11 Reasons to Stop Marketing on Social Media

The good, bad, and ugly about promoting work on social media

This piece initially appeared on the Bye, Social Media! website. I republished it here.

Intro - 11 Reasons to Market Without Social Media

Bye, Social Media! helps you become independent from socials in your business. Independence from social media means that you can choose whether you want to use them but don’t have to rely on them like so many business owners do at present.

Even though for many, many solopreneurs social media are the default marketing channel, they’re not the straight-forward choice they may seem. Social media are a complicated choice for marketing and there are many reasons to take a step back from them or leave them altogether. 

What you’ll learn in this article:

  • 11 reasons for leaving social media - from a business, individual, and societal point of view

  • How to set up your business for sustainability and longevity

Irrespective of where you stand with socials so far, Bye, Social Media!’s mission is to educate solopreneurs on the challenges of social media marketing. You need to be aware of them to make an empowered choice on how you want to market your business. Following what everyone else is doing is not that.

So, without further ado, here are 11 reasons to market without social media.

1) You Don’t Own the Channel and the Audience

With social media, you don’t own the marketing channel and the audience - meaning you don’t own the means to access and distribute communication with your existing and prospective clients. Strategically, this is a problem. When somebody else owns the marketing channel, it’s like they own the road to your house.

On social media, your audience is baked into the platform. You can’t take your audience with you from Instagram to Twitter to Pinterest. Wherever you build it, you (so far) have to stay. This is another way of not owning the audience or channel. You depend on social media companies for access to the people who want to hear from you.

This is not the norm. Other marketing channels exist – like newsletters – where you do have ownership over the audience and access to it.

2.    You Have No Influence on the Distribution of Content 

Think about when a company sends you a catalogue in the mail. They have a reasonable expectation that you will receive it. People might throw it away or read it. However, the post office delivers them all.

With social media, it’s different. You may share a post but you have no guarantee that people will see it – not even those who are following you. As social media algorithms manage who sees what in their feed, you’re subject to the almighty algorithm and its whims.  

On the one hand, algorithmic content distribution on social media can get your content in front of new people in the feed. On the other hand, it wrests control over exposure to what you’re communicating to the world from your hand. What so many solopreneurs know so well happens here – you spend hours making content and nobody sees it.

If you build your business on social media entirely, you’re always exposed to this. Whatever you create and share with the world is distributed by social media algorithms. These, in turn, are owned and controlled by tech companies. Social media algorithms will always serve tech companies first and you second (or third). It’s an uneven relationship that one should only enter having weighed the pros and cons.

3.    Chasing Virality is Like Casino Marketing

So, if the above applies then why do people use social media for marketing? I believe the reason for that is chasing virality and hoping that through an algorithmic miracle a lot of people suddenly will see what you do. You’ll be exposed to millions, strike it big, sell out your inventory overnight, and thus your life changes forever.

This almost makes it sound like the algorithm is a magical fairy from an enchanted tale. Instead of turning a pumpkin into a carriage, it can turn an average small business into a girlbossing enterprise with mega-fame.

Chasing virality on social media is like casino marketing. You keep playing by entering content into the machine, hoping that by some fluke of luck the algorithmic stars align and you get the jackpot – organic viral exposure. This is not a marketing strategy. It’s gambling.

This type of behavior is not surprising given that social media algorithms address our brains in similar ways that gambling machines do. When you’re scrolling or checking notifications you’re sitting in front of a small, digital slot machine.

You can learn more about the cognitive aspects of social media here.

4.    Social Media Affects Your Mental Health

How do you feel when you’re on social media? Are you riding an emotional rollercoaster? Are you simultaneously feeling agitated, anxious, gross, excited, inspired, and depressed? Those are common mental health effects of social media exposure.

Questioning your social media use as an entrepreneur also inquires into how and to what extent your marketing activities on there affect your mental health. What type of content and interactions are you exposed to? Are you getting hateful messages or comments? Does the emotional and sensory overload of scrolling affect you?

Your mental health is a key consideration in your business. How well you can run it depends on your mental acuity, resilience, and reserves in your nervous system. Social media is a stressor that can affect all three of these – to varying degrees. Some people deal with this better than others.

If you’re struggling with it, it’s not helpful to compare yourself to somebody who outsources this to a social media manager or is less affected. The best way forward is to consider whether and to what extent you’re impacted – and whether you need to make changes to your professional social media use because of it.

5.    Your Clients’ Mental Health is Impacted By Socials

Like you, your clients also exist in the messy system of current social media. You cannot make the decision for them whether they are on social media or not (obvisouly!). However, the marketing channels you use have an effect on how much more time your (prospective) clients may spend on socials or not.

If your clients seek you out on social media to connect with your work, by presenting them with other options - for example a newsletter or podcast - you’re indirectly supporting their mental health. At the minimum, your marketing doesn’t ask of them to spend more time on social media, where their mental health may suffer. 

Marketing in the present is a system that pulls clients and entrepreneurs ever deeper into the abyss of social media’s mental health challenges. It doesn’t have to be this way. Your marketing can sell and be mindful of the well-being of others.

6.    Social Media Rob You of a Calm Business

How do you run your business? Is it a 9-5 struggle of chaos? Are you jacked up on adrenaline, wired from the prospect of getting a lot of stuff done? Are you weary of how stressful it all feels?

Business doesn’t need to be this way. You don’t need to hustle. There’s no need to be wired and connected to your work 24/7.

Social media with its emotional stressors and continuous connectivity counteracts the idea of a calm business. There’s always a music or Reel trend to hop on. The pressure to appear engaged to the algorithm keeps you commenting and responding. Tending to your social media can feel like a full-time job. Staying up to date with social media can lead to a frantic base in your business and distraction.

