Ask any professional marketer what it takes to get a business off the ground, and they’ll sell you on social media. Digital marketers usually consider major platforms like Facebook and Instagram a must for any modern marketing strategy. Depending on the company, other social apps like TikTok, LinkedIn or Pinterest may also be seen as essential. Still, businesses are increasingly dissatisfied with the problematic behavior of social media titans. As more brands revolt, we’re led to question, “Can your company survive without social media?”
The Brands Turning Their Backs
As of November 26, 2021, the iconic beauty brand Lush announced that it would be deactivating its Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok accounts.1 This was a surprise since this major cosmetics brand previously had a huge social media presence. However, Lush reevaluated its position and described these social platforms as “places no one should be encouraged to go.”
According to the press release, Lush is saying goodbye to these major social media players until they provide a safer environment. The brand questions the detrimental effects of social media on mental health and algorithms designed to “keep people scrolling” and unable to “switch off and relax.” 1
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Lush is far from the only brand removing itself from social media. In the wake of the new whistleblower leaks, Patagonia boycotted Facebook and called on others to join in encouraging the platform to prioritize people and the planet over profit. 2
Patagonia was joined by The North Face, Ben & Jerry’s, Puma, and others in the #StopHateforProfit campaign in June 2020.2 Their goal was to hold social media companies accountable for divisive content and misinformation ahead of the 2020 election.
Elon Musk also pulled his brands, Tesla and SpaceX, from Facebook, stating that the platform gives him “the willies.” 3 This is following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and concerns about the mishandling of customer data.
But huge brands like Lush, Tesla, and Patagonia already have a presence. Musk may say that “product lives or dies on its own merits,” but Tesla is still active on Instagram, a Facebook-owned platform, and Lush still thrives with user-generated content and influencer marketing on virtually every social media platform.
This begs the question… Where does a startup or small brand fit in?
Facebook is on the Side of Small Businesses. Or Not.
Facebook often touts all it does for the “little guy,” especially when mentioning how regulations would come at a cost to small businesses and put them at a competitive disadvantage.4
But they’re already at a competitive disadvantage. Large corporations, like Facebook, are power players and act as gatekeepers to impose unfair terms on small businesses, then call on those same businesses to protect their own interests.
Any small businesses that want to build an online presence and reach customers in the digital world are at the mercy of Facebook and Google, both of which control the internet in many ways.5
Businesses engaging in digital marketing don’t have many alternative options. Thus, they are subject to the whims of the algorithms. These algorithms frequently change without adequate support or analytics. When it changes, a company may spend more on ads, eating up their budget and enriching the large platforms.
In an effort to keep getting bigger and more advanced, Facebook has become mediocre at all things. Features and functionalities change, creating challenges for businesses trying to stay ahead. Accounts get hacked without any help from Facebook customer support, costing an online presence that may have taken years to build. Businesses are left starting over, from scratch, with the risk that it can all happen again.
Facebook has become mediocre at all things.
Small Businesses as a Bargaining Chip
The giants are happy to leverage small businesses for public relations and as a bargaining chip against regulations. However, any new rules only limit their power, not small businesses.
Compliance wouldn’t hurt small businesses – it would hurt the data collection sold to companies to target ads. Data acquisition and surveillance are what give them monopoly power. Without it, small businesses would have access to a broader pool of advertising options and more bargaining power.
The FOMO Is Real – Avoiding Social Medial Marketing
When Lush decided to leave social media, it openly admitted that the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) was vast, and the company resumed its social media presence time and time again.1 Like “cutting the [cable] cord,” a foray into the unknown is a scary thing, especially for businesses with little brand recognition or awareness to fall back on.
But it can be done. Smaller players, such as Snapchat and TikTok, are growing fast and offering incredible opportunities for the right businesses. OnlyFans is leveraging its “open” platform as a source for more than just adult content. Everyone from musicians to chefs to controversial brands is finding success in the less-restrictive social space.6
When the term comes to mind, we may only think of the “big name” social media platforms, but they’re far from all there is.
The reality is that controversial brands – brands with adult products, tobacco, vaping, etc. – already experienced the struggles of social media marketing on major social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The strict community guidelines have struggled to gain traction for content and had ads flagged (often erroneously).
They’ve had to adapt to digital marketing without social media, and many have done so successfully. Whether using an alternative platform, leveraging influencers, or relying on content marketing and organic growth, startups have found a way to grow and prosper sans-social media.
Can Your Company Survive Without Social Media Marketing? Let’s Find Out!
At Full Circle SEM, we’ve been the first to say that social media is here to stay. But after seeing the downsides of the ever-growing social media giants and the negative impacts on some businesses, we’re starting to rethink our position.
Whether you’re considering leaving social media altogether or increasing your presence on some of the alternative platforms, let us help! We’ll work with you to determine the best strategy for your business and audience, and if it’s not social media, we’ll help with that, too. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!