I spend a good amount of time talking to business owners about social media—from content strategies to the myth of authenticity. I’ve discovered over time that while the questions vary, almost all of them point to the same one: Is the time and effort worth the return?
Each personal brand and business is unique, so there’s no clear-cut way to answer that question. But if it’s something you’re mulling over, here are a few things to consider:
PR and Marketing are Not Just Instagram
PR is the work of promoting yourself and your business as a whole; marketing is promoting and selling a specific product or service. You need PR to raise the overall visibility of your personal brand and business and you need marketing to sell products and services and generate revenue.
Having a presence on any of the social platforms can help accomplish both. But there are a number of other avenues that make up the larger PR and marketing ecosystem: email marketing, blogging, guest blogging, podcasting, speaking events, strategic partnerships, media relations, SEO and more. In my experience, many of these avenues require less time and effort and deliver higher returns. If social is driving your PR and marketing strategy with not-so-great results, I’d consider letting it take a backseat to some of these other worthy avenues. (If you’re not sure which ones, check out the PR & Marketing strategy session.)
It’s Not Your Turf
You don’t control or own anything that happens on any social platform outside of the content you post. When Facebook and LinkedIn change their algorithms or a follower has a bad experience in the comments section of your Instagram post there’s very little you can do to protect your people or brand within the platform.
It’s really important that you find a way to lead people back to a space you’ve built for them; one which allows you to create rules in alignment with your personal brand and business values and communicate with your community directly (like a newsletter). Social media can be a useful way to promote that “home,” but it shouldn’t be the home itself.
Organic Reach Rate is Low; Growth is Slow
Organic reach rate is the percentage of followers who see your posts without you using paid ads. According to data from Social Status (which indexes hundreds of thousands of profiles each month), it’s shockingly low. In Q4 of 2021, Social Status reported LinkedIn’s average organic reach rate was 4.67%; Facebook’s was 4.77%; and Instagram’s was 6.18%. That means that if you have an Instagram account, and you fell close to Social Status’ Q4 benchmark, only about 6% of your followers saw each of your posts from Oct-Dec of last year. (Twitter calculates its metrics differently, here’s a helpful breakdown.)
This helps explain social’s slow growth rate. In Q4 of 2021, Instagram’s average monthly growth rate was 1.45%, LinkedIn’s was 1.59% and Facebook’s was slightly higher at 2.43%. So if you start the year at 1,000 followers on LinkedIn and you follow the Q4 average growth rate, you’d end the year with 1,188 followers—an addition of 188.
While these are benchmark statistics, and they change each month, they paint a picture. If it’s taking time to build your platforms, this helps explain why.
Get Disciplined About Tracking the Impact
Finally, we can’t answer “is the time and effort on social media worth the return?” if we don’t know what the return is. What do you want social media to do for your personal brand and/or business? Are you using it to nurture an already-established community, drive one-on-one clients or build a large following to promote an upcoming book? Most importantly, is it delivering? Follower count, engagement and referral traffic are all helpful metrics, but they never tell the whole story. Think about what you want your personal brand and business to accomplish in the next several months and spend a few minutes each month exploring how social did or didn’t help you get there.
None of this is suggesting that you abandon your social platforms next week. There are many people, businesses and industries who benefit from their work on social. But as a business owner with limited time and resources, you want to be thoughtful about where you’re spending it.
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