That probably sounds like a strange question to ask in 2022 right? But hear me out; there are plenty of scenarios where your time and money could be better spent on other marketing.
The relevance of social media marketing for your business and how much time or money you dedicate to it will depend on several factors-
- the scalability of your products/services
- where you are in reaching your customer limit or market potential
- if you employ staff or have a 'job-business' (or lifestyle-business) where nobody else can do what you do; you are essentially a freelancer or one-man-band
- other marketing you are or could be doing
- how much time, money or manpower you have to put towards marketing
- how visually appealing your product is or how you can present yourself or your brand online
- is your business valued/judged on the the size of your social media following or engagement rate? do you want to be an influencer, content creator or do paid partnerships?
- are you in the marketing industry?
- if you sell B2B (business-to-business, trade, wholesale) or B2C (business-to-consumer, now also being called DTC - direct-to-consumer) or both
For example, if you're a local B2C business with a small area you can service and limited scalability and you're already at 80% capacity; there may be other (better and easier) ways to eek that final 20% (and increase your AOV, but thats for another time!).
We all know somebody who swears all of their work comes through Instagram, and I'm sure that's true. But your second question needs to be 'what other forms of marketing do you do?'.
Just like the people who boast all of their clients come through word of mouth - that's brilliant, but how else would they find you if you have no online, print or high street presence?
Both those scenarios can be great and left as-is if you like, but a few things to consider if this is you -
- do you have enough work?
- if you do get a good amount of leads from just social media or word of mouth; imagine how many other people would be interested in what you have to offer if you learned how to use other marketing methods
- do you want to scale your business to reach its full potential, or is it a job or lifestyle-business that you're happy to tick along with for now?
- do you know the full potential of your business, do you dare to dream how big it could be?
These are questions I ask clients who come to me for help with their social media; because often the reasons they're asking for help in this area are misinformed.
- for a lot of people social media is the only form of marketing they know
- also most of us are familiar with social media - we use it personally so it feels comfortable and is an easy thing we can do for our businesses too
- people assume that if they have a relevant picture they can share they have something to post about and their marketing is done for the day - they want me to help them create lots of lovely pictures on the assumption this is what they're doing wrong (yes of course it helps to have nice photos, my career relies on it! But you know 'the carrot or the stick' analogy? Well the picture is the carrot, but what's more important is the rod that the carrot is attached too, and where it dangles the carrot and leads the donkey! The rod and rider is the strategy, but lets not call our customers donkeys.)
- that coupled with the fact that we are bombarded with messages telling us how important social media is for business success - by the platforms themselves and people who benefit financially from them mainly - means people feel under pressure to constantly share on social media (please forget that now - the platforms just want to keep us all on there to make money off ads!)
- and unfortunately also because of these messages, many people have wild expectations of what social media marketing will do for their business
Many of my clients feel ashamed that they haven't mastered how to present themselves on social media, and worse; that the marketing they're spending so much time doing isn't working to grow their business.
Nope. nope, nope. In brief I want to give you three instructions that will hopefully make you feel immediately better about any (false) failings on social media -
- Ignore the hype - calm down, step back, take charge of your business; the platforms are working for their business, not yours.
- Create a strategy - plan fewer, higher quality posts that communicate your core values authentically. Use stories for adhoc titbits to keep something more recent on there.
- Learn about other marketing - start thinking of social media as one piece of your marketing pie - there should be at least another three pieces bringing potential customers to your business; which types of marketing they are will depend on you and your business.
Some quick stats for you that will hopefully blow your mind and get you thinking about what other marketing you could do
- If you have 5000 followers on Instagram and have a reach rate of 20% and an engagement rate of 5% (top end of UK averages). When you share a post -
- approximately 1000 of your followers will see it over the next 24 hours
- approximately 50 of them will engage with it
- approximately 4000 will never know it existed unless they search for you (and if you don't do any other marketing, why would they remember you to search for you?)
- If you have a mailing list of 5000 subscribers and you have an open rate of 20% and a click rate of 10% (easily achievable if you are a content-led business offering value to your audience)
- 5000 will receive your email and get a push notification on their phone or desktop
- 1000 will open it
- 100 will click on a link (and potentially take the action to order or book)
- 4000 won't open it but will have seen the push notification or the email in their inbox, keeping you in the forefront of their minds for when they do need you
5X more people have been reminded you exist and at least 2X more people engage or take action via email
Now the question I'm often asked next is 'won't people unsubscribe if I email them too much?', and the answer is 'NO!' (and also, 'what is too much?') because;
- you send interesting, content-led emails as well as necessary sales emails
- it is VERY easy to ignore an email - its not an invasion of privacy
- unsubscribing is made clear and quick for anybody who wishes to, its part of the deal and is to be expected - its not personal and its not a problem when you put systems in place to continually build your list
So with that in mind, would you now rather post to social five days a week or instead post three times and email twice? (Of course it depends on the size of your mailing list, but hopefully you have taken away the crucially-important point that you should* constantly, actively build your mailing list!) *I'm OK with saying 'should' because it will benefit you SO much
Also, side note: you actually own your mailing list; the social media platforms own your social media accounts. And a mailing list will never randomly go offline and it is much harder to hack or be put at risk of being deleted or blocked. It is a much better business asset for almost all SMEs.
Managing email marketing will cost a bit of money with the best service providers, but social media marketing is only free if you value your time at £0.00/hr.
Anyway, this post isn't really about email marketing - that's just an example of another way to use your time; there are other valuable and 'free' ways to promote your business too.
To be clear; I'm not saying don't have a social media presence - even if it's just a placeholder for your brand name and a link back to your website it has some value.
I really enjoy helping clients with their social media platforms - but there is often a limit to the investment and time it is worthy of (coming back to the first point of how relevant it is and how scaleable you are)
A big part of my role (which often comes as a surprise to people) is to help you figure that out, so we can create content together or train your team and form a strategy that makes your social media marketing cost effective and valuable.
My advice is always to see social media as one of many marketing options, to be used alongside each other holistically.
If it feels too 'salesy' for you to market yourself in other ways (I get that, we're not all trained or natural marketers) the antidote to that is working on your communication strategy to share authentically and create value for your audience.
I can help you with that on this zoom session - How to share authentically - planning your communications mix to promote your core values and offer value to your audience
In summary - I believe social media is an important and valuable marketing tool for most businesses, but it must be sanity checked to ensure your return on time or investment is worthwhile, and it should always be used as part of a wider marketing mix.
Personally I would always prioritise SEO work (like this blog), direct marketing (like email) and quality-driven content creation (that helps your potential customers with something, again like this blog!) and list-building work over posting individual, one-off social media posts.
I hope you've found this article helpful - please do drop me a comment with any questions or feedback!
In response to Jeff's question - Thanks for stopping by Jeff, glad you found the article insightful. I think direct marketing of the more traditional kind (at whatever scale) still has its uses and its always nice to have a physical touchpoint and reminder - it would be a surprise to receive marketing like this now too (for some industries) so thats got to be a bonus.
The trick I think is to make it memorable (beautiful, humorous, theatrical etc) or useful so people want to keep it around (maybe include some tips for example). These things are certainly always worth trying if the print and postage are affordable enough.
I hope it goes well for you, do let me know if you try it! Kind regards, Sophie