Trying to keep up with the it-apps of the moment can be an overwhelming endeavor. And when every up-and-coming social network is being dubbed “the next Facebook”, it’s easy for a small business owner to feel spread too thin.

So how do you determine which social network is the right choice for your business? And furthermore, how do you integrate it with your email marketing efforts to grow your list and optimize conversions?

Cue Matt Jabs, founder of the sustainable living and do-it-yourself blog DIY Natural. With a collective social media following just shy of 40,000, he knows a thing or two about building a loyal following.

I asked Matt to share his strategy for creating a powerful social media presence, actionable tips for entrepreneurs and how he uses it in conjunction with AWeber to grow his customer base. Here’s what he had to say during our Q&A:

Olivia Dello Buono (OD): Tell us a bit about the idea behind DIY Natural. How did you get started?

Matt Jabs (MJ): I was originally running a personal finance website, where I went through and wrote about getting a budget, paying off debt [and] how to save money on everyday items.

But I always had a passion for DIY things. I wrote articles about making detergent that was natural and chemical-free. I created the DIY Natural domain, pushed nine articles over to the domain, didn’t do any of the setup and used a free theme on the site. I didn’t do any work [on it] for six months. But the traffic to the site was exceeding the traffic to my personal finance site. I needed to monetize it.

I started capturing email addresses with AWeber, which I was already using at the time, and the site started to grow and grow.

I didn’t think there was a simple way to make money in that niche, but I’ve since been able to make a full-time living with this website. My wife [Betsy] is now employed with it. We have full-time writers, staff and a virtual assistant.

OD: At what point did you decide to integrate social media into the mix?

MJ: As soon as I started working on it, I set up an AWeber email subscription box in the sidebar, created a subscription page, a Facebook page and Twitter account.

I didn’t set up a Pinterest page back then, but as soon as I did start using it, I thought it was an amazing channel for us because it was visual. And it was [used] predominantly [by] women, which make up about 80 to 90 percent of our website.

We then employed a Virtual Assistant to manage our social media pages. All of our posts go out to social media, as many as 12 or more a day.

We’re currently using Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter, as a feed for our Facebook posts.

OD: You have quite the following on both Facebook and Pinterest. What do you think has been the most effective method in growing your following? Was there a specific point when you saw this growth pick up?

MJ: As our traffic and email list grows, our social media lists grow organically and consistently. At first, our Facebook page was growing like mad. We went up to about 80,000 likes on Facebook.

We experimented paying for posts, but didn’t really see the benefit. We only reached about 15,000 people. We may try again in the future.

Once we built up our email list with AWeber, we worked to push our Facebook fans to our email list so we can keep in touch directly.

OD: Is there a certain time or day of the week you dedicate to posting content on social?

MJ: We post new articles as they come out: every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We pin any articles to the boards they are relevant to, the morning it goes live.

We’ve seen a lot of growth just on the content.

OD: How do you keep your social media followers engaged? Do you host any social media-centric giveaways or contests to get users more engaged and grow your following?

MJ: We do about one giveaway a month, and we always make sure it’s lucrative – at least $250, up to $500. We use Rafflecopter, which has entrants follow us on social media channels as one of the entries [Ed. note: Check out the AWeber + Rafflecopter integration]. Sharing an article could amount to five entries. We definitely use this to grow our social media networks and email lists.

In the giveaway article, we can put an AWeber subscription box under the contest entry, so we can give people two entries if they submit their name and email.

OD: How has utilizing social media driven traffic and sales to your website? Do you use analytics tools to measure this data?

MJ: We use Google Analytics to track where our traffic comes from so we can see when it’s coming from certain sites. Our number one source of traffic is from Google search, Pinterest is second, and Facebook is third. We’ll continue to use social media networks until they are no longer useful.

OD: What role does email marketing play in your marketing efforts?

MJ: It’s always better to build your email list. Email marketing definitely gives us a lot of pause, because we know that every article we publish will be sent out to 80,000 people.

The more you grow, the more it helps to make sure that you’re editing correctly and that sentences make sense. Your grammar should be well-written, the content worth reading and sending out to your list.

It’s very lucrative for us right now to send direct emails that aren’t just our articles. We send marketing emails out when we do a new promotion. Our frequency has been about one to two?a month, but we want to get that to one a week.

Once your list gets to a certain size, you start spending a decent amount of money to maintain it, but it’s worth it. It’s something you have to do, and you have to have confidence doing it.

When we find things that are awesome, we want to share it with the like-minded network that we’ve built. But we try not to send too many emails. When people sign up, they receive an email Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a full article in the email. We’re thinking of switching to a weekly digest.

We definitely want to utilize [email marketing] more. It’s another thing we want to do better. We need to utilize it more effectively so we’re in better communication with our readers and increase profits.

They want to be marketed to, that’s why they signed up for your list. You have to have confidence in it. Just don’t be annoying about it.

OD: Let’s talk Pinterest: Do you pin mostly original content or repinned content? A combination of the two?

MJ: We mostly pin original posts. Pinterest is definitely useful; it’s our number one?source of traffic, aside from Google. But it’s always better to build your email list.

OD: Do you incorporate “Pin It” or social sharing buttons into your emails or other marketing channels?

MJ: We have the “Pin It” button on every photo and we have social sharing icons at the bottom of every email and post.

OD: How has Pinterest allowed you to interact with customers in ways that other social media channels have limited you?

MJ: It’s given us full access to the people who have liked our page. We like Pinterest because it’s image-driven. Pinterest alone has made us more active in our image selection. We use SLR quality pictures, and if we can’t find a photo, we’ll purchase stock images. We spend a lot of time editing the photos and making them attractive. That’s really good for your audience because they have a better experience. It helps to build traffic in other ways. Pinterest has driven all of that for us. No other social media channel has pushed that much change.

OD: Do you have any tips for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to get started with email marketing and social media?

MJ: I would encourage people to set up the infrastructure. Sit down and write down your vision for growing your audience. At the end of the day, revenue is based on percentages. Whether you have 100 or 1,000 or 100,000 people visiting your site, you need to focus on “How am I going to build this?”

You want to build your list through excellent content first, and then social media channels and email lists. Wow them with your content to get them to sign up for your list.

Focus on Search Engine Optimization. That’s another way for people to find you. They’ll find you through social media, Google searches. Make sure you have a vision for how you want to connect with them.

Analyze social media networks and consider how effective they are for the niche you’re working in. Pinterest seems to works well with our audience and the type of content. It’s definitely the best fit for our website. Twitter, not so much, but we still utilize it. Focus on two, three or four social media networks and leave it alone after that. Don’t spread yourself too thin publishing to every social media network that comes out.

I’ve been writing for the web since 2005; that’s nine years. For the first five years, I didn’t see the worth in email.

The bigger your list, the more lucrative it is. It’s really beneficial and it’s the most valuable part we’re able to hold on to. With social media networks, you don’t really own that content. With email, you do.

I think people setting up new businesses should definitely focus on that. Start capturing emails, give your people the option to subscribe.