already seen it. For the once a month that you might have done something different, it wasn’t worth it.

  4. My blog has very few email subscribers. I believe it it because my my theme’s mobile version does not have an email subscription option. Maybe I should change themes!

    • Dave,

      That could be part of the problem. However, there are a few things you could do right away to improve email signups. 1) Put your email signup above the fold instead of below 2) Put a call to action at the end of each post to ask people to signup. 3) Offer a downloadable in your sidebar to attract people to signup.

      All three of these techniques have worked really well for me.

  5. Lauri

    I know a couple that is trying to raise support to go overseas. I was talking to them, and she wanted to contact some people from high school, but so many people change email addresses when they go to college that the only reliable way was through Facebook. Email is very important – it’s, also, impossible to find if you don’t have already.

  6. My company and personal brand definitely need to do better at both. It’s one of my 2014 goals. When you say find the best email marketing company, do you mean Email Marketing platform to send them, or company to help you grow your list? I don’t know of any companies to help grow your email list, but I have some ideas πŸ™‚ But if you are looking for a new platform I would suggest Exact Target. It’s the Cadillac of email marketing platforms.

  7. After reading Hyatt’s Platform, I decided to give it a shot with the release of my new website (last week!) and this is perfect to help confirm that decision! Not only have people signed up πŸ™‚ :), but if things go as planned and the blog grows, I know that will be key.

  8. chad

    i recommend infusionsoft…i’m a customer of theirs. And an affiliate although my point is to recommend a platform you can crush not sell you something. check it out

  9. I’m probably not crushing it, but I did finally leave Feedburner email for Mailchimp a couple of months ago and I’m really glad I did!

  10. It’s hard to always remember my email list when I’m updating social sites! Need to do better

  11. I agree Jon. I had an email list but didn’t have an attractive enough offer to get people to sign up. Let’s be honest, we get way to many emails. I signed up for yours because you provide value, but I did unsubscribe from many people who are just selling constantly and not providing any value.

    I am about to switch to Ontraport (Office Autopilot) from Mailchimp because of the scaleability. IN the end, no matter who choose, just get that list!

  12. The message about list building was drilled into my head by my early online marketing coaches. I started collecting emails with Aweber 10 years ago. The fortune is in the list so they say.

  13. Your book Start and now your posts are always timely for me – I blog but also send out a weekly email newsletter about my cooking classes and are restaurants and recipes – things were busy the end of the quarter last year and so I am behind on the blog and more importantly ,I am realizing, on updating the email list and I am paying the price now in slower than usual class signups – can’t just depend on Facebook and Twitter – nothing like the personal connection you have with someone who subscribes to a direct mailing – they do want to hear from you! Planning time today and this week to get the email list updated… and get back to getting the word out – thanks for the gentle reminder with your post this morning to get my gears in action.

  14. I’m just starting building my list. I have approximately 89,940 people less than you who subscribe to my post and 89,898 less people who signed up for my separate list for the ability to download my book for free before it goes on sale. But I’m very much seeing the value of a list already. I have had incredible connection with folks who reach out – or reach back – when they get a post e-mailed to them.

    I currently use mailchimp, but am very, very new to building it. I am one of the 90,000 people who subscribe to your list and will be keeping an eye on it to learn how to do it the right way from the beginning.

  15. I keep seeing people promote the importance of email newsletters, and I’m intrigued. I just have no idea what I’d do with a newsletter that I’m not already doing with my blog.

  16. I’m with Wes – I don’t have an email newsletter and not really sure what I would do with it that I’m not already doing on my blog. It’s on my list of things I want to research and launch this year though.

  17. I see the importance, but on a personal side, I no longer subscribe to any site via email. Historically, my inbox has been so cluttered and I need one space in my life which is stress free.

    On a side note: I recently asked my 15 yr old son if he emailed his lab partner their assignment… he said, “Mom, no one emails anymore!”

  18. Jessica

    My last two jobs have dealt heavily with email marketing and I have used just about every email service out there. For your simple clean style, go with Mailchimp. It’s SO easy to use and your email always looks really impressive. It’s hard to mess up. I swear I don’t work for Mailchimp (unless they want to hire me) (HIRE ME MAILCHIMP!). I just actually have a little experience with this kind of thing and wanted to offer my advice. I’ll shut up now and go subscribe to your mailing list.

  19. I can see why many place a lot of value on email lists, but I think it’s just one way to communicate. I personally don’t like blog posts in my email–I just use Feedly. Otherwise it is flat out overwhelming.

  20. Yuck. Don’t encourage people to create more email content. You know why I didn’t sign up for your email list – even when the site was down? Because I HATE being on email lists. It doesn’t matter how much I love someone’s blog or product, I don’t want that email cluttering up my box. It doesn’t matter how awesome the content is, because when I read my email I’m not sitting down to browse the web, I’m sitting down to read my email. And stuff from an email list doesn’t get read.

