I get asked all the time, "is it possible to be successful as a small business owner without a social media presence?" And here is my answer..... YES!
That said, I have absolutely no idea what your business is, what you sell, who you sell to, product or service, where you operate, how you operate, etc. There are way too many undefined factors here, but I think as a generalization, I would absolutely say yes. Social media may be useful for brand development and to gain some traffic, but most do not see any ROI from social media.
The social media platforms are also making it extremely challenging for content to be seen without paying for it. Don’t quote me on these statistics, but I think Facebook only allows less than 2% of “your” page followers to see the content you post. Most platforms are getting so tight and the amount of content continues to rise, so nobody is seeing what you post on social media anyway. It’s pay to play, and a TON of small business owners are spending a fortune to be seen on social media. The cost of customer acquisition becomes much higher than what could be made on a sale. People are dumping a TON of money in social media, and few see any trackable ROI.
That said, if you are an online retailer and/or only sell online, I would say no it’s not possible to operate a business without having some sort of social media presence. If you are a brick-and-mortar small business, and want to generate some sort of online presence as it relates to your local store, then I would say having some sort of social media presence is helpful. Helpful, but not imperative. I do not feel that social media can build a business. I believe it can help with branding, getting the name out there, interacting with customers, promoting sales or discounts, and other things along those lines, but I definitely do not believe that social media can build a sustainable business.
I’ll take this one step further. I know many wildly successful business owners that can barely operate their iPhone. They are known in the community, they give back to local charities, they volunteer with nonprofits, they are active in the local Chamber of Commerce, they play golf with other business owners, they go to country clubs, they are active in their kids sports teams so they can meet other parents who are likely business owners, and they participate in social activities in their community. Let me give you an example, if you needed a life insurance policy would you call some random company over the Internet, or talk to another parent at your son’s baseball game who you know is an expert in life insurance? All things being equal, people do business with those they know, like, and trust. And there are a millions of small business owners out there who are ridiculously successful, and could care less about social media. Of course there are those social media die hards, but I would say most these days view it as a curse, more than a gift. I personally think that social media is extremely overrated, overused, and killing society in more ways than one.
There’s no denying that social media gives people a platform to reach thousands, or even millions of people that they would not have been able to reach without it. But at what cost? I do believe that people (especially the younger generation) are counting on social media as a business plan and they’re putting more emphasis on it than they should. And the reality is, it takes a heck of a lot more than a few Instagram and Facebook posts to operate a sustainable business. Social media should be used as a tool, but it’s definitely not mandatory. And with the overwhelming bombardment of ads, banners, videos, and everything else, social media is becoming more of a nuisance than a tool.
Guest post by Charles Barr - Co-Founder & Director of LVRG.