Has Social Media Really Changed?

As a small business owner who likes to connect with other small business owners… I get to hear my fair share of griping about social media. It’s confusing (it is), the algorithm (pick your channel) is suppressing reach, it’s a hassle, I hate keeping up with trolls…

Probably the one that plucks at my own heart strings the most is how it – particularly Facebook – raises obstructions to organic connection with potential followers, fans, customers, or clients.

So…. yes. I get it.

In 2012, I had a Facebook Page on which I spent virtually nothing. With in a year, I popped up to 2000 followers. What’s more, we (and by we, I mean the followers of the Page) had good interaction. On a daily basis, we chit-chatted about things – usually related to the Page topic, even loosely, but not always. I did buy one ad – ran it for a single day – to build an email list. Otherwise, we were able to interact regularly.

Why? Two reasons:

  1. Because if I posted, the post went to people’s newsfeeds.
  2. Because I responded, and so did others in the community.

These weren’t just static posts, memes to be chuckled at and shared. These were jumping off points for sharing things about our day, launching discussion, or sharing ideas.

Recently, I was sent this article from the Buffer blog, and asked for my opinion.
Why I Think Social Media is For Branding and Engagement, Not Traffic or Revenue.

(Go ahead and pop over to read the article. I’ll be here when you get back.)

In response to the inquiry about my opinion, I have a couple of thoughts.

  • Well, yes. But that’s not new. Social Media has always been a place where potential customers can get to know your business,and current clients can send a quick pm or post to ask about hours, availability, or a customer service issue. That’s branding right there. And let’s face it, if someone is asking about your hours, or policy, or needs help with an issue, I certainly hope you’re actively responding (I’m not a big fan of the private message bots). Active, personal responses are engagement. #amirite #sothispartisnotnew
  • <ahem> I don’t sell directly on Facebook (although some of my clients do). But there are some folks out there rakin’ in the bucks and they are doing so strictly on social media.

It’s not a big secret how, either. My bet is that you’ve seen – and probably clicked like – on these efforts. Want to know who these people are? Okay, so- you know those posts you see in your feed, a bunch of your Facebook friends liked the post, so Facebook is showing it to you? And it’s a really cool mermaid necklace/salad chopper/gadget for drawing angles? Yes. Those things. They’re for sale, and here’s how it works: The seller identifies a trending product, creates a landing page, and then runs a Facebook ad that very specifically targets people who love mermaids and buy jewelry (or eat lots of salad or do lots of handyman projects, you get the idea). These ads aren’t running because Facebook is brilliantly hypnotizing people into getting out their credit cards to buy ads. They’re running because other people are actually getting out their credit cards to buy mermaid necklaces, salad choppers, and gadgets for drawing angles. Lots of them. for this reason, I firmly disagree that social media is “not for” revenue.

As for the traffic issue – To my mind, this goes back to the engagement issue. Scenario: a blog is published, and shared on a social media channel – with enough content to give the reader a clear idea of the topic and that there’s more if you follow the link to the full article. Of the people who see your post*, some will scroll on by. Some will comment without bothering to read the entire article (so keep that in mind when you post your snippet). And, some will follow the link to read the entire article. And that, right there, is traffic.

So – what has really changed in social media? The users.

The users who are your target customers/clients/community are savvier. They know the platform. They have lightning speed – partly because they are so comfortable with the tech, partly because the social media channels have gotten better at being easy to use, and partly because they have to be fast. They’re busy. They’re scanning email in line at the grocery store, they’re scrolling through Instagram while waiting to pick up their lunch order.
I agree with the writer that there is an experience of “content shock.” The social media world is crammed with images, video, and memes clamoring for the users’ attention. It’s a matter of self-protection to screen out what the algorithm does let through.

So make it worth their time and worth their attention.

And, absolutely, above all, when you have engagement, respond. If people have made it clear that you are worth their time, be sure to demonstrate that they are worth your time in return. *Acknowledged, social media channels have placed “barriers” for business interests to pay for reach. Well, it’s their property. Your website is yours. You don’t expect your business to run for free. It’s not really fair to expect any social media channel to run for free. Do your homework, and spend your time (and, sometimes, yes, your money) where it will work the best for you, your business, and your customers.

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