Over It: Social Media for Small Businesses

I used to be very excited about social media for small business marketing, but am now discontinuing monthly packages, audits, or extensive consulting for social media. I’m very disappointed with the recent changes in Facebook and Instagram, and no longer recommend allocating significant time or budget to social media unless you’ve already got a strong and engaged following. Here’s the scoops:

A Bright Start

My professional background is filled with positions in advertising, and I’ve found that the rates traditional media companies have to charge to stay in business are often way out of small business budgets. The trap of needing new customers but having an inability to afford marketing is a common one, and it can be a killer.

When social media started, it was a thrilling marketing tool that was actually free! If you worked on getting people to follow your page, you could create posts to keep them updated on your business’ goings-on. If they checked their feed around the time you posted, or scrolled long enough – they’d see your post. Simple. Then algorithms started.

The Great Fall…

In an effort to get users to stay on the platform for (even) longer amounts of time, Facebook started using a formula to show users posts they’re most likely to engage with; meaning “like,” click a link, or leave a comment. But the truth about marketing is that people don’t usually connect with the business content they see – not because they dislike it, but because they just aren’t ready for it at that time.

One needs to want a hot tub to ask a question on a Jacuzzi post. If they’re actively searching for a car, they’re more likely to click on an article about how to buy one. They’ll engage with your post offering a facial deal because they’ve got a monster zit. Timing is everything. But with these algorithms, if new followers don’t engage with what you post pretty quickly after following – than they aren’t likely to see your future posts, and won’t be as likely to remember you when it is time to buy.

Their ad platform has also gone from a simple-yet-targeted affordable piece of brilliance, to being complicated enough that there’s not only pricey courses available on how to use it, but they also require substantial time to complete. And if you have a question, good luck getting an answer. (Or even finding a place to ask it.) Of course, after Facebook bought Instagram, things quickly fell down the same hole.

But It’s Not Totally Worthless

For small business marketing, social media isn’t what is used to be. But it’s also not nothing. Though SEO isn’t directly tied to social media; when someone does an internet search for your business name, those pages are probably going to be among the top results. It may also come up when they’re looking for items that you offer. And people are also likely to check your social pages when they have a question.

Because of these things, it is still important to have up-to-date profile information and appealing photos, otherwise you’re basically missing out on a free listing with killer SEO.

I also still recommend posting, especially if you can do it yourself or have someone already on your team commit an hour or two a week. Also be sure to reply to all customer comments and messages, the same day if possible. But I no longer suggest spending significant time and/or money consistently posting to your small business social media accounts. Creating truly valuable content can take a surprising amount of time to curate and write, and it used to be worth it, but for most businesses it just doesn’t create the leads that it used to.

And, of course, work it if it’s still working for you! For people whose posts are actually being seen, it’s still free advertising. If you already have an engaged audience, than not taking advantage of that would be a wasted opportunity. The event platform on Facebook is also still pretty useful, so that’s something for applicable businesses to use; as well as their messaging platform and its ability to quickly communicate with customers.

In Conclusion

If you’re a small business, having a basic social media presence is still important. Keep profiles up-to-date, and be sure to post about important changes and events. Though in many cases people aren’t seeing as many posts from pages, some seek them with questions and others will find your page through internet searches – so don’t just ignore your social media presence.

However, I no longer recommend allocating significant money or time to social media if you don’t already have an engaged audience. As a result of this change of heart, I now only offer a service to teach you the social media basics.

I do suggest spending marketing time working on other aspects of your web presence: review sites (like Yelp), applicable apps, business listings – and most importantly – your website. Make sure your copy is understandable, your images are capturing, and your SEO efforts are on-point.

So, if Instagram’s the new Facebook, and all the disappointment that implies – who’s the new Instagram? Its leaders are no longer with Facebookstagram, so hopefully they or someone else will challenge them soon and I’ll be back to tell you how to reap the benefits. Until then, please do reach out with questions, or if I might be able to help. ★