facebook like or email addressIf you had to pick one, what would it be? A Facebook “like” or an email address?  When building a community and connecting with your audience, would you rather have 1000 fans on your Facebook page or 1000 qualified names?

Although the answer on the surface seems quite simple, the truth is it's not so simple.

A social media speaker and friend of mine, Steve Mordue asked a similar question on his Facebook page last week.  Within minutes he had a string of comments with many strong opinions.  I found the conversation quite interesting and haven't been able to get it off my mind since.

Although I don't usually do this, I am going to provide you my opinion right up front.

My answer: If I had the choice of a qualified email address or a “like” of my Facebook business page, I choose the email address.

Coming from someone who believes in social media you might think “she's crazy, why doesn't she want a Facebook like versus an email address?” Yes, I do believe in social media. However, anyone that knows me knows that I also believe in the importance of integrating social media into your business to obtain a positive return on investment. Social media is not a band-aid for a broken business nor should it be managed as a stand-alone silo of Facebook likes.

Because I was so curious of what others thought I ran a Poll Daddy poll as well as started a LinkedIn discussion. The response has been almost a unanimous “I'll take the email address.”

Some will argue that nobody uses email anymore. Hmmm… I think my inbox would beg to differ.  Only the future will tell if the teens of today use email tomorrow or if it will be some converged form of Facebook, Text and integrated social platform in 122 characters versus 140 (joking).

Maybe the truth is that we're comparing apples to oranges. The two are obvious not the same. They each bring different benefits. The key is to build authentic social relationships that inspire your audiences to action.  Yes, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the hundreds of other social platforms can all help do this.

However, for the purpose of this post let's discuss the preference of marketers to leverage email versus a Facebook “like” to foster relationships with a goal of a sale of a product or service.   I acknowledge in the real world we don't obviously have to choose. However, for the purpose of this post we're going to pretend we do.

Why I choose a qualified email address over a single Facebook like.

1. Why do I have to choose? Since I practice integrated marketing, not Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs) or Random Acts of Social Media (RASMs) if I had my choice I would pick both. However, since I can't even for my own exercise I pick the email address.

2. “Likes” are good but the real value comes in your ability to inspire them to action past the “like”. Just because someone “likes” your page doesn't mean they have ever looked at anything you've posted since the first day they clicked “like”.  The majority of Facebook “likers” will never visit the page they liked again. It's up to you to inspire your Facebook fans to further engage and join your community.

3. eMail is not dead yet. It reminds me of the Monty Python Holy Grail movie in the scene where they are all bringing out their dead. I remember the one man yelling “but I'm not dead yet”.  Another responds with “he will be by morning.”  Yes, email could eventually morph into something else. However, for most businesses it's not dead yet.

4. My target market still uses email. The data proves it. They open, they read, they click thru and they pick up the phone to inquire about our services. They take action which equals a positive return on investment for our business.

5. It is more intimate. It helps us nurture client relationships. We know who's opening what content. We know what they like, what they don't like. We are then able to better serve them up entertaining content on the Facebook page, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn conversations.

6. eMail builds trust and thought leadership. Obviously the email subscriber has more skin in the game than a simple “liker”.  From first click of the “subscribe” button they are making a silent statement of trust. It's up to me what I do with that trust.

7.  I can easily get my email subscribers to my Facebook page. Not always so easy to get a Facebook “liker's” email address.

8. It works. Bottom line, every time I send out an email to our audience, the phone rings. Can't say the same thing for every time I post on my Facebook page or get a Facebook like. We are seeing good results with integrating email to our marketing and social media efforts. I can't imagine our business without our automated email nurturing system integrated into the DNA of our audience communications.

9. It cuts down the sales cycle. By integrating email with social media we have substantially cut down the lead qualification to sales close cycle. Usually our leads are self qualified and by the time they contact us they have followed us on Twitter (if they're on Twitter), joined our Facebook fan page, connected with us on LinkedIn and usually subscribed to our email updates. By the time they call they are ready for a meeting to discuss specifics. My co-founder meets with them and usually by the second meeting I show up for 30 minutes and close the deal.  The meeting usually ends and starts with a hug as they feel they already know me from the video, Facebook posts and email nurturing. It's the nirvana of integrated marketing with a turbo dash of social media.

10.  I ask “why not?” There is not yet a replacement.   If you implement an automated email system like Infusionsoft, the return on investment can be out the roof. It's easy to leverage content you create for social platforms and blogs within the email. It helps readership and increases the return on investment for all marketing and content as it offers an intimate and personal method to share information. Unless you are targeting the teens who aren't on email, I question why you wouldn't want to leverage email within an integrated marketing program and plan?

As with any marketing medium, platform or tool, don't put your eggs in one basket. The key to success in business, online marketing and social media is to develop an integrated plan, platform and execution strategy that supports your business goals and objectives. Choosing only a Facebook like may wind you up with a lot of people who like you a lot but never buy from you.

As Brian Solis states “the social currency of social media is action.” Inspiring your audience to take an action such as subscribing to your email newsletter could be the holy social grail you're missing.

Don't base you decisions only on the opinions or results of your colleagues or believe every blog post you read. They may be ready to set the email campaigns on the next “dead pick-up bus” prematurely.  Do the due diligence for yourself, your business, your audience and build a plan that helps you meet your business goals.

Remember, it's not just the Facebook Like that matters. It's what happens after the Facebook Like that matters most!

Your Turn

So what do you pick? The Facebook “like” or the email address? Why did you choose your answer? What are you seeing your business partners, clients and colleagues doing? Are they putting all of their eggs in one basket?

What is your goal in social media? Are your goals focused on Facebook likes, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, Facebook fans or all of the above?