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The Escape Route: Is social media crushing small businesses?

I’ve been a small business owner for 20 years now. And one thing I’m certain of, business has become more complicated than ever before!

Social media in particular is the bane of many entrepreneurs life.  And that’s why after years of having a real love-hate relationship with it, I’ve made the decision to jump ship and come off it! 

The reaction has been interesting…

You’re crazy!”… “How will you market your business?”.. “Why would any business want to do that?”…”God, you’re so brave!”… “I want to do the same but don’t know how I’d get any clients!”… “Are you not terrified of your business falling apart?

Talk about the projection of fears, beliefs and programming! The exact things that keep people doing the same thing over and over again. There are SO many things you can do to grow your business without social media. But many small business owners these days started their business AFTER social media was introduced so don’t know HOW.

I’ve also had lots of encouraging comments too! “Good for you, I wish I had the courage to do that!”… “I hate social media, it’s my biggest stress in business and life, I’m coming with you!”…”Wow, this is so needed, well done for setting this in motion“.

I ran a very successful business before the social media days and I intend on running a very successful business without it moving forwards. And contrary to many people’s beliefs, there are lots of wildly successful businesses that don’t use social media! My decision to get off social media for good is because (in my view) it’s becoming increasingly harder to have a peaceful and enjoyable life!  

And whilst social media was designed to enhance businesses, I’m not sure it really is anymore. For the reasons I’m going to explore briefly in this blog – AND raising awareness through my new project, THE ESCAPE ROUTE 

I’ve set up THE ESCAPE ROUTE with my co-coach, Gill Harvey Bush,  psychologist and mindset /performance coach, to help people get out of the tech trap and question the choices they are making with their tech, time and life. (Read more about THE ESCAPE ROUTE project in the sister blog to this: The Escape Route: Time to get out of the tech trap

We’re also going to be showing small business owners that the dinosaur way of doing business can often be the better way.

And that social media is NOT the must-have of a successful business.  Especially if you struggle with the social media side of business as so many small business owners do.

I’ve been a small business coach for over a decade and it’s the biggest cause of stress when I’m coaching people nowadays.

Many quite simply ‘don’t want to get themselves out there’ and struggle being within an online platform full stop. But often have a belief they need to be on there to be a success – simply not true – more on that further down!

Some small businesses owners don’t use social media personally as it doesn’t make them thrive or causes anxiety, so they have a massive block with using it professionally.

Latest research proves there is a big difference in the psychological impact of being IN media (i.e. social media where WE are a character within it) rather that ON media (classic media where we just looked on or at things without having an identity within it) – More on this on our up and coming podcasts, because the impact is HUGE.

Many who are great at their job or have awesome products and services, actually struggle with what to say in posts, don’t like being in front of a camera or aren’t very tech savvy.  And it weighs heavy on their minds or is labour / time intensive when they push themselves to do it. Taking them away from other things that not only they find easier and enjoyable to do. But actually in many cases would bring in more customers!

Another big observation, especially because you are rewarded for engagement. Is that social media for small business owners takes more time than ever before.

 Those who say it doesn’t take much time, often don’t truly add it up. It’s incredible how people don’t see the time they’re on social media, especially as many people multi-task engagement by doing other things (walking, eating, watching TV, during family time or at work etc.)

As a mindset coach, I taught myself over the years to think better about social media. And I used time management, self-discipline and planning techniques to have what I thought were pretty good social media boundaries. 

But as I deliberately aimed to grow my account in the last few months, I found it more and more exhausting. Mainly for all those engagement notifications and responses to deal with. But as someone on there myself, feeling the constant information overload and SO much noise!

Other bugbears include seeing reels by incredible business owners doing completely ridiculous things to get attention – oh and all those flipping adverts!

It was only when I made the decision to come off it (and I’m talking 10 days as I type this) have I experienced such freedom and peace of  mind. It’s only now that I’ve fully appreciated how much it was encroaching on my life and affecting me!

For anyone who wants great work-life boundaries, social media can be such a huge roadblock to this. I LOVE my job. But I don’t want it in the mornings, evenings and weekends. How many small business owners can take PROPER breaks? Not very many from what I can see.

Carl Honore, author of the marvelous book ‘In Praise of Slow‘ and more recently The ‘30 days to slow‘ workbook, shares a quote “Technology should be your slave not your master”.

