Likes, followers and shares have become our social currency. In my book Our Virtual Shadow (six years ago!), I argue we rely too much on strangers to validate our existence. Unfortunately, we also believe that followers translate into sales. This isn't true.

Thought leaders are advocating taking another route all together. You need direct access to your audience. Here's why.

You need to go deeper

I joined a conversation (one great use of social media!) earlier this year about the power of email and, more specifically, email. You can read the stream below.

In short, people are embracing the curated experience. Social media has too much noise for the consumer and too little impact for the creator. One entrepreneur spent $1 million to get his tweet reshared. But to what end? As my Inc. colleague Erik Sherman said, "The new followers may stay there out of inertia, but don't expect them to pay much attention in the long run unless you keep waving money."

Instead, newsletters, meetups and email (yes, email) are coming back strong.

Pivot author Jenny Blake says people joining her newsletter is like people ordering the shopping catalog. It is one thing to window shop. It is another thing to commit to catalog deliveries to your home every quarter. It is a deeper opt-in then a cheap social media follow or like.

These aren't your true fans

It goes back to Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans theory: Have 1,000 dedicated fans paying you $100 annually and you have a six-figure income. I don't think Kelly was taking about 1,000 Instagram followers, though.

This isn't from theory, but experience. I left social media for an entire quarter last year. Amazing things happened. Here's the bottom line, literally:

Here was my showstopper: I realized that all the new clients signing up for the coaching, bootcamp and other services beyond my books had attended a keynote or were part of my email list. This year, thousands of followers and even my experiences as a social media consultant have done nothing for my bottom line. Whether it is true or not for your business, you won't know if you're assuming that social media is effective and necessary for every entrepreneur.

Turning off the social media made me beef up my email community through I know the better communications upped my coaching clients, increased my book sales and served my customers better. How? I have the stats and the direct feedback.

Create your own pipeline

The musician and producer Ryan Leslie had a handful of hits in the aughts. The now-independent artist sells directly to his fans using a custom CRM (customer relationship manager). It shows him when they purchased, their location and other details.

As this YouTube video from BrandMan shows, he can now do custom events based on the information and make a comfortable living outside of the traditional music system.

It's why preorders for my new book, Bring Your Worth, are going through my own store at I can give people what Amazon cannot, from special preorder bonuses to signed copies of the book. I also know how to contact them directly.

Who bought your product? Who returned your 8product? Who wants your next product? The more intermediaries you have, the less you know. You're cutting off your own supply to those who want more.

And if Twitter suddenly shuts down or Facebook crumbles under muddled leadership or Snapchat loses all its executives? Make sure your connection to your community doesn't go away with them.

If you're leaning on a startup, those fans are theirs, not yours.