As many business owners, thought leaders, and influencers have seen over the past several years, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Linkedin are constantly changing the algorithms around the content users post.
Organic reach has declined drastically over the last two years, which some users feel is an attempt by the tech giants to force businesses to start using their paid advertising platforms if they want their content to reach more people.
We think you'll agree that sucks.
As Forbes reports, social ad "costs are up a staggering 90% year-over-year." What that means for entrepreneurs and companies who don't have a huge marketing budget is that it's becoming more difficult for businesses to grow their audiences on these sites.
In this article, we'll take a look at why relying on Facebook or Instagram alone is no longer a sustainable strategy and how you can build your own audience with meaningful engagement on other platforms.
What's The Deal With Social Media?
Hang on a second—we see that look of skepticism about building your audience anywhere other than Instagram.
It seems like everyone knows someone whose revenue shot to the moon once they got a handle on building their audience on a social media platform. And, there are thousands of "gurus" offering to teach you how you can be the next Instagram influencer.
There's little argument that social media has financially changed some people's lives. In the past, it has helped small businesses, particularly startups and social sellers, reach their target audiences in ways that were practically impossible just a few years ago.
According to Statista, "over 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide" in 2020. The report states that number is projected to increase to almost 4.41 billion in 2025!
So, social media platforms have a few things going for them, but you still shouldn’t put all your eggs in the social media basket. Here’s why.
Facebook Doesn't Belong To You
If you have a Facebook business page, know that it doesn't belong to you. That includes your followers, the content you post, and your analytics and insights. The same holds true for any business account you have on any social media platform.
It's not yours, and there is nothing you can do if that platform suddenly disappears, decides your content goes against their "community guidelines," or de-platforms you for whatever random reason the tech-gods decree.
Should that happen, be prepared for one of two things—either get ready to jump through a million and one hoops trying to get your account back, or resign yourself to the gloomy fact that you likely invested time building an audience for nothing.
It's almost like being in a one-sided relationship where the partner with all the power feels free to do whatever they want.
Take YouTube, for example. Back in 2015, Facebook decided to do a "cleanup" of spam accounts to help business pages’ reach feel “more meaningful." Most Facebook users noticed a slight drop in friend count, but some pages lost a significant amount of likes. YouTube, for example, which is owned by Facebook's rival Google, lost a whopping 5.7 million likes overnight.
YouTube isn't a small business or a lone entrepreneur trying their best to make it. They're YouTube, the largest video-sharing platform on the planet. If Facebook (a social media platform not owned by YouTube) can impact another giant tech company so dramatically, imagine the impact it can have on smaller entities. YouTube could afford to take the hit because it has billions of users and raving fans on its platform, which it owns.
However, a smaller enterprise might just get wiped out under the same circumstances unless it had invested in alternative audience-building strategies.
The Death of Organic Reach
Now, say that you haven't ticked off the powers that be on whatever platform you're currently on. Great! But, you've still got some significant problems to deal with.
As mentioned previously, the power of your social media posts is declining because, well, people just aren't seeing them. The game keeps changing with every new algorithm rewrite. And, that's true of just about every major platform out there right now.
Many social media algorithms require ad dollars to show content to your target audience, even if someone has already liked or followed your page. Needless to say, larger companies with larger marketing budgets can likely afford to engage with their followers in this manner.
But is that the case for you? If not, one of the best things you can do is start building your own audience outside of social media.
There are myriad ways to do this, and it will likely require a multifaceted approach. But, if executed well, you'll be in a much better position when those algorithmic shifts inevitably happen.
Your Mistakes Are Amplified On Social Media
Developing your brand on social media takes time and effort. The more you put in, the better your chances of developing loyal followers.
However, there are some real downsides to this strategy too.
If your brand becomes popular, the moment you make a mistake, social media commentators may magnify it and blow it out of proportion. It isn't just your audience that sees your content on social media. Others see it too and sometimes engage with it in a negative way that you can't entirely control. It can take an immense amount of work to undo the damage and restore a tarnished reputation when that happens.
Social Media Simply Isn't Enough to Grow Your Business
Social media can be an excellent way to connect and socialize with customers, but it doesn't provide the same value as other digital marketing channels.
For example, social media doesn't usually drive conversions or sales like search engine optimization (SEO) can. It's also not as effective for lead generation as email marketing. And, when it comes down to it, lead generation, conversions, and sales are the marketing metrics that matter.
Let's Talk About Conversions
Some might argue that social media isn't bad for marketing conversions per se, but it is indirect. For example, if you're running a paid ad campaign on Facebook and someone clicks through to your website from the ad, that's a conversion.
But if they like or share your post without clicking through to your website? Is that really a conversion? Not so much.
Driving sales means pushing your customers toward the places where they can directly make a purchase — in most cases, that's your website.
While social media is an effective way of expanding your reach and engaging with others, it's not always easy for people to click through on their preferred channel or device and complete a transaction. Social media platforms are just not that great at helping businesses convert prospects into buyers outside of paid advertising methods.
While we don't argue that you shouldn't use platforms like Facebook or Instagram at all, we think there are more effective means of driving conversions.
Customers Start Looking for Solutions on Search Engines
Think about it for a second. When you're first curious about finding a solution to a particular problem, where do you turn? Do you head over to your favorite search engine, or do you hit Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest?