And as a small business owner I believe social media has become not only a master but a dictator. And many small businesses are scurrying along, obeying all the rules and regulations and falling prey to all the new tricks and traps – for fear if they don’t do it they will be punished by the algorithm. But all these new things created by the social media giants are designed to make THEIR businesses bigger and more profitable! Reels on Instagram were introduced to try to beat Tiktok for example. The social media giants want more people on their platform as long as possible – and they need you to help them with that.

Cal Newport in ‘Digital Minimalism‘ shares how Bill Maher talked about the “tobacco companies engineered cigarettes to be more addictive”. The more addictive they were, the more people would buy them, the more profit there would be, right? It’s the same with social media giants, which are huge profit making machines that make more money by more people on them, spending more time on them. He suggests this is why there are deliberate tactics across social media platforms and indeed the Smart phone offerings to keep you hooked. Maher concluded “The App store wants your soul

And I’ve started to question whether I wanted to be part of that club! 

There’s also a lot of conflicting advice on what’s best to do for social media in your business and the advice changes all the time.  It is SO overwhelming for small business owners to not only master them but to also find the time for them and keep up.

Here are a few things I’ve been told in the past 6 months….

“It’s all about the hashtags! You need to do this, this, this and this”

“You must use 30 hashtags”

“No, now you’re better using 8-10”

“Now Instagram are changing and want you to use reels instead”

“You need to get people to comment on your posts, that’s how you’ll be rewarded”

“Actually now you need to get your followers to save your posts”

“You need a really strong grid and need to balance out photos, images and IGTV videos”

“No, IGTV is too long for people now, do reels as no one has the ability to focus for more than a minute now”

“Most people don’t even scroll grids now, so stories are better”

“Reels aren’t on stories though!”

“In order for your stories to be seen you need to really up the engagement by asking polls and questions”

 “Instagram doesn’t like it when you take people off it, so keep asking people to DM you rather than sending them off to your website”

“You need to respond to each poll, question and DM, you’ll be rewarded”

“Make sure you share lots of behind the scenes, family, day to day stuff on stories, customers and clients like to be nosey”

 “Comment on other people’s posts for 30 minutes before you post”

“Comment on the top posts that are using the hashtags you’re using for a post”

“Be online when most of your ideal clients and customers are online to maximise engagement”

“Take photos and videos wherever you go in your life so you always have some good images to use”

Is anyone else exhausted from reading this list?!

 I am. And so I started to ask myself “WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING?!”

 

As an experiment three weeks ago, I allocated 60-90 minutes every evening to work on my Instagram engagement – when most of my followers are on Instagram. The result… more engagement, more likes – tick!

But I couldn’t get to sleep as I was so wired from the tech! (I will be sharing the negative impact of technology and social media on the body and mind in an up and coming podcast – it’s scary).  I slept appallingly and then couldn’t function well the next day at all, which impacted my business. Because unlike a lot of big Instagram accounts – I have a full on day time job as well!

I watched an interview with the Cornish Ware artist (great ceramics product!) on Honestly with Honor’s  feed (fun insta coach!). The Cornish Ware artist stated that she was on Instagram about 6-7 hour a day, a full time job right?! Her grid and stories are packed. Her sales are up massively. But is there a cost? 

I coached someone recently who has over 50k followers and she says the more successful her social media account became, the more anxious and stressed she has become. But she can’t stop because she “has to keep up and keep going otherwise I will lose people and their attention. “My sales have gone up but my life has gone down”.  Read that last sentence again. She was absolutely ruined behind the scenes but stuck because as we all know, very few people share their back of house. To everyone else she seemed to be thriving and having a whale of a time. But she wasn’t. AT ALL. And felt so trapped.

Another woman with about 20k of followers came for a session because whilst she had a roaring social media account, her business was falling apart behind the scenes – she was spending so much time on there building it up that her actual business was suffering. But she was hooked on the process of growing more followers but wasn’t turning them into customers – which is another skill in itself! 

20,000 followers that don’t buy from you are 20,000 non paying customers who are leeching you of your time, energy and life!

As another experiment I chose to make some comments and shares on some ‘successful’ medium sized accounts. And they all responded fairly quickly (within a few hours each time). Often in the evening, many of them late at night.

Some of their posts had over 200 comments and they were clearly replying to each one. Of course some people have some help with this, but I started to do what Gill and I call ‘rolling the film forward” technique. Read more about that in the sister blog to this: THE ESCAPE ROUTE: Time to get out of the tech trap)

And I got scared. I questioned whether I really wanted a bigger social media account for me and the life I want for myself, or whether there was a different, better way.