Frantic businessing and social media hacking don’t need to be the default. You can run an intentional, calm, and focused company that sill gets you results.

7.    Social Media is Like Putting All Your Eggs In One Basket

So far, you’ve learnt that on social media you don’t own the audience, don’t control content distribution, and are engaging in casino marketing when you chase virality. When you become overly reliant on social media like most small business owners, you also risk putting your eggs in one basket. Case in point: the people whose Facebook gets hacked, they can’t access it anymore, and lose access to the foundation of their business.

It takes time to grow any marketing channel and build up a loyal audience. No Instagram or TikTok account appeared overnight – even though there can be algorithmic growth spurts (see going viral above). Once you’ve chosen a platform, you and your audience are locked in there. The more your audience grows, the greater the cost for leaving the platform or – worse – loosing access to your audience on there.

This leads to the unfortunate circumstance that many solopreneurs focus on a social media channel to build up their online reputation. If anything happens to your ability to access this account - you get hacked, locked out of it, banned for whichever activity – you lose access to what generates your livelihood.

If this sounds exaggerated, it’s more common than you think. Also: to a social media company with one billion+ users, one person experiencing a hiccup is not a major source of concern. It’s challenging to retrieve an account – in some cases you may need to engage a lawyer to get tech companies to move on your behalf.

Overall, it’s a situation you don’t want to be in. You don’t want the source of your livelihood be wiped out overnight. Even if you’re a household name: the internet is fickle. Unless you have a Beyoncé level of fame, recognition, and loyal audience support, building up your account again is a grind. You don’t want to subject yourself to that.

This is why, from a strategic point of view, you need an off-socials marketing channel in your business. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

8.    Algorithmic Sameness in Content – You Don’t Stand Out By Doing More of the Same 

Social media algorithms control content distribution. This causes an interesting phenomenon: why everything seemingly looks the same in the feed.

Do you remember a trend in the personal development and coaching corner of social media, when everyone was using beige and earthy tones in their posts? How so many posts spoke in soft tones, wrapping their readers in a cloud of conversational cotton? Have you ever seen a long LinkedIn or Facebook post that was sprinkled all over with random emojis and the same dramatic story of how the poster’s life used to suck but now – after a long-winded story that you need to suffer through reading in your feed – everything is awesome because of xyz magical method or power product? Then you know what I’m talking about.

Social media algorithms incentivize certain behaviors over others. Instagram, for example, began to heavily favor Reels in the summer of 2022. There’s also a human element to it. If a type of post performs well, for example the long and dramatic emoji-laden confessionals, others are wont to recreate them. After all, if it’s worked, why not try it.

In the long run, this combination of algorithmic steering and human behavior creates sameness and a deluge of BS in content, especially on social media. This vast sea of imitation is frustratingly boring to navigate. You won’t stand out doing more of the same.

9.    The Societal Effects of Social Media

Social media creates a clustermunch on a societal level. While there are some benefits to it in giving a platform for those previously unable to make themselves heard, socials are hardly the beacon of democratization they initially were thought to be.

Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the ability to emotionally manipulate people on a mass level, rampant data collection, and an epidemic of loneliness are only a few of the effects of social media. The documentary “The Social Dilemma” is a good starting point to learn more about this.

10.  Market Power of Social Media Companies 

Meta has a user base of 3.88 billion people globally (as of Q2 in 2023) Half of the world population is connected via a Meta app. Never before has any company had this much of an influence and insight into global communication streams. It’s concerning.

Likewise, this gives social media companies like Meta an insane influence over communications and other markets. It’s no wonder that it can be hard to imagine taking a step back from social media marketing, when every other person in the world is on them.

The market power of social media companies (and Google) is hugely problematic. These companies run the consumer end of the internet and how we interact with it. Marketing on these platforms beckons the question to what extent we as individuals want to be involved with them.

11.  Algorithmically Powered Groupthink Rules the Online Landscape 

Having read all the arguments above, then why are so many entrepreneurs hustling on social media?

I see four reasons for that:

  1. Social media are the status quo and it’s always challenging to break out of that, behaviorally.

  2. Algorithms reinforce behavioral patterns in large groups creating filter bubbles or epistemic bunkers people retreat into intellectually.

  3. Interconnected guru brands in the solo and small business space create a pattern of groupthink that makes it seem like socials are the inescapable norm.

  4. There’s not enough educational material available to help entrepreneurs make an informed choice for themselves. My intent is to fix this with Bye, Social Media!

If you’re here, you likely have an inkling that socials aren’t ideal for you – or you’re just curious and lurking. Either way, this is an invitation to leave the hole you’ve dug yourself into in your mind and look at things from a broader perspective. Just because guru xyz says you need to be on social media, doesn’t mean that’s the only option that’s out there. Maybe, socials are a good fit for you, maybe, they’re not.

The decision should be up to you and based on weighing the pros and cons of socials as a marketing option, not because “they said so”. I understand that quitting socials might sound daunting. It is hard to go against the grain. The most important thing here is that you begin questioning things for yourself and take decision-making into your own hands. Then you’ve already won.

What Are Your Next Steps?

Now that you’ve read through this list of arguments against using social media in your business, you might wonder what to do next. Maybe, you’ve now heard and thought about this all for the first time. Maybe, this is confirmation for the nagging feeling in the back of your mind you’ve been pushing away for a long time.

Either way, the list above can only serve you as inspiration and a basis to make your own decisions. There’s no one right way to move forward. It might serve you to stay connected on social media somewhat, just as it might serve you to move away altogether.

As a first step, I recommend you decrease your dependency on social media by introducing and building up an off-socials marketing channel. Shutting all socials down abruptly is as shaky a decision as staying on there because everyone else is, so it can’t be that bad. The intent of this post and the educational section on this website is to help you make an informed decision, so you can do what’s best for your business.

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