Facebook vs. Email: Which List Should You Build?

The 1000% difference between email lists and Facebook fan pages

If your Facebook fan list was as large as your email list, would you market differently on Facebook? Would you give away free white papers in order to build that list? Or would you leave the social platform as just that – and leave your marketing to an email list that is prone to bounces and spam filters?

Building your following on Facebook offers many of the same benefits as building your email list. In fact, social media claims 60% “market share” on click through rates. Email only accounts for 31% (source: FastCompany). Imagine if you could build a Facebook list as large as your email list?

Let’s say you have 10,000 email subscribers and 10,000 Facebook fans.

Email: You send an email out to your subscribers.

  • You choose a list, and send to 10,000 email subscribers.
  • Requires formatting, testing and re-writing email-friendly subject lines.
  • Percentage of emails will go to spam filters and bounced email addresses.
  • If 5% of emails bounce, you’re now sending to 9,500 subscribers.
  • Average open rate of publishing industry is 18.43% (source: MailChimp), meaning 1,751 will open your email.
  • The average 3.39% click rate (source: MailChimp) means only 59 people of those 1,751 will visit your website.
  • All that for 59 page views?

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Facebook: You post an article on your wall.

  • You post the article for all 10,000 of your Facebook fans to see.
  • No reformatting, resting or rewriting spam-friendly headlines.
  • No bounced addresses, all qualified accounts.
  • No bounces, so you’re still sending to all 10,000 subscribers.
  • Due to the lack of bounces, let’s say that 18.43% or 1,843 people are who actually see your post (versus opening it).
  • Using the same 3.39% click rate (unlikely) means 62 will visit your website.
  • HOWEVER, the reported average FB page (not ad) click/open rate is really 6.49% (source: AdAge) out of that original 10k, making it 649 people visiting your site. That’s 590 more page views, or 1000% more effective than email.

So according to my research above, if you have a Facebook list as large as your email list, you’d see a 1,000% difference between your two lists. And if that’s the case, why wouldn’t you implement the same list-building strategies on your Facebook as you do via email?

Asking for someone to “like” your page before they get access to a free white paper is a low-risk transaction for most consumers; Much less threatening than asking for them to give up their email address. Promising more free white papers (or other free products) when they stay subscribed will ensure that they stay on your list in the same way that people stay on the lists of their favorite retailers—for the sales!

If you happen to be a publisher that has an email list and Facebook fan page that are evened out (and are using Facebook regularly and strategically to drive website traffic), I’d love to hear your own experience in the comments!


    I’m just looking into this now. I have a list for https://beyondbeaver.com/ and thinking of doing a facebook group.

    I think facebook makes sense but I just don’t know if it will prevent people signing up to the newsletter if they already sign up to the facebook group.

    I guess time will tell!


    First of all thanks indeed for the great post. for sure social networking sites are overwhelming the internet nowadays. in facebook people are usually interested to open their fb account and see what is going on, so that means people are curios by nature on the social media but in email not, they have to open and read. for me i think that email list is still worth using because you can target very narrow segment using email list. for example lets say you have blog about drop shipping business you may have email lists for drop shipping companies, drop shipping wholesalers, drop shipping uk and so on. so to sum up even social networks like facebook are spreading, the value for using email lists still work. thanks again and keep writing cool posts like this Amanda.

    Amanda M.

    Oh Colin, I applaud your math skills. By the end there I think I was wearing math’s version of beer goggles. You are correct sir. 91.4% difference. Still not too shabby.


    I think that 3.39% number is supposed to be calculated from the 10,000 sent, not the 1,751 opened.

    Thus the real click through number for the first half would be 339 instead of 59.

    And the Facebook number of 649 should be weighed against 339 for emails, not 59, so something around 100% more effective instead of 1,000%.

    Amanda M.

    Totally agree. They’re two completely different audiences, so we have to put the same effort into both. B2C tends to have more luck with Facebook than B2B, but if your audience is there, you can use the medium the same way.

    Bait them on Facebook and eventually they’ll join your email list anyway, especially if you offer free reports orr other free products in exchange. If they unsubscribe from email, you still have them on your Facebook list.

    spinelli m.

    the best thing is send to both list

    some people don’t visit facebook often and some don’t check email.

    if each method brings profit do them both. However, I’m inclined to think email will bring more profits for most businesses. Plus you want them email addresses incase anything happens to facebook or the way they operate.


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