    • Jon Acuff Jon Acuff

      Cool, that’s a preference thing. You prefer not to have your email cluttered. I get that. From an author perspective, refusing to have an email list is a great way to miss the most productive way to share your book online, but not everyone is going to read emails.

  21. Chase

    Best of luck, Jon. I’m sure you know this, but don’t look past testing your emails and making them mobile optimized.

  22. Jason

    Was that a passive/aggressive attack on my hotmail account?

  23. Kirsten

    Sounds like you need a good virtual EA πŸ™‚

  24. Duly noted. Thank you for the insight.

  25. Otto Rockett

    For me, if I’m getting the same content in the email as in the blog, I’m only going to read one or the other. It’s the same problem I have with people linking their Instagrams to facebook and twitter. I feel like no matter what social media site I’m on, I end up seeing the same stuff. It’s all getting to be too much.

  26. Do I get extra points for being one of the 90 thousand?

  27. Yes I have. I have made it top focus on my blog, I have written an ebook incentive. Its a slow rolling train, but I can see the momentum picking up. Thank you for sharing your lesson with us and glad to see you back!

  28. The first person that signed up for my blog posts, unsubscribed after the first email they got! Ha!

  29. Julianne

    Hi Jon – How many emails did you respond to during that silence duration?

  30. I signed up to be on your e-mail list, but have since unsubscribed because I see your posts on Facebook and Twitter, usually before I get the e-mail and I don’t like getting unnecessary e-mails. For me, it is easier to follow blogs using a site like Bloglovin’ rather than getting e-mails. However, I don’t want to miss anything you write because it always either challenges me, encourages me, makes me laugh, or adds some value to my day. I do admit though, I unsubscribed to every blog I used to get via e-mail.

  31. I only have one subscriber via e-mail. Most of my readers are from Facebook or Twitter. I don’t have a list to work on. I only want people who want to read the blog to read it. I’m not going to turn into a spammer by sending my blog posts to people’s e-mail boxes who didn’t ask for it. Weird that you would suggest that.

    • I think you’re misunderstanding, people would sign up for the email list of their own volition, but to get more people to sign up the email list has to be promoted and it has to have good content. That’s what Jon’s suggesting, not spam.

  32. Uh. I’ve done a terrible job of managing the ol’ email list. I know it’s really important, but for some reason it’s intimidating.

    Just need to knuckle down and do it.

    Maybe that will be my #30Days goal for February. πŸ™‚

  33. Adam Chamberlain

    I think your biggest mistake in 2014 is focusing on email!

    Email really? Might as well start sending carrier pigeons. Jon its 2014?!?!

    The only thing I get in email is annoying ads and offers.

    You want to be relevant, don’t go knocking on doors (emails) go to where the people are (facebook & twitter)

    Getting emails is the modern day door to door sales man, you just want to slam the door, be left alone and not be bothered. Email is a bother and an annoyance.

    Facebook & Twitter is where people go to be entertained, to connect and to be inspired. It is where the activity happens, where are digital lives our lived.

    Email is like telemarketers in the 90’s, ignoring unrecognized numbers, or hanging up after the first 3 words, most emails will be deleted before they are even opened.

  34. Darren and ProBlogger always points to email as the key to his success. I think it’s hard to use email well, and that’s why so many people overlook it. It requires a lot more time and effort when compared to Twitter or Facebook. I’ve had to simplify what I do a lot over email, and that has helped me use it better.

  35. In 2013 I made the decision to only use the social media tools I really enjoy; instagram and tumblr. I ditched mail chimp (email), facebook, twitter and pinterest. Never felt better and had the best sales year ever.

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  37. I get a lot of emails from non-persons. Stores and whatnot. Not a lot of personal emails.

    I wouldn’t even know WHO to email. Or WHAT. x_x;;;

  38. I think a lot of you guys are missing the point entirely. it isn’t about what YOU use. It is about what works.

    Would love to hear the results of your personal test.

    What is your click through rate on each platform?

    On my blog it isn’t even close. The click through rates on email is 22%. Twitter 5% and Facebook 12%.

    **mileage may vary depending on your attention to the platforms.

  39. With you, man. I have big lists for a couple of markets and pretty much don’t do a thing with them…and I’m a marketing guy!

    Plan is to warm them up (or what’s left of them) this year.

  40. Jon,
    I enjoy getting your blog posts via email. The rss-to-email feature of MailChimp seems to be super slick and the way to go. We’d like to do something similar for parents at our church. We will blog the kids content from Sundays and give them the option to subscribe to get that content via email. We’re getting stuck on optimizing our WordPress posts and images and our MailChimp templates so that they are optimized for mobile devices. Whoever worked with you did a fantastic job. Would you mind passing along their contact information if they are available for hire?