This week is going to be another controversial take. For the last decade social media has been the darling of digital marketing. Seen as a low-cost (or free) way to market to your prospective clients, every marketing consultant and YouTuber is going to tell you to post like crazy on social. What if you go viral!
For most, social is an endless time suck that is actively working against you. In general, brand lift and conversions on social are incredibly low for major brands and imperceptible for small, local businesses. Plus, social media platforms have become a pay-for-play model, burying your content in their algorithm forcing you to pay to be seen.
My suggestion is to stop posting your weekly or monthly social media organic content and spend your time building resources that your customers can use to refer you.
The number one way small businesses get more sales are through referrals. Rather than wasting time writing weekly blogs about off-brand content and Abraham Lincoln quotes on Facebook, spend that time making great content so your customers can easily share it to their friends and family.
Before you try to dunk on me about <x> brand that gets $1 million a month in Instagram conversions let me explain myself.
Your current social media strategy
The strategy I’m constantly frustrated with and see recommended the most often is to just post and they will come. Holidays, sales, and famous quotes are the three post types most often in these feeds. That’s three posts a week or 12 a month. Those are the easiest way to get started, then you’ll grow from there. There are a million YouTubers, Influencers, and small business conference speakers that peddle this strategy.
But let’s break this down.
- Post about National Ice Cream Day helps you sell more… how again? Especially if you’re not an ice cream store, what does it have to do with your company?
- Quotes from famous people don’t increase your company’s brand awareness, they increase the famous person’s brand. You didn’t say it, so why would seeing it make people think of you?
- Service businesses aren’t selling a tangible product. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a sale to drum up some business. But this means you should be running an ad to reach the broadest audience possible.
I have a lot of conversations with business owners asking the same question: How should I use social media? For the most part people are genuinely curious and want to learn. But, many are dismayed at my advice because social media marketing is expensive and time consuming.
This is in direct opposition to their understanding of social. Most people think:
- It’s free. I can sign up, post, and use it for free. Why is social expensive?
- It’s easy. I can have my teen <family relationship> do it. They already have a lot of followers and are on it all day.
The reality is planning and executing an effective social media strategy takes a lot of time and needs someone with a good skillset on how to grow a brand account. Social media managers have to wear a lot of different hats. They need to be one part customer service, as well as growth marketer, lead generation specialist, and a PR agent. If social media is your opportunity for growth, you will need to invest in it. This doesn’t mean a subscription to Hootsuite, but a timeline (a year or more) plus hiring someone to own your social channels.
In addition to cost, you need to establish your brand. You cannot have a quality social media strategy without knowing your brand and how you want to position your brand in the marketplace. Social media is great for brand recall, lift and awareness, if you already have an established brand.
The key point is that just throwing stuff out there isn’t a strategy. If you plan to spend zero dollars, invest as little time as possible, and expect fast results you are going to be let down. I could write another 10,000 words on this topic but I’ll end with this. The old adage “any marketing is good marketing” only works for large brands that everyone recognizes. Your time and funds are finite. It is critical you spend them in the spaces that will lead to more sales, not more impressions.
Don’t post to Facebook, do this instead
Posting to your feed on Facebook or Instagram is just throwing more noise into the void. Think about what you have to compete with on any social media platform.
- Celebrities and popular influencers
- Major networks and movie studios
- News networks and sports
- Streaming services
- Social algorithms
- Companies with huge ad budgets
With all of this going on, does anyone remember seeing that Abraham Lincoln quote you posted? Do they remember it was you that posted it?
You and I both know referrals are the driver for small businesses. Instead of frequently and consistently posting to a social media channel hoping someone will see your post, spend that time developing an easy way for your existing customers to refer you. Make it easy for your customers to send a link or an email or a flyer.
Customers referring their friends and family have two effects on people. One, they feel good because they are helping someone they think needs the help. They know you are a small business and want you to get more work. Two, it makes them look good in front of their friends and family. It is a way to low-key brag to everyone.
You need to make this process as frictionless as possible, while at the same time making your customer look good.
Here are some suggestions:
- Build a webpage that welcomes new customers and has image galleries of the services you offer, along with a guide on how to get started.
- Create a custom inbox with a welcome email for anyone that inquiries about your business.
- Build a Calendly that allows prospects to book a phone call with the owner to ask questions for free.
When customers are referred to you the conversion rate is through the roof. In the grand scheme of things this is much simpler process, too. Plus you are more likely to gain prospects to your database and email them, which is a much better tactic to growing sales than social media posts or advertising.
Imagine the impact when a referral lands on a gallery of images of the jobs you do instead of that Michael Jordan quote on your Facebook?
I want to hear your ideas, too. Email me and let me know how you could build a great referral experience. This could be on a social media channel. For example, build a great Instagram bio with pictures of all your services along with a direct email address for people to get started. Then, encourage your existing customers to tag anyone they think could use you.
I also want to know what you think about abandoning social media and doubling down on referrals. Are you in? Am I nuts?
Email and let me know.
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