We are surrounded by social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest - they all offer businesses the chance to promote their services or sell products directly to customers, with no need for advertising middlemen. How important is it now for a business to be active on these sites? Is a social media trap waiting for you? And what kind of social media marketing strategies should you be employing to get real results?
The truth about social media for small businesses may surprise you. For most businesses, social media should not be a priority.
What are the types of social media platforms?
When you say "social media", you may be thinking of the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, these only scratch the surface. Social media is anything that gives the broader internet community a chance to connect and discuss things. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all discussion platforms, yes. But so are LinkedIn, SnapChat, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, Quora, Reddit, and even review sites like Yelp and Google or your business website or blog.
Which platforms you choose to be on will depend on your business type and structure. Keep in mind, though, that just because you're not on a particular platform doesn't mean that people won't talk about your business on that platform. Big controversies can bleed over to many different platforms.
Why social media is - and isn't - important for your small business
Having a social media presence is important because you want your business to appear established and legitimate. Your social media profiles can influence what your customers think about you - it can tell them how long you've been open for business, how digitally literate you are, and whether or not you have a lot of customers.
In most cases, especially with sticker businesses, social media should simply be a supporting feature of your marketing strategy - not the main effort. Your main marketing efforts should be put towards creating an environment where people are likely to talk about your business. It should be your goal to convert every customer into a brand ambassador - someone who's going to tell their friends and family about your products.
Social Media Trap 1: Daily Posting Doesn't Create Buzz
Most of the information out there about "how to rock social media" or "become an influencer for your business" is unreasonably difficult to follow for people who are running legitimate businesses. When you're running a business, you need to focus on finances, product development, and the big picture - not crafting social media posts.
Many influencers tell us that we should be posting daily, sometimes multiple times a day on social media platforms. Certainly, posting more frequently will attract more attention on social media. However, it will also take valuable time and energy away from more important business matters.
In most cases, a small business owner cannot expect to grow their social media following by posting daily. Quality is more important than quantity. If you're going to post every day, go the extra mile and make sure that your posts are good enough that they'll attract meaningful interactions from people who matter. Don't post simply for the sake of posting. It leads to weird interactions, poor engagement, and burnout.
What to do instead: Post on a semi-regular basis when you have good, polished content: images or videos in brand, a new product launch, etc. Use boosting or advertising to get it in front of eyes that matter.
Social Media Trap 2: Daily Posting Doesn't Build Followings
I'm going to challenge you to consider why the common advice is to post very frequently. Think about the platforms attached to this advice - Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To a lesser extent, TikTok and SnapChat. The reason people tell you that you should post daily is that your posts on these platforms are gone almost as soon as you post them. Your posts are as ephemeral as leaves falling from the sky. Crafted an awesome, amazing, engaging post on Facebook? Cool story - it's gone tomorrow. Facebook and Instagram have even leaned into this by creating "Stories" which literally disappear after 24 hours. Gone for good.
You may gain some followers from daily posting on the big three social media platforms, but the truth is - your audience may engage once a week with your content if you post 10 times. In contrast, posting on alternative platforms will yield bigger results. If you post a YouTube video, it's there forever. And YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world - just behind Google. Consider more permanent platforms as you craft social media.
What to do instead: Post your content on permanent platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, and your blog, then use ephemeral social media to do some advertising.
Social Media Trap 3: Social Media Is For Consumers - Not Businesses
"Influencers" occupy a unique niche in the world because they are branding and selling their personalities. In a way, they are the artists of the 21st century. Picasso has turned into @ThatRVLifeDonna and Donna's rolling in the dough with free products to review.
But influencers aren't necessarily business owners - and you are. As a business owner, your job is to sell your services or products. Sharing a funny dog video might work for you once in a while, but I've never decided to buy something because a brand shared an unrelated meme.
Social media works by identifying people who might be interested in content - and content that might be interesting for the individual. Many advice columns about Facebook and Instagram and even Twitter suggest that, before posting (daily), you spend half an hour interacting with other accounts on those platforms. After posting, you spend another half an hour interacting. This tells the algorithm that you and that other person have a connection, and so, it will show your content to that person, and hopefully, they will interact with it. Time matters, too - posts that get a lot of interaction quickly do well. Those that don't? They flop.
This is all because social media is made for consumers, not for businesses. When social media giants interact with businesses, they want one thing only: advertising money. They want you to pay to boost your post. Because unless you're really crafty, your customer base on social media is more likely to interact with Aunt Gertie than they are with your post about a new sticker.
What to do instead: Use social media to advertise as a business. Don't try to be an influencer. Save your energy - and money - for more impactful things.
Social Media Trap #4: Social Media Is "Free Advertising"
Most business owners will take many years before cutting themselves a paycheck. We make up for our lack of money with our time, instead. But assigning value to your time is very important - especially when it comes to social media. It's not free, no matter how much your friend tells you that it is.
To be clear - no money is passing between you and Facebook when you post on their platform. But time? You're wasting it. You spend an hour crafting the perfect social media graphic on Canva, post it, and it flops. What now? You could have spent that hour doing product design, a video for YouTube, a new blog post, or even fulfilling orders. Every hour you spend on a social media post that doesn't convert into a sale is wasted.
What to do instead: Understand that time is money. If social media is important to you - hire an intern. Otherwise, only spend as much time as you can "afford" on social media and instead, run your business. Your pocketbook will thank you.
Ok, So Social Media Sucks: What Should I Do Instead?
We're so glad you asked. As you consider a marketing strategy for your small business, you need to consider the time involved - not just the money. If you're creating a video, think about how long it will be relevant before fading into obscurity. When you're creating a graphic, think about how many places you can tweak and reuse it. If you're creating an emotional written text story, think about where it could go in your other marketing materials, like your website or brochure.
Use your time wisely, and do what you need to do for your business. Social media is just one tool, but it's not the only one available.
We will leave you with this: don't waste your time on social media. Use your time well, and your business will prosper.