Lessen Your Reliance on Social Media Marketing

Social media is a valuable tool for reaching customers, but as the recent Facebook outage proved, you don’t want that to be the only part of your marketing toolbox that you’re utilizing

Lessen Your Reliance on Social Media Marketing

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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October was a hard month for Facebook for several reasons. One big one was the service outage that took place in early October. Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp were down for several hours, and people lost their minds. 

Users couldn’t get on Facebook at all, and Instagram and WhatsApp weren’t refreshing and loading new content or allowing messages to be sent and received. And the outage happened twice in a single week.

While we personally hope people used that time to rediscover the world outside of their screens, we also hope it was a wake-up call for business owners. A reminder not to build your house (i.e. audience) on rented land.

Here’s something that we often forget.We never have any control over platforms like Facebook. They aren’t properties we own — like our websites or email lists — which means we shouldn’t be relying solely on these platforms to engage and connect with our customers and potential customers. If we do, when they go down, that connection with our customers is cut. 

What does this cut connection with customers look like in reality? It means you could have a sale or special you want people to know about. You could offer a service you know your existing and potential clients will love. But because you rely on rented land like Facebook as your sole way of getting through to customers, you can’t reach them to tell them what you’ve got going on until service is restored.

Does that mean you shouldn’t be using Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms to reach customers and engage with people who might be interested in your services? Of course not. Social media can be a beneficial tool for marketing your business and building your brand and audience. But it should never be your Plan A or your Plan A-Z.   

Make sure you have a direct and owned process for connecting with your customers so that if Facebook and Instagram go down, you still have the means to reach the customers you worked so hard to attract and build relationships with.

How do you do that? 

Build a great website and point customers to it (not to your Facebook page)

A lot of businesses make the mistake of making everything about their social media pages and accounts. They think that going all in means giving up all else. These are the businesses that direct customers to their Facebook pages on their business cards, trucks, ads, and other marketing collateral. 

While it doesn’t hurt to get people over to your social media pages, it shouldn’t be your main aim. Instead, you want to use your marketing materials and messaging to get people to your website. That’s because your website is a property that (hopefully) you own and control. A property that won’t disappear when Mark Zuckerberg makes changes to his owned platforms. It’s a place that allows you to get your message across to clients and provide a way to connect, no matter what’s going on with the rest of the internet. It’s the place where you have 100% control over how your brand is presented and what is presented. It’s your No. 1 salesperson — always on and always working to get potential clients to take action and schedule an appointment with you.

That’s where you should be sending potential clients. So invest in a good website, keep content and design up to date, and make your website the top place you send clients and potential clients in your marketing. 

Build an email list and engage with customers regularly

Another great way to stay connected with your clients and potential clients (no matter what’s going on in Zuckerberg’s world) is through email.

Email is personal and provides a direct connection to your clients. You can send an email any time and get your message in front of the people you really care about — those who have done business with you before or shown interest in what you have to offer. 

Check out these email stats from HubSpot:

  • 74% of baby boomers, 72% of Gen X, 64% of millennials, and 60% of Gen Z think email is the most personal channel to communicate with brands.
  • 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months.
  • Nearly 22% of all email campaigns are opened within the first hour of sending.
  • 99% of email users check their inbox every day, with some checking 20 times a day.

Yet many businesses either don’t collect and make use of their clients’ email addresses or they don’t make much of an effort to keep clients engaged through email. It’s a golden opportunity missed by many.

Before you invest tons of time and effort into social media, invest some time and effort into collecting email addresses and engaging your clients and potential customers through email. The key to building, growing, and using an email list is to:

  • Collect emails through your website or at the time of service.
  • And send valuable emails regularly. 

But remember, you can just as easily lose that connection to customers if you don’t do email right. Before you jump in and press send, consider these tips:

Use a familiar or easily identifiable name for your “From” name

Most people won’t open an email if they don’t know the sender. If you want your emails read, you need to make sure they’re coming from a name that’s either familiar or easily linked to your company in the minds of your customers. 

For example, we’re the faces of our company, so if we were sending an email to clients, we might send it with the “From” name Taylor and Carter. And we’d stick with that name so clients would get used to seeing our names in their inboxes.

If you don’t have anyone in your company to serve as the “face” of the company, don’t just pick a name at random. Instead, simply use your company name as the “From” name. 

Find a routine and stick to it

You want clients to get used to seeing your name in their inbox and to looking forward to your emails. But you can only do that if you stick to a schedule. Think about how often you’d like to send emails to your clients and potential customers and how often you can realistically and reliably do so. Is once a week possible? Twice a month? Once a month? Figure out what makes sense for your business, your clients, and your workload. Then stick to your schedule.

Don’t abuse the relationship (If you don’t have anything to say, don’t send) 

Many brands and businesses abuse email. They clog your inbox with repeats of offers or send you emails that are all about what they’re doing. Don’t waste this opportunity by making those same mistakes. 

Every email you send should provide value and have a single purpose. If you can’t answer the questions, Why am I sending this? and What do I want clients to do or take from this email?, then don’t send it. 

One of the fastest ways to lose your prized spot in your clients’ inboxes is to send emails that are either too frequent, too infrequent, or pointless altogether. Most people won’t hesitate to hit the “Unsubscribe” button or move your emails to spam if they’re frustrated by the emails you’re sending. Don’t abuse the relationship. Cherish it.

Be prepared for a social media outage

What about you? Were you completely cut off from your customers when Facebook and Instagram service went down in October? Then it’s time to make your website and your email list a priority. 

Even if you build up your audience on Facebook and Instagram, use those platforms to direct your potential and existing clients to your website and invite people to join your email list.

That way, when Zuckerberg’s platforms disappear from the internet — whether for an hour or a week — you’ll be in a position to sit back and eat popcorn while the rest of the world panics.

About the authors: Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They're also co-authors of the book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit www.sparkmarketer.com or www.facebook.com/sparkmarketer.


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