A new friend request or well-liked post is what we all love about social media, and businesses are no different. These days, it’s not unusual for a brand to be excited about collecting large numbers of followers across their social networks. For many, building a social profile is a key business objective but, social media is not just about collecting friends, followers or fans, it’s about converting them.

Of course, every business should have a robust social media strategy – growing a following on social media is fantastic – and knowing that you’re capturing interest is a powerful tool that should be leveraged at every opportunity.

But…if you don’t have a fan’s email address then you can’t have true one-on-one communications with them (think of it like those Facebook friends that you met at a party once but you’ll walk past one another in Sainsbury’s ­– it means nothing without a little dialogue). Building and cultivating your email database is a fundamental strategy for growth that all too often, businesses are missing a trick on.

Here are 4 easy ways to activate your friends, followers and fans

Keep sign up simple.
Sounds obvious but businesses of all shapes and sizes should set up a simple email sign-up form on their social channels to make it easy for their most engaged fans to subscribe.

Add an incentive for newsletter or blog sign-up
Incentivising information exchange is hardly new but it often acts as the final little nudge for someone to take action and subscribe. Just be mindful of what incentive works for your audience (Bullseye giving away speedboats to darts players from Slough is a classic example of what not to do). A discount is great for an ecommerce shop and free samples work well in fmcg but B2B audiences tend to be looking for insight and information.

Offer exclusive content
If you have white papers, infographics, eBooks or other premium content to give away, gate each one with an email sign-up form landing page to generate subscribers from that content. Give people a little taster by tweeting, posting and sharing excerpts of content to drive interest and traffic to the landing pages.

Don’t forget that people love a competition
It’s true. When it comes down to it, we all love something for nothing. The prize you decide to give away to a select group of winners is important though and helps engage genuine fans and therefore, quality email subscribers.

A final thing to remember – your email list is sacred. It’s one of the most valuable things you own. It’s made up of people—customers and prospects—who can make or break your business through their purchasing power. So protect it and cherish it.