Social media has been such a blessing for my business. I don’t think I could have got to where I am today without it. Because it gave me such quick and instant access to the people I needed to not only serve and sell to, but the coaches and mentors and peers who have made the journey of starting and growing an online business so much easier.
I’m not saying I couldn’t have done it without social media. But I know it would have been slower and harder.
That said, more recently I’ve been seriously looking at my social media use. Where’s the line between social media being a business tool and my actual business? Because I could see that blurring. And the fact that I could be online all the time, and my market is international and never sleeps, meant that it was so easy to be checking in on work every waking hour, posting while waiting for the kid’s bath to run checking my comments and likes first thing I woke up in the morning.
And I didn’t like that. And I began wondering if there was another way. That’s what this episode is about. The start of that journey.
And if you’ve been feeling the same – both seduced and trapped by the lure of social media to grow your business, maybe these musings will help you too.
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Have you ever felt that for every benefit social media brings to your life and your business there’s so many more downsides than you realised? And yet as a small online business owner still you feel trapped? Surely there has to be another way…Welcome to Episode 28 of The Content Download: Social media – could your small online business survive (or even thrive) without it?
Social media is probably one of the most vital business and marketing tools you have as a small online business; for me it’s been amazing. It gave me access to communities that not only helped me learn the business of business, but also contained people who would become my first clients, my coaches, my mentors, my friends.
But in recent months particularly I have started to feel more and more that for every benefit it brings to my life and business there’s a massive downside; the distraction; the pressure to be constantly on; not to mention the triggers, the comparisonitis, the drama, the addiction, the overwhelm, and the toxicity. And recently I’ve really been feeling it, and found myself dreaming of ways where I could step away from it all and still grow my business but outside of the social media space. And when I first started vocalising this thought to friends and family they basically echoed what I was also thinking – are you crazy? But I have long warned against forgetting that social media is a tool and NOT your actual business and so I began seriously wondering what would less or no social media actually be like and mean for my small business? My first thought was – well I’d obviously grow slower, obviously. But when I actually looked into that assumption a little bit more, I realised this was not only untrue, but could actually mean quite the opposite. And so if you’ve been toying with this idea, but shoving it aside because you think social media is the fastest or the only way to getting the success you are after, keep listening.
So, it all really started for me after I watched the social dilemma on Netflix. If you’ve not seen it it’s a documentary that interviews the founders of social media, the people who helped develop aspects of facebook and instagram, and uncovered some pretty shocking but perhaps not so surprising truths behind the affect social media has on our lives, our brains and habits, and how it’s actually been designed to encourage some of those more negative behaviours.
And as someone who is a not quite digital native, but who is from that in between generation who grew up with analogue, but also was an early adopter of things like social media this came as a huge wake up call for me.
My first thoughts were of my kids. How could I protect them from this thing? Because running an online business I was certainly not modelling healthy behaviours when it came to my own social media use. And then instantly defence mode – well it’s not my fault, I teach content. I’m an online business, social media it’s the only way.
And then I’m like, erm who said it was the only way? Me? Mark Zuckerberg? Or have I just made this up completely?
And then life happens and you carry on. But I started to notice. I noticed when Angel Quintana of Holistic Fashionista moved her community off mainstream social media and onto Mighty Networks. She still had a basic presence on Instagram but the intention was to spend less time on there because it didn’t fit with her values. And then earlier this year one of my favourite entrepreneurs Leonie Dawson, announced her departure from social media completely.
And my head was turned again. And I wondered. How? How could they do this? Surely it would damage their growth? Or was it just that they had such huge email lists that they could sustain this and still grow?
But the more I dug into this knee jerk reaction I had, the more I had to admit that I had been totally brainwashed into believing that social media was the only business tool for marketing your business. And yet here I am teaching content, which I know is about so much more than just social media. It’s just one medium; one traffic source.
And it challenged me to start thinking, well, if I’m serious about the benefits I believe leaving social media would have on my life, my time, my mental health… how could this actually work for me and my business?
And the first thing I did – oh the irony – was go into some facebook groups i’m part of and on my personal feed and ask the question. Who here is growing their business without social media? And essentially I got crickets. The closest I got was, yes I have no presence at all on my social media channels but I do network online. Which didn’t count.
And so I carried on with my research and following Leonie’s journey on her email list because that’s where she was staying in touch, on her recommendation I read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. The premise of which is basically that because of the distractions of modern life, social media being a major one, few of us are actually ever able to get into that zone that allows us to really create that powerful work that deep work that we become known for. Our intellectual legacy if you like.
And he basically talks about how you can do that deep work in the face of a distracted world.
And it absolutely spoke volumes to me.
As someone who did not grow up with social media but as I say definitely embraced it as a young woman, I can see the shift in my creativity.
Now one great example of that is that I’m a writer who has always written. So why haven’t I written my book? And I know one of the reasons for that is that I have been too distracted. And my focus has been predominantly about growing my presence online. Which is essentially shallow work. And I realised why am I not writing books? Because that is my first love – I’ve helped four people write their books but not actually finished my own.
Because that is deep work. That is legacy content. That is the kind of content that grows your know, like and trust and authority in one go. One piece of content that’s so much more powerful than 10 years worth of social media posts.
In saying yes to social media when I had a young family and a business and very limited time and energy; I’d said no to writing books.
So I’d been mulling this over. I looked to my own membership Fearless Content which teaches people how to grow their business with content. Which is about providing people with three things – the message, the actual content (ideally evergreen powerful content) and the traffic. And I realised the most powerful ways of growing my audience outside of ads have been:Collaboration and guest experting. Neither of which require posting on your instagram page every day.
And then I thought about some of the trainings inside the membership about driving traffic;
SEO training to help your blog or website get seen; growing your business through podcasting; and then of course my background which is press and magazines – so PR and getting in the media.
And of course, instead of followers online you then end up with subscribers. As you’re funnelling them towards your email list. Again a basic premise that I always teach in content.
And I realised even though I knew these things were available to me, I still had this fearful response at the prospect of leaving the social media fold. And that scared me even more.
And then as a nice little sum of this story I then saw a post in a group I’m in with someone asking not has anyone grown their business without social media – but who else wanted to do it? And she was flooded with replies, which says to me there is a shift happening.
And so it’s committed me to look for another way. And that’s what I’m now exploring. And if you find this interesting at all please come over and tell me about your thoughts in the facebook group because this is something I’m going to be exploring more and more this year.
Now what does this mean for me? Well I’m at the very beginning of this journey. And I’m not going to close down my social media feeds anytime soon, because I need to get other infrastructures in place and working for me. And I also do think there is an element of trust that comes from these channels and wonder whether there’s a way of using them as a holding space for sharing your content and funnelling them to your other platforms.
But what this has made me realise is that there is another way. And then if like me you can see the benefits to your life and your work that moving off social media could have, I want to open your eyes to the fact that you can start strategically planning your departure. And in many ways I think it could be really powerful. Because it could force us to stop relying on social media where actually it’s quite easy to blend in and hide and explore more intentional ways of being seen. Where you have to put yourself out there, pitch yourself; put yourself forward. Speaking on stages, at events, pitching yourself to the media. That is far more active than posting on a page with a limited reach.
So those are my thoughts. How do you feel about it? I would love to know your thoughts on this. And if this is something that resonates I’d love to carry on sharing about this journey and how I’m finding it here on the show. Head on over to the facebook group (i appreciate the irony here). Let me know your thoughts.
And don’t forget if you enjoyed this episode to subscribe, and I’d also really appreciate it if you could rate and leave a little review too. Thanks for listening.
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