Is Social Media Marketing Essential for Success?

Spoiler Alert: No it’s not, here’s why

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

It’s easy to see why a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs fall into the trap of believing that social media marketing is the be-all, end-all marker of success.

Tech companies hailing from Silicon Valley have managed to ingrain themselves into our lives by such a degree that there are real psychological phenomenons that have sprung up in society as a result.

And they love it when you think you need them to survive. After all, that’s how the companies make their money. Attention and time is the currency of these companies, but you don’t have to participate in their crappy exchange rates to succeed.

Social media wasn’t always around.

Back in ye ol’ days, let’s say pre-2000, social media wasn’t around to help spread your message. So what were businesses, that are now worth multimillions, even billions, doing then? (Mind you, I was only born in 1995, so I’m talking from second-hand knowledge rather than experience here.)

When businesses weren’t spending their time adding yet another industry-related article to their Facebook feeds, they spent it on perfecting their product. After all, if you have a crappy product, any short term success you might see will crumble quickly. Customers will feel conned, you get a bad rep, and then you’re out of business. No mercy.

On the other hand, if you spend that time perfecting your product, the product itself and your customers will often do your marketing for you via word of mouth.

I would argue that organic, positive word of mouth is still king over anything else. You can pay to ‘boost’ your message on social media, but engagement on those sponsored posts are becoming abysmal. Which leads me onto my next point nicely.

Personally interacting with customers.

As human beings, we are hardwired in our brains to desire connection with other human beings, and research has shown that social media doesn’t fully satisfy that basic need.

As a reflection of that, people still prefer to talk to other humans when dealing with a business. So as a business, what do you do? You speak to people!

When you’re outside of the office, talk to people about what you do or the product you offer, pique their curiosity. Attend conferences or seminars in your industry and give the people a classic elevator pitch.

I read an article a little while back, I’ve since forgotten the title, but I remember the author talked about how he’d cold-call 50 potential clients from a phone book every day and built up a loyal client base from the start by doing that. That’s because even talking on the phone is more human than a sponsored post floating in the digital ether.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a technophobe, and neither are all customers.

I’m 24 (at the time of writing) after all. I love the way technology can inspire creativity and innovativeness. I love that social media can be used to help one another in our communities, especially now, and helps me keep in touch with the people I love.

Though I’m with Mark Ritson when he pointed out that social media is for people to connect with other people, not for brands to shout at us in all directions, begging for attention.

However, that’s just social media. The internet isn’t just Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, despite what their respective CEO’s would like you to think.

As a small business, you likely need a website. Potential customers and clients can discover your product or services at the time a need or “pain point” is at its peak. And for that, you need a good SEO strategy, not necessarily social media.

Believe it or not, there are also successful entrepreneurs that don’t have an online presence at all! Here is an interesting case study of a successful business without the help of the internet. I also have an uncle who works as a sales consultant in a super-specific niche that does well with a client base he got from traditional networking.

I’m not here to completely dismiss social media marketing though.

That would be a bit silly. Social media marketing does have its uses when applied appropriately and for the right kind of business. For example, you’re unlikely to get much business as an online content creator if you don’t use some form of social media marketing strategy.

It’s also pretty useful as an added line of communication for your business, alongside other forms like email and phone.

I am here to say that social media marketing isn’t essential for success, though. Use it as part of your overall plan, but don’t make it the whole strategy. Success ultimately comes from hard work, getting to know people and having something worth offering to the world.

Aspiring Polymath | Freelance Writer | Business PhD Candidate | He/Him | alexanderbboswell.com

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