Many business owners and entrepreneurs I know make a grand assumption: They have to be on social media. They've seen Mark Zuckerberg on Capital Hill and Jack Dorsey struggle with censorship and, shaking their head, say they have no choice but to stay connected to Facebook and Twitter every single day to run their business.
This assumption isn't always true.
I went off both Facebook and Twitter for more than two months - in fact, I'll be plugging in for the first time again this week. And my business has actually improved in this quarter, with better connections to my audience, stronger clarity on my vision and stronger, focused productivity. Here's why you should consider doing the same.
Don't be fooled: Social media isn't about depth, but breadth. As I shared in my TED book Our Virtual Shadow, the power comes from reaching millions, if not billions of people with one click. But how many want to hear about your service or product? Not many. It is parallel to going for a big book publishing contract, and all the baggage that comes with it, for the chance of an international bestseller. It's admirable, but it is much wiser to find out how many people the topic would be relative to, then figuring out how to get the message out (hence me self-publishing my latest, The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur).
Facebook and Twitter had become crutches for me, as it made me feel like I was doing outreach as an entrepreneurial coach, speaker and author. Without them, though, I had to double down on real outreach:
- Establishing a stronger email list and consistent conversations with my email community
- Directly emailing customers to ask what products or services they want next, a vulnerable task for many entrepreneurs
- Taking community feedback and using the time off of social media to engage in distraction-free development, what Cal Newport calls "deep work"
- Having deeper conversations at my keynotes and speaking events, most recently at American Society of Journalists and Authors Austin and New York
The result? My community response is up exponentially, and this has paid off in learning what they need as well as their financial support of my products. My popular Bite-Sized Entrepreneur bootcamp is a direct result of me asking the community what they needed and building it for them - not for the entire world.
Taking care of those you serve
If you're an independent creative or entrepreneur, then the holy grail is Kevin Kelly's classic 1000 True Fans discussion. In short, cultivating 1000 people who love your work and providing them quality products to spend at least $100 annually will give you a solid six-figure salary.
Social media likes, retweets and other metrics gives the illusion of true fans, but it is worth testing the assumption. Did your last tweet that went viral impact your sales? How many people are converting from social media to your email list or direct contact? It's another reason to be "as close to the metal" as possible, as the less intermediaries there are to your sales numbers, the better you can directly gauge your strategy's effectiveness.
Here was my showstopper: I realized that all the new clients signing up for the coaching, bootcamp and other services beyond my books had attended a keynote or were part of my email list. This year, thousands of followers and even my experiences as a social media consultant have done nothing for my bottom line. Whether it is true or not for your business, you won't know if you're assuming that social media is effective and necessary for every entrepreneur.
Own your customer list
One last thing to keep in mind: You don't own your social media following. The platform does. As marketing journalist Megy Karydes shared recently, if Facebook is toast, then so is your customer base. We spend a great deal of time cultivating a social media following without realizing that a change of terms of service, a sudden internal hiccup or even a service outage can completely disconnect us from our so-called audience.
Every independent business person needs to develop an email list. It doesn't have to be a regular newsletter or a fancy automated setup. Instead, just keep an email list of past buyers, interested parties and other people who show they like your work. Email truly is the last frontier of direct digital connection. Everything else is owned by a willful, capricious third party.
I started caring more about and taking better care of my email list after I hopped off of social media. My passive income sales went up, coaching opportunities blossomed and even more potential customers joined my email list through word of mouth.
The most fascinating part is that it is like I never left social media because, if you are doing strong work, people will continue to spread the word about your business online anyway. To paraphrase offline writing coach Alexandra Franzen, even a social media sabbatical doesn't mean you aren't making a social media impact anyway.
Ready to take your ideas to the next level? Join Damon's priority-empowering discussions at JoinDamon.me and download your exclusive solopreneur guide.