Seek out support about digital marketing for your business and you will undoubtedly be advised to make the most of social media. You’ll have the pick of nearly 1.8 billion results on Google for “social media for small business” and over a million social media experts on LinkedIn. Those experts will tell you it’s ‘free advertising‘ and how you can’t afford to not be utilising it.
With over a decade of experience in social media marketing, and as someone who helps small business owners get the most out of it, I’m usually part of that crowd urging you to make the most of what can be an incredible marketing opportunity.
But I have often wondered if you can run a successful business these days without using social media?
According to a survey by Visual Objects, 38% of businesses are choosing not to use social media. And even though only 16% of those surveyed said they were unlikely to consider it in the future, that’s still a lot of profitable businesses who are getting by without it.
So who are they and why are they shunning social media? And, what marketing are they investing in instead to grow their businesses? Let’s find out…
The chairman of the UK’s largest pub chain, Tim Martin, consulted his landlords before deciding to completely remove their social media presence back in April 2018. He reported that 90-95% of his landlords said that social media wasn’t helping their business and said to the BBC: “We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business. We were also concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers.”
Instead of staying on social, the company told customers that they can get updates on the website, through their magazine and in the press for news about the business. Over 18 months later and there’s no sign of them returning to social media. Whilst earlier in 2019 there were reports of a 19% loss in profit, sales were up 7% and Tim Martin did not include social media in his reasons for why the profits had plunged.
Looks like he stands by what he said when the company initially bowed out of social media: “I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever.”
Lush cosmetics quit posting on their social media in April 2019 with a simple message that they don’t pay to advertise, and they don’t plan to. They acknowledged that only 6% of their fanbase engaged with them and that if they wanted to reach more of them they would now need to pay to play on social media: “it has become more and more apparent that these genuine conversations with the Lush Community cannot grow without us paying for the reach and engagement.” This was a reflection on the frustration many businesses have with Facebook and Instagram, that their algorithms stop organic posts from being visible in newsfeeds in order to encourage you to ‘boost’ them.
Far from completely stepping away from the conversation though, Lush directed their fans to their owned channels – behind the scenes content hubs and an app. Plus, they asked fans to keep talking on #LushCommunity and that stores and territories around the world may still choose to engage on social, which they support.
Apple (kind of)
Apple are often lauded for their innovative products and the marketing of them and whilst they have a Twitter account, they have never tweeted:
They have accounts on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube but it’s only the latter two which boast any significant number of posts and content. Of course, I’m bending the rules slightly to include Apple in this roundup, but it is fascinating to see that whilst they’ve claimed their real estate on two of the biggest social networks, they’ve never, or rarely, engaged on them. I suppose when you’re as big as Apple, and you want to keep your customer service communication focussed on your owned channels, why would you?
Space X (again… kind of)
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and #deletefacebook trending across Twitter, Elon Musk asked his follower’s “what’s facebook?” and thus discovered that his Space X and Tesla businesses had verified accounts on Facebook he wasn’t even aware of. Accounts which he swiftly had deleted and removed from the two company websites.
Now, Space X and Tesla are still on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram (owned by Facebook – make of that what you will) so it’s not a true case study for steering clear of it all. But, it’s an interesting example of an entrepreneur so confident in his convictions and the fact that he doesn’t think he needs a particular social platform as part of his business’ marketing.
Many small businesses across the UK…
We’ve looked at some of the big brands who’ve decided to shun or walk away from social media marketing. But if you think about the small businesses you interact with during your daily life, I’m certain you’ll find a few who are yet to join Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or the like.
If I cast my net out I can think of a mobile hairdresser, a counsellor and psychotherapist, an electrician and someone whose business is making very specific fixtures and fittings for restaurants and bars. They’re using word of mouth, search marketing and networking to build and grow their businesses and when I asked why they don’t use social their reasons were lack of time and need – they were fully booked or they had a few marketing techniques which worked.
Of course, you could argue that not engaging with social media is risky business. At some point, they’ll have to jump on the bandwagon but I actually admire the fact that they’re focussing on what works for them.
I’ve worked with too many overwhelmed business owners who’re struggling to keep abreast of all their social profiles to know that stripping it back and focussing on marketing that works (social media or otherwise) is a sensible way forwards and many small business owners could take a leaf out of our social media shunner’s books.