I wonder how many small business owners have stopped to think about what happens as you get bigger?

And even as you do get bigger, average engagement stats are not that big – in fact according to a social media expert I follow, the average engagement stats on a 10k account is 3% – 300 people.  How many of those are actually buying your product or service out of those 300?!

And of course, very few small business owners have an email list that matches their social media followers. At any time and ANY time, your account can be frozen for no reason. I’ve seen it happen so many times. And you’ll have lost everything. And then what? 

I’m not saying all businesses should come off social media. I’m not yet – I’m currently working on my exit strategy! But can you see the things that so many small businesses are up against?

Facebook has also changed substantially. I used to love Facebook, now I really struggle with it. Like Instagram, you’re rewarded on engagement and a slave to the algorithm. I’ve run many Facebook groups,  which can be a wonderful way to engage with current and potential clients. But I’ve observed a few things of late: 

 

1) You now don’t get notifications for all comments and posts in your group

2) Many people in the group don’t see posts anymore (yep there is now algorithm in Facebook groups!)

3) On different technology you see different posts – on my laptop I can see some posts which I can’t on my phone and vice versa, it’s excruciating!

4) Many people are joining and engaging less and less in Facebook groups because of information overload

5) Running a successful one can be a double edged sword! One of my clients did some training on how to build up a big passive income business, but was waking up with over 300 notifications and comments most days. They started to question a) whether the business they were creating was actually passive income and b) whether they actually wanted this for themselves!

The Dollar V effort graph is something I use a lot in my business and indeed in my client’s business coaching sessions. You plot an axis with Dollar one side and Effort the other. (I was taught this by an Aussie biz coach 18 years ago, you can use pounds!) to discover where you get more bang for your buck. 

Many small business owners spend a lot of time doing things in their business that doesn’t bring them in a lot of money! Instead of spending more time on the things that take the least effort that brings them in more revenue.

You can also do this graph for stress and enjoyment with income by the way!

I believe all small business owners CAN and SHOULD run successful AND enjoyable businesses.

So it’s really worth remembering, a pound is not a pound and a sale is not a sale.

One of my clients, who also struggles with social media, realised that most of the bookings for one her recent online courses came from school contacts that shared the details amongst friends and by word of mouth. Not from social media. 

So the question to ask is, are small business owners really getting more bang for their buck on social media?

One small business owner said to me recently about her social media struggles was “Is this really what we have to do now to run successful businesses?”

And the answer quite simply is NO. 

YOU must also define what SUCCESS means to YOU.

Because success in business to me is NOT about being on my phone seven days a week. 

There is definitely a different way to make money AND have the balance and life you want too 🙂

Fact or fiction?

As human beings we all have a set of beliefs. In our general lives, absolutely in our businesses and definitely with social media.

One of the things Gill and I will be exploring on our podcasts and through our weekly newsletter, is helping people look at their beliefs around social media, technology and also of course, success, enjoyment and life.

I have a very strong belief that many small businesses CAN do well WITHOUT social media.

But the trouble with so many small business owners, is that they often spend so much time on social media they forget about all the other things they can do. And they believe they HAVE to be on there and would STRUGGLE without it.

Well how do you know that for sure? You won’t know until you try it!  And you definitely don’t know what you don’t know, correct?!

If you’re ready to explore whether you need social media in your business, or even like me, you’d like to consider come off social media for good – sign up below for THE ESCAPE ROUTE: SMALL BUSINESS mailing list!

Each Friday from Friday 31st July, I’ll be sharing my journey as I start to come off social media in my business and what I’m doing for my escape route exit strategy!

As well as giving you facts, stats, tips & tricks, to help you think about doing business differently and living better as a result!

And look out for THE ESCAPE ROUTE podcast out very soon!

If you know anyone struggling in their business because of social media overwhelm, it would be lovely if you could forward this blog to them. Business and life simply doesn’t need to be this way and I’m going to show you HOW you can change the end of your story and get out of the business tech trap.

Is it time for a bit of a revolution?

I think so!

And it starts with THE ESCAPE ROUTE!

(Please note by signing up you are agreeing that will be added to THE ESCAPE ROUTE: BUSINESS mailing list. And that I can also contact you from time to time with updates, and offers that I think you might be interested in. I do not share your email with any third party and your email is stored securely. You can unsubscribe from these emails at anytime. Please read my GDPR terms and conditions HERE)

 

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