The Great Social Media Swindle – Why Social Media is the new snake oil and It’s time to stop!
There was a time when social media was seen as a magical land where businesses could connect with their customers and create relationships that would last a lifetime. But then something happened!
Social media became more about selling to the audience than connecting with them. The result? Social media is no longer working for businesses as well as it used to. The audiences on those platforms became more difficult to reach, and businesses started seeing decreased returns on their investment in social media marketing.
What went wrong?
Before we dive into what went wrong, it’s probably important to see what went right and why the draw of Social Media hooked so many businesses in the first place.
In the Wild West days of Facebook pages, it was not uncommon for a business page to put out an average post and approximately 80% of the followers of that page would see those posts in their personal timeline.
And the best part was that the posts were FREE to publish…any time they wanted! It was GLORIOUS! Everyone was an instant social media Guru!
With these epic results, businesses were booming! All they had to do was get people to like their page and the results would follow.
Everywhere you turned, phone numbers were replaced with “Follow us on Facebook”.
You would see it on delivery trucks, restaurant menus, TV ads, and even in bathroom stalls!
In 2010, for the very first time since the internet began in 1991, there were fewer websites built than the previous year! A big part of this was that businesses realized that it was a waste of time, money, and effort to build, maintain and monitor a website when it could all be done from the free platform on Facebook.
A business did not have to pay an exorbitant amount for a website design, they did not have to pay overpriced hosting fees and they were not held to ransom by expensive web designers who would charge hundreds of dollars to change an image or some simple text on a website.
There’s a Social Media Swindle brewing
But there was a serious problem underlying all this phenomenal growth. Only those that had been around the marketing traps for a while could sense it, but many were not admitting it…
There is a famous saying that has been around for years…”Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and this could not be more apt.
The writing was on the wall in 2012.
Facebook became a public company and that meant it had to show how it was making money… and it needed to make lots of it. Up until that point, the Facebook ads platform was doing ok, but there needed to be more revenue.
In January 2014, Facebook announced that it would not be showing business pages’ posts, on people’s news feeds, as much as it used to.
Overnight, businesses went bankrupt. The result was a massive disaster for many businesses… businesses that had spent the previous few years allocating all their marketing budget on telling people to ‘like them on Facebook’.
Some businesses saw a drop of 80% almost overnight. Where they were getting sales and brand recognition for free and at any time they wanted, suddenly found themselves at the dry well.
Facebook, however, did offer them a way out… Paid Ads.
Paid Ads were THE best option to get back in front of your hard-earned audience.
Yes, YOU had to PAY Facebook to show the content that YOU created to the audience that YOU grew!
The Swindle was in motion.
That same year, the number of websites built suddenly increased by 44% as businesses realized that the free ride was almost over.
The steep decline of a Facebook Business Page
By 2017, the reach of a post from a business page was down to about 2% for most businesses. So, if you had worked hard and built up an audience of 1000 followers and you posted some amazing content that you had made, the likelihood of more than 20 people seeing that post was low.
Case in Point – Converse Shoes
Converse shoes are one of the world’s most recognizable footwear brands. They began their page in 2008 and worked hard to amass a following of 46M+ people…. that’s twice as many as the population of Australia! There was some serious clout that the page had. And they had spent a pretty penny building that audience.
In 2020, they stopped using organic posts as a way to reach their audience because it was so ineffective. The last post they made was on June 5, 2020. They were probably paying good money for a staff member or an ad agency to be posting content that just wasn’t seen… and the truth is, they probably went a few years too long doing that.
At least they STOPPED the bleeding.
However, many businesses are still blindly wasting their money trying to live like the Good Ol’ days. Who is driving their marketing bus?
As of writing this, I saw a well-known retail brand that has 1.5M+ followers and they are posting organically (not paying for it via an Ad) every few days. The result? A whopping 12 likes, 5 shares, and NO comments.
At what point does a company look at the ROI of effort and money and say Enough is Enough?
Are there companies out there who are making Organic posts work for them? Yes…but they are few and far between. If they are not paying with cash to promote their posts, then they are certainly paying with time.
By this, I mean they are likely spending an inordinate amount of time posting, responding, engaging, with a mix of Live and pre-recorded video, spending time in relevant groups, and sharing other people’s content… its a LOT of work. Is it Worth it? Well, that depends…
I am all for marketing in any way that gets the desired result, but what I am against is marketing efforts that are not measured or tracked at all. Facebook set the bar high with the amount of data and analytics that it gave its users, both on the page level and an Ad level. These metrics are extremely useful but most people shy away from numbers.
Facebook did a great job building its case as the best social media platform for businesses to connect with their potential audience, and swiftly had to change their business model… but many users have either buried their heads in the sand, don’t want to look at numbers or are holding on for the good ol’ days to miraculously return.
If they are not on Facebook, then they are hoping that Instagram, Tik Tok, or the myriad of other social media platforms hold the silver bullet to instant fame, recognition, and business growth. My prediction is that people will hop on to the next best thing and expect a different result. The numbers can’t be ignored or you will spend your time chasing ghosts.
It’s time for businesses to stop buying into social media swindling! There is no FREE Lunch anymore and it’s a pay-to-play platform… just like any other media. Don’t become the product of these platforms.
It’s time to start looking at social media metrics with a fine tooth comb and making sure that your business is getting a good return on its investment in social media marketing. Measure everything you do, remove the emotion around what you are doing and adapt and change as needed.
Where to go from here with your social media accounts
Social media platforms are constantly changing their algorithms, which means that businesses need to be more strategic in how they use social media in order to see results.
Paid advertising is necessary to reach a business’s target audience, and organic posts are no longer as effective. Measuring the effectiveness of a social media marketing campaign is essential in order to make sure that the business is getting a good return on its investment.
If a campaign is not working, businesses need to be willing to adapt and change it in order to see results. Social media is a powerful tool for businesses when used correctly, but it requires time, effort, and strategic thinking to be effective.
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