And a couple of ways you can get started

Free stock photo of audience, auditorium, bleachers

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Having an audience – people that know you and want to hear what you have to say or sell – is crucial for any business. You can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows about you, you won’t make any sales. 

There are many ways to grow an audience, but the two I want to talk about today are social media and email marketing. 

Pros and cons of growing an audience with social media

Social media is fantastic. It’s free to get started and you can build up quite a following if you know what you’re doing. Some folks love it, some really don’t. But either way you slice it, social media is cheap and can be quite effective. 

So what’s the downside? 

Well, your account and your audience is on someone else’s platform. You’re playing by the platform’s rules and regulations. 

They tell you what you can and cannot promote. 

They control how much of your audience even sees your posts. Hint: probably less than you think unless you’re paying for ads.

And if you put a toe out of line, even accidentally, your account can be suspended or shut down. Bye bye bye audience. 

Why you want to grow an email list for your business

Email marketing, on the other hand, gives you much more control. Everyone on your email list has already put their hands up to say “Yes, I want to hear from you. In my inbox. Here’s my email address.

Although there are still rules you need to abide by for emailing, like not spamming, making it easy to unsubscribe etc, you’re still getting your message in front of a way bigger percentage of your audience than relying on the social algorithm. This means you can focus more of your energy on the message or content itself. 

Soooo… should I use social media or email to grow an audience?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking social media in favour of only email marketing. In fact, I think they work quite well together. 

If you want to grow or have grown a social following, one of your priorities (in my humble opinion) should be to get as many of your fans as possible onto your email list. 

How to grow an email list

There are two strategies you can use to grow your email list. 

With ads, or without ads. 

Let’s dive into these options a bit more. 

1. Growing a list without ads

This strategy can include social media but isn’t specific to social. 

It’s by far the cheapest way to grow your list. 

This also takes more time and effort on your part and will take longer to see results. But if you’re bootstrapping and cash flow is a serious concern, 100% stay here in the “without ads” strategy and keep working at it. 

Get your strategy in place

Be consistent

Look at what’s working

Do more of what’s working and scale back what isn’t

Keep going and be consistent

Look at what’s working, and repeat from there

You’ll see your list growing over time. 

If you aren’t sure what type of specific strategies you can try “without ads” to grow your list, I invite you to check out Liz Wilcox’s $12 training on growing your email list without ads* (*see below).

In her 90 minute training she covers:

  • The 3 MUST KNOWs about list building in order to actually do it (right) 
  • how to create a great freebie
  • what visibility + list building have in common 
  • 16 ways to grow your email list
  • how to know which one is right for you, your personality, and your business goals

2. Growing a list with ads

Using ads to grow your list requires some cash. If you have room in your budget to use ads for list growth, you’ll see your list grow much quicker. 

This takes less time and effort but if you don’t know what you’re doing you might as well light your money on fire. 

You can scour the interwebs for free guides and figure it out OR you can let me virtually introduce you to Zach Spuckler. 

Zach ran a 5-day bootcamp in early 2023 that walks you step by step through how to get started with ads for list growth, everything from how to write your ad and creating graphics, to ad setup, testing, evaluation and more. No experience necessary!

The bootcamp was recorded and packaged up for anyone interested who may have missed the live bootcamp opportunity. The strategies he teaches are current, and his teaching style is very easy to follow. 

If you’re interested in adding some ads to your list growth strategy to help speed things along, I highly recommend Zach’s training on Facebook and IG ads for list growth for only $25* (*see below).

And in case you’re wondering, you’ll need about $100 for an ads budget to work through the bootcamp. If you have that much that you’re willing to use to see if ads are for you, then this is the training I’d recommend for you. 

By the end of the bootcamp you’ll have enough information to decide whether or not you want to keep going… and if you do, you can do so with about $5 per day. But you don’t need to decide that before the bootcamp. 

*FYI in full transparency:

My links to both Liz and Zach’s programs are affiliate links. I’m personally a customer of both of them and love not only their offers that I’m recommending but also their business philosophies. 

Both of them, like me, want to be as financially accessible as possible to small businesses. I have zero hesitations recommending them, and I only share affiliate links of offers I’m proud to associate with my business and reputation. 

What else do I need to start growing my list?

Something else I’d like to point out is that you should have some kind of freebie to offer folks in exchange for joining your email list. It’s usually much easier than trying to grow your list through selling something, or having no freebie. All methods are possible but the right freebies make it easier. If you have questions on your freebie, hit reply and let’s chat about it. 

If you are going the “without ads” route, you don’t need a complicated website. In fact, check out this blog post for my thoughts on a minimum viable website. Spoiler: It’s one page and much more simple than you’d think. 

The only thing I’d add in this case in addition to the blog info, is a little write up about your freebie as well as an opt-in form for it. You don’t need a separate landing page to start, but you do need somewhere to send folks to get some info and opt in. 

Can I grow my list if I don’t have a website?

If you’re panicking a little ‘cause you don’t have a website and don’t want to set that up, no worries! Deep breath—I got you. 

Your email marketing platform will have a feature for you to create a form. Set up a form, include info about your freebie, and send folks right to that link. 


If you don’t have an email list started because you’re not sure which email marketing software to choose, get The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Your Email Marketing Software by clicking below. 

Get My Guide

It’ll narrow down your choices and help guide your decision to choosing a platform that works for your business and your current situation.

If you’re going the “with ads” route the way Zach teaches, you don’t need a landing page either! Just get the form in your email software, you’ll connect to it so that folks can get your freebie in their inbox. 

Remember your privacy policy

Whether you choose with or without ads, or both, you’ll definitely also need a privacy policy. We dug a bit deeper into those in my last article. Missed it? Click here to catch up and explore your options

In conclusion – list building for your online business

You need an audience to market your business to, and you can grow your audience with or without ads, or a mix of both. Check out the article above for help and recommendations with either—or both—options. 

How are you feeling about growing your email list? Empowered? Hesitant? Maybe still not sure where to start? DM me on IG or TT @msclarissawhite, I’d love to hear about your business and help you make the right decision for you. Seriously, hit me up while this is top of mind. 

If you have any questions or want to chat, DM me on IG or TT @msclarissawhite. 

“If Social Media is the cocktail party, then email marketing is the ‘meet up for coffee’. The original 1 to 1 channel.”

Erik Harbison

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