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Should You Actually Use Social Media to Grow Your Business?

If you’ve ever taken an advertising/marketing class post 2014 then I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “traditional media” and “new media” at least once. But for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about here is a quick explanation.

Traditional media is more like newspapers, books, magazines, T.V., radio, etc. Basically it is “any form of mass communication available before the advent of digital media” (IGI Global, 2021).

New media is more centered on social media and streaming platforms. To put it more succinctly, new media is “a catchall term used to define all that is related to the internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound” (Southern New Hampshire University, 2020).

The type of new media I am talking about though is social media. Social media is a great (mostly) free tool available to entrepreneurs, influencers, and small business owners. It allows for people to get their business out into the world without having to pay large sums of money for advertisement.

Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook have allowed many people to create six figure (and higher) businesses in shorter periods of time than their industry predecessors. To the laymen this makes sense because of follower counts, likes, shares, and comments, but the behind the scenes reasoning is a little more complex.

The followers an account has, the likes their posts/pictures get and even the comments are not actually indicative of business success. What I mean by this is that these metrics are what people in my industry call “vanity metrics”. Vanity metrics may look good on the outside, and can even be fun for new social media managers; they’re also sometimes the only way to catch a brand deal. But as time has gone on (from about 2016 to present) vanity metrics are often bought/faked/manufactured.

One of the services my company offers is social media auditing. What we do is we go through a person/business’ account(s) and look for why they are having issues with growth, engagement, and post reach. Sometimes it’s that they have boring and flat content, other times they don’t have a full grasp on how to work the algorithm, others its that they aren’t even posting more than once a month.

Most of the time they’ve never had experience with social media managers. But in the last few months I’ve had a couple of clients come to me asking why they are lacking in engagement and post reach despite having hired “social media managers” in the past. Almost always their issue is that either they or the “social media managers” they hired bought followers, likes, and even comments. The problem with this is that it is a one way ticket to shadow banning due to most platforms being able to recognize and suppress “scam” accounts.

Photo Credits: Prateek Katyal via Unsplash

It can take weeks and even months to fix an account that has been flagged for buying any part of their vanity metrics. But it is not impossible. I’ve seen it done and have watched leaders in the industry help their clients with social media account rehab. However a lot of people tend to go for the route of abandoning tainted accounts and starting completely over.

Another obstacle to real success on social media are engagement pods. Now this one might be a controversial opinion but hear me out. Engagement pods are basically groups of similar accounts that have agreed to regularly interact with each other to boost engagement. The problem with engagement pods is that they set up the algorithm to only promote an account to similar accounts. For businesses this can lead to stagnation in sales generated by social media. If you are looking to reach your target audience and that audience is consumers instead of other businesses in your industry my advice is to avoid engagement pods.

Photo Credits: Elisa Ventur via Unsplash

Now don’t let these obstacles make you feel like growing on social media is impossible. I understand that a lot of markets are over saturated with copy and paste Canva creations, but hear me out; it is still possible to effectively use social media to promote your business/brand/self etc. You just have to use what sets you apart to your advantage rather than hide it to “fit in”.

It is also important to note that there are different ways to use social media to your advantage. Despite Facebook and Instagram trying to monopolize the market with their too little too late copycat style in an attempt to make users use their platform ONLY, there is a plethora of different platforms with different methods of growth. You aren’t stuck with one type of platform if you are not receiving your desired outcomes on it.

Take for example my business. I use Instagram (in waves of inspiration) and Twitter (although less professionally than other platforms) and Facebook but that’s not where I get client conversions. My conversions come from Facebook local groups. It’s because my target audience are micro and small business owners in need of brand strategy, graphic design, website design, or social media help. Because of this I can use various local business owner support groups to market CFD. (When I am actually looking for new clients) I spend about 1 to 2 hours a day engaging in these groups.

Whether it’s value added content through sharing my regular posts to these groups, or answering general business questions that people have that I am knowledgeable about, or even talking about what I struggle with in my own business. Either way I am creating genuine connections through direct digital communication. When I post on Instagram or Facebook though I am just talking out into the platform hoping that someone will catch what I’m saying and choose to respond. It’s the difference between talking to a group of people you sort of know in a situation that facilitates conversation or standing in the quad shouting about stuff hoping that people will stop and listen and maybe even talk back.

