If you couldn’t use social media to market your business what would you do instead?

More and more small business are realising the dangers of investing so much in platforms they can’t control and are also keen to be less captive to their smart phones.

The scandals surrounding Facebook and its other businesses, Instagram and WhatsApp, may have been a trigger for some people to think about this but lots of small businesses are spending HUGE amounts of time creating content that has little or no effect on sales, while they become slaves to their phones and get drawn into soul sapping habits like constantly scrolling, wasting time they’d rather be using for other things.

The bright side of social media

There are many small businesses and communities that benefit from free access to local markets, events and news. During the pandemic lockdowns the platforms were a lifeline for many isolated people. Lots of business connections and friendships are made and thrive and a lot of help, inspiration, fun and laughter are shared.

People coming together because of shared interests and transcending geography and other barriers is one of the biggest benefits of social media platforms.

An exception to the shady shenanigans on social media platforms appears to be Pinterest.
Pinterest actively encourages users to link to their websites, has measures in place to make using the platform a positive experience and produces really useful guides and analysis to help people get the best out of it.

For more information and help on how to use Pinterest to promote your small business see Faye Strange’s blog Strange Social  and her free mini course

Using Pinterest for Business

 

Small business on social media

Its tempting for anyone starting a new business to dive straight into social media and try to get sales. A new business owner is surrounded by advice on how to create content and how they should market their business. Unfortunately lots of it is very poor advice, given by people with something to sell and little knowledge of the business they’re supposedly advising – and often no real knowledge of marketing.

It can be huge waste of time trying out different things without any clear knowledge of what really works. In many cases the crucial first step of basic market research – does anybody actually want this product? – is missed out.

There’s also lots of pushes to boost posts and spend relatively small amounts of money on advertising, most of which is useless. The numbers of accounts and users on each platform are wildly inflated by including fake accounts, automated bots (in their millions) and multiple accounts created by individual account holders making all the measurements of metrics, views, impressions, etc meaningless. There is also a huge amount of fraud … more of this later.

Who does your content and contacts belong to?

Most platforms state in their Ts&Cs (that few of us read) that everything you post becomes the property of the platform to be re-used or removed as they see fit. Your carefully curated contacts, articles, posts, videos, photographs and everything else could all disappear without notice and often with no appeal.

When Facebook and Instagram went off line for six hours in October 2021 many small business say they missed out on hundreds of pounds worth of sales but had no recourse to compensation.

What’s the alternative?

The very, very least you can do to minimise any adverse impact is to keep copies of all your important content somewhere that you control.

The next thing is to keep a list of all your important contacts – especially customers and enquiries – in a notebook, a spreadsheet or CRM. If you have an email address and /or phone number add those too. Anything else, like birthdays, the anniversary of becoming a customer etc., is gold dust.

Most businesses have a website. This is your property. You should own the domain name and hosting package – don’t leave it with a website developer or host or anyone else. You must have ownership and control of these important assets.

Krystal Hosting is a UK company that offers a reliable and personal service and will help with any issues and queries about hosting and domain names.

 

If you have a WordPress website, make sure its WordPress.org not WordPress.com.  WordPress is the most popular and flexible of all the other options available and is also an open source project that celebrates the principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development. There are millions of WordPress developers working together to make this one of the world’s biggest collaborative projects.


For help and information on creating WordPress websites please see Susie Tobias’

Frequently Asked Questions

Your website is like your online shopfront. You control and own everything that goes in there and can change it whenever you like. One of the most important things it can do for you is help you collect the details of your contacts. If all of your on-line activity was geared towards bringing people to your website it would all be much more powerful. The social media companies are desperate to get us to stay on their platforms for as long as possible so that we’re exposed to more adverts but that’s the opposite of good for our own businesses. Get people over to your website as quickly, easily and as often as you can. Once you have their details you don’t need social media so much.

If you’re looking for ideas of how to get people to happily let you have their contact details there’s a great video on
How to Design a Lead Magnet that Grows Your List. 

You can keep people on your site and happy to share their details with all sorts of engaging content – that you own. Blog posts, reports, case studies, videos, workshops, etc are all great. For maximum impact your content should be interesting, useful and entertaining. Just like on social media sites but now its on YOUR site.

For inspiration on how to create blog posts that are uniquely you and tell the story of your business take a look at the resources on Rachel Extance’s Story Cave . (For Drive Premium members – there are three free workshops from Rachel in our Learning Hub)

Once you have their details, the easiest way to keep people engaged with your content is to email them. Email newsletters are still the most effective sales vehicles because people have opted to receive them and are already interested in what you have to say.

If you’re not sure how to get started with email marketing, here’s a couple of very simple step by step guides from Helen Lindop and her trusty sidekick Speedy the Robot.

 

How to set up your lists and data to get results

Getting Started with Email Marketing

 

How else can you get noticed?