According to datareportal, "81% of people search online for a product or service." And, 68% of all trackable online traffic originates from organic and paid search traffic. That's an incredible argument for focusing your efforts on such things as on-page SEO optimization for your website, link building, and perhaps pay-per-click (PPC) advertising rather than on social media platforms.
Placing Ads on Social Media
No matter what kind of company you might run, you know the importance of promoting your business. But are you aware that in many cases, you can't control where your ads appear on social media?
Despite what some might say, there's no way to ensure that your ad will only be seen by your target audience. Despite your best efforts, Facebook and other platforms may place ads in locations and in feeds that don't reflect well on your brand or that simply aren't relevant.
Not only that, but in many cases, the ad systems are built on a bidding format. If a competitor indicates they're willing to pay more for a given keyword or target audience than you are, their ads will be seen more often.
What Does It All Mean For Your Business?
There are an incredible number of social media platforms out there right now; it's hard to know which ones a business owner should be using for the greatest impact.
After all, each platform can genuinely help build your brand's personality and help you develop and nurture your customer base. It can also help with overall engagement. Ultimately, however, if you want to grow your business, you're going to need to concentrate on what truly drives results.
Those things include:
- Owned assets (like your website)
- Email marketing
- Text marketing
- Group chat apps
- Building organic traffic (SEO)
- Paid advertising
In other words, if you're looking for real results, it's time to focus on the things that truly matter and stop relying on social media platforms.
Because more and more, they aren't where true growth happens.
It's Time To Diversify!
Let's switch gears and imagine for a moment that you're advising a friend who wants to start her own business. She's going to be selling essential oils, and she's really excited about it. But she's also a little scared because she doesn't know if it's going to work out.
When you ask her how she plans to start getting the word out, she smiles enthusiastically and says she's had some professional photos done of her products, and she's going to start on Instagram.
So, you tell her something essential for anyone who is starting a business: she needs to have a backup plan. Because no matter how confident she is in her idea, there's always a chance that it could fail, or that Instagram could go down.
And, you tell her, the same thing goes for building communities on social media. If she wants to start on a social media platform like Instagram, fine. No problem. But, even with the greatest of intentions, things can go wrong.
While she's working on Instagram, she should also build out her website and all the things we previously listed. You go on to explain the following:
When creating a winning online presence, your website should be the centerpiece. You want to make sure that you're putting your best foot forward.
That means having a great website with lots of well-crafted content—from blog posts and images to videos and product information. By creating quality content on your website, you'll keep visitors coming back for more.
Think of it as a central hub where you can share all of your fantastic brand content with the world. Not exactly sure what to put on your website? Here are some ideas:
- Share your company story and explain what you do/why you're unique
- Post videos and photos of your products or team in action
- Create a blog to share industry news, insights, and tips
- Highlight customer testimonials and case studies
- Make it easy for visitors to find out more about your products or services with an easy-to-use navigation bar and contact form.
Creating a solid website that accurately represents your brand will help you gain a steady stream of organic traffic, even when you can't rely on social media algorithms to do the heavy lifting.
Email marketing is a vital tool for small businesses. It allows you to reach out to your customers and keep them updated on your products or services. However, many small businesses don't take advantage of email marketing because they think it's too complicated or they don't know where to start.
As statistics published by HubSpot show, "email generates $42 for every $1 spent", which is an astounding 4,200% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available when it comes to growing your business.
Small businesses need to be smart about how they spend their marketing dollars. And when it comes to the future of marketing, SMS text messaging is the tool you don't want to ignore.
- Text messages have a 99% open rate. That means almost everyone who receives your message will read it.
- Text messages are immediate. They reach recipients within seconds (compared to email, which can take hours or even days to be delivered and opened).
- Text messages can be personal. You can send one-to-one messages or create groups of contacts for more targeted campaigns.
- Text messages are affordable.
SMS Group Chat
Think about the most recent time you received a text from a business. Chances are, it was pretty relevant and timely, right? That's because SMS group marketing is so effective!
By sending out texts to a targeted list of subscribers, businesses can quickly and easily reach out to their customers with promotions, updates, or just general information.
And since most people access their smartphones pretty much constantly, there's a good chance your message will be seen! So if you're in search of an easy way to connect with your customers, SMS group marketing is definitely an effective means of doing so. (e.g., such as with Shout’s group chat feature).
Building Organic Traffic
As noted earlier, in the world of online business, SEO or search engine optimization is one of the most important ways to generate traffic and sales. While there are many tactics you can use to drive eyeballs to your website's content, organic SEO traffic is always the best option.
Organic SEO traffic is free! You don't have to pony up extensive cash for any ads or boosts, and the results are long-term. Your website will keep ranking higher and bring in more traffic as long as you continue to produce high-quality content and earn relevant backlinks.
Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) is a great way to get your business in front of prospective customers who already know they want what you have to offer.
And, because it can tailor campaigns to meet your specific needs, PPC advertising can be an extremely effective tool for boosting your bottom line.
There are multiple PPC platforms out there if you have the budget. Just some of these include:
- Google Ads
- Bing Ads
- Facebook Ads; and
You must remember that your resources are limited, including time and money. With that in mind, it's best not to put all your eggs in one basket by relying on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms to grow your business.
Instead of spending all your time and effort trying to establish a presence online via these channels, which are notorious for changing their algorithms at the drop of a hat, focus on proven marketing alternatives that boost leads, conversions, and sales.
You'll be glad you did.