I would like to make two distinctions really quick though before we continue. 1. Niche Facebook groups are NOT the same as engagement pods. Niche Facebook groups are about creating a real community of similar individuals and information sharing, not telling each other when someone posts so that a flood of people can go and like the post or comment or even share it. 2. this method I shared about my own business is not going to work for every business out there. It is important to remember that your target audience is what will drive how you move on social media. If your target audience is young people who are into streetwear fashion you might want to stick to Instagram or TikTok depending on if you are targeting more millennials or more gen z.

Photo Credits: Adem AY via Unsplash

Now I know I’ve talked at length about some negatives so it’s time I drop some positives about social media and finally answer the question about if you should use social media to grow your business. The short answer: YES! if you have the time, energy, and resources to do so. Or if you are able to hire a *real* social media manager.

What I mean is, anyone can ~do~ social media, but not everyone can start off in a professional manner that generates a loyal and active customer base. So when you are ready to start using social media for your business there are a few key things you need to keep in mind in order to have the best/least frustrating outcome.

1. Post regularly. Long hiatuses can cause the algorithm to not want to promote your page because it can’t predict if you are going to actually stick around or not. I understand that things happen so try to plan out your posts in advanced and schedule them a couple days to a month at a time. I personally do not follow this very well for my own business mainly because social media posts are not where I place my focus when it comes to getting *new* clients. Personally I use social media posts to show potential clients (that find me elsewhere) that I actually know my stuff and am not a scammer like how so many “social media managers” out there are.

2. Do NOT buy followers or engagement. This can flag your account as a bot/spam account and can ruin any hopes of wanting to grow for real. I know vanity metrics are pretty but the goal should quality and sales conversion, NOT getting big numbers. This is the one piece of advice that should NEVER be ignored as it can seriously ruin your chances at running a successful account.

3. Do not comment on other people’s posts asking to dm you and then trying to sell them something in the dms. That is really shady behavior and can make people report your account as a bot/spam. I will most likely make a blog post dedicated to this idea alone to show what I mean exactly and do a deep dive into the why behind it, but for right now just take my word for it.

4. Try not to be super controversial. Free speech is great! BUT when you are trying to start/grow your business it might be best to table your private thoughts and opinions until you can afford to take a penalty with the algorithm/people. I understand that right now a lot of people expect every business and every influencer and every individual to pick a side on every topic and care about every single issue but the truth is you don’t have to. I personally do not have the energy to do school and run my business and care about every political issue under the sun and that is perfectly ok! Don’t let the keyboard mob bully you into taking a stance when you don’t want to or are simply not informed enough to take a stand. Silence is better than disingenuous posts. And unless your business deals directly with politics I’d just stay away from it all together (professionally speaking). And before people get their panties in a twist, it’s not about right or left, it’s about generating enough income to where you can be involved with what you choose to be involved with in your personal life. In this current system you have to actually make money to donate money and raise awareness for what you believe in.

5. Don’t be discouraged if you’re getting mixed results on your content. Sometimes when you aren’t getting consistently good results it means you might just have less than ideal content. That can be fixed but it takes hard work. Right now information & adding value to other people’s lives is a hot commodity. It’s not enough to just be skinny/pretty or having a cute aesthetic anymore, you actually have to do something that will get people to want to stay & interact with your content.

Photo Credits: Arnel Hasanovic via Unsplash

If you are not yet ready to start using social media for your business I suggest that you do research by following a bunch of different types of businesses to see different methods of using social media. That’s what I did for years before actually starting Cam Fowler Designs (which you can read about here), and I learned a lot, especially from various makeup brands. A great example of people to start off following would be Latasha James on YouTube, Too Faced on Instagram, Canva on Twitter, and Botched Boy Customs on TikTok. Each account is a great example of how to use each platform and I may even end up doing a deep dive blog post on each account later on this semester.

All in all I think social media is a great tool for small business owners to use, however it does come with some guidelines/rules and may not be for everyone. If you are thinking about starting your own business and maybe you have a business and need some help with your social media accounts you can check out my website and see if my company is a good fit to help you. In the next blog post I will be giving a visual tour and explanation of how I have my desk set up as a branding specialist so be sure to follow my blog!

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