First figure out how many sales you need – how many clients or customers. For many small businesses this isn’t thousands or even hundreds. Its a handful. So competing for attention on a platform where there are billions of users (many of them fake) makes no sense at all.

Word of Mouth is, always has been and always will be, the most effective marketing tool. It requires you to be good at what you do, honest, trustworthy, good at networking,  building relationships and generous to the people you know by actively connecting them to others – and by others doing the same for you.

Where else do your potential customers hang out? What do they read or look at? Lots of print publications have on-line spaces they need to fill so getting editorials, articles and even adverts placed is relatively easy and can carry a lot of kudos.
If your business is local, leaflet drops can be very effective and small ads in parish magazines cost very little.

Don’t forget SEO

Good SEO doesn’t have to be a deep dark hole but it’s a lot more than just using the Yoast plugin on your website.  There are lots of great tips on SEO and Google Business Profiles (GBP) – used to be Google My Business – on Sonia Rosenblatt’s Savvy SEO blog.


5 SEO Quick Wins You Can Do In An Hour

10 Easy GBP Optimisation Tips To Increase Ranking

 

And dare I mention TeleSales?

Not many people in small businesses like making sales calls but telesales can be extremely effective when done done by someone who is not only highly trained and experienced but really enjoys the process.

Tania Verdonk at Spirus Marketing is just such a person and is highly recommended by many of our members.

I hope that’s enough to get you thinking about doing less marketing on social media and more that’s in your control.  The next part is some of the other less well known reasons to be wary of social media and its influence:

The dark side of social media

There have been comprehensive reports about the part that social media platforms, and in particular Facebook, plays in world affairs; the algorithms that push people toward extreme content, the weight that is given to posts that get angry reactions, the fake numbers, the people trafficking, paedophile rings, genocide, religious wars, terrorism, illegal gun sales and millions of malicious social media bots that are used to artificially amplify the popularity of a person or movement, influencing elections, manipulating financial markets, amplify phishing attacks, spreading spam and disinformation and shutting down free speech by overwhelming the voices of protestors.

The really dark side

Can it get worse? Yes, unfortunately, there are some aspects of social media and how advertising revenue is used that are not widely discussed.

There’s a deep, dark, murky hole full of piranhas and leeches. Its called AdTech. It’s software that decides where adverts should be placed on line. Often the advertisers – the people paying for this service – don’t know where their ads are placed or who is benefitting from their revenue. This is a massively oversimplified explanation but it’s how some of the very worst operators like extremist groups, violent instigators, and disinformation sites get funded. When an advertiser discovers what’s going on and withdraws their adverts – and revenue, the followers and fans of these groups flood the switchboards of the companies concerned and target their staff and customers with threats of violence. If you want to know more about this I recommend this newsletter Branded

Fraud in Adtech is huge and getting bigger by the day with the introduction of more  and more automated bots that enable criminal organisations to siphon off millions of pounds from the brands that think they’re getting lots of clicks on their ads when they’re often on fake sites that no humans ever see.

The Daily Wire is a hard right news channel run by Ben Shapiro whose stated goal is “to unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases”. The Daily Wire has an undisclosed relationship with Facebook pages owned by Mad World News — a notorious site that exploits Facebook’s algorithm to promote racism & violence. They take stories on incendiary topics, rewrite them, and let Facebook’s algorithm do the rest.

On a per article basis, The Daily Wire receives more distribution on Facebook than any other publisher. The undisclosed relationship between Ben Shapiro and Mad World News violates Facebook’s rules. You are required to disclose when you are posting content for money. Facebook also bans “artificially boosting the popularity of content” which Mad World blatantly does.  Facebook has chosen not to act against Shapiro and others like him, including Steve Bannon, former adviser to Trump.

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Is there more? Yes I’m afraid so. Some people say it’s not the fault of the platforms that this sort of thing happens and it’s the fault of people not behaving responsibly. If a lot of the things that make it into the public domain are unacceptable, think about what doesn’t make it and who keeps it out. There are thousands of “content moderators”, earning very little, often paid by how many pieces of content they review and not on a salary or even an hourly rate, who view videos and photos of the most unspeakable acts in order keep them off our screens. Many of them suffer PTSD because of the things they see.

All of this could be avoided if the platforms required people to be identified and accountable for the content they submit. They choose not to because ti would dramatically affect their user numbers and that would affect their ad revenue. I know there are some good reasons for political dissidents to be able to post anonymously but on balance the greater good would be served by having some accountability.

By participating in the platforms we become the product. We add to the numbers that attract advertisers to spend their ad revenue there and keep the whole thing going.  It’s a mess and there’s a lot of money involved at every level so it’s not going to get sorted anytime soon. That means it’s up to each of us to decide how much we engage with it.

Fortunately, as small business owners we’re able to make those decisions and, as mentioned above, there are alternative ways to get sales – most of them a lot more satisfying.

For more help on this please get in touch – our network has many talented people who combine their skills, experience, and expertise to help each other and come up with effective ideas and solutions.