What Social Media Has Taught Me As a Business Owner
Social media has its place and it’s totally worthy of driving traffic. That being said, over the years social media has taught me a lot about what to expect from it and how it will help me or hurt me as a business owner and my own personal sanity.
I hear the question a lot: how long did it take you to gain your audience/following?
When I get that question I sigh. I want to always preface it that this is not a one solution fits all situation. Especially with the ever changing landscape of social media.
And, what happens to me as a business owner may not happen for you. We need to get that number out of our heads. We need to stop worrying about follower counts.
Follower Counts Are Just a Number
Follower counts are just a number. It’s honestly not something to measure anything by if you ask me.
However, if you had asked me that four years ago I would have answered that differently. And, if you’re just starting out as a business owner you’re probably focusing on that number. I get it. You have validation and I don’t criticize you for it. At all. We have to start somewhere!
How Facebook Built My Photography Business
For those new to following me, years ago I ran a little photography studio in St. Louis, Missouri. I focused mostly on high school seniors. It was my passion. I loved every minute of it.
I also was so lucky at the time because Facebook worked for business owners. There wasn’t an algorithm that only got you in front of a small percentage of your audience. And, back then, teenagers were on Facebook.
I could tag a kid with sneak peeks of their pictures and then the bookings would roll in. Their friends were seeing them.
That’s not how it works anymore. The algorithm started changing things, and honestly, teens aren’t on Facebook anymore. When that happened I noticed it was harder to find new clients.
Does Follower Count Really Matter?
In this day and age that damn algorithm is annoying as hell, am I right?
I was following just over 800 people or so on Instagram, and the other day I was looking through that set of people I followed. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a post from probably 90% of those people.
So, my question is, does follower count really matter if you’re not seeing anything from those followers or who you follow?
I don’t believe so.
Gary V said that follower count only matters if that number engages with you. And, I KNOW that with having over 31K followers on IG and an average of about 150 likes on one post and maybe one or two comments it definitely doesn’t matter. That’s less than 1% of my followers. WHAT?
He said, “Reach does not equal value and follower count doesn’t mean people are listening. We need to stop focusing on optimizing the number of views and instead concentrate on making each one of those viewers care about your brand. Because, at the end of the day, that’s the only way you’ll drive results to your end goal.”
Let’s face it, I don’t have any interest in a platform that doesn’t bring me results. I no longer even have a desire to engage or even look through my IG feed anymore.
And, that’s okay! No one is telling you that you have to try try try while getting nowhere, and keep doing it.
What Numbers to Pay Attention To
I have been studying my Google Analytics for some time now and on average I see a 3% referral rate from Instagram to my website.
While Pinterest drives over 65% of my traffic.
These are the numbers you need to be paying attention to and focusing on to grow your business.
And, this is the same for my other accounts on IG for my other businesses.
What Social Networks Should I Be Using?
Hubspot wrote an article on which social networks you should be focusing on for your business.
My business has always been visual. Hubspot states that Instagram and Pinterest are the two platforms that are considered visual. But between Instagram and Pinterest, Pinterest is the proven winner clearly from my Google Analytics results.
When I look at my Instagram stats, my top performing IG posts are the short videos I was testing when I was also testing Tik Tok in 2020.
And, as we all know during the great Pandemic Quarantine of 2020 Tik Tok saw a HUGE increase in popularity. So that would make sense.
People want shorter videos with some value.
Then, I have to ask myself how much time do I REALLY want to devote to videos like that. Which brings me to my other source of traffic.
Should I Be On YouTube
I love telling this story, because it goes back to that original question of “how long did it take you to grow your following.”
So, sit down, grab some coffee and let me repeat my story again:
Back in 2015 I was dabbling in traditional brush pen lettering and when I got my iPad Pro in November of that year I started making SVG files from my lettering for crafters to use with their Cricut and Silhouette cutters.
It was a good income but I felt lost still. Like it wasn’t enough and I was going to have to find work to supplement my income.
I was already starting to post tutorials on my blog about lettering and did that for a year – the same things I was turning into SVG files.
I made a conscious decision to try to give away something MAJOR that would drive traffic to me.
My free iPad Lettering course was born. Or the idea, at least. I created the free workshop and I was going to put it on YouTube. For all the world to see at no cost to them. I mean, at least I might get my YouTube subscriber count up and make some ad revenue.
This is when I chose to make a $20 workbook with lettering guides that you could use as a companion to the workshop. It wasn’t a requirement for the workshop to have. But I wanted to find a way to make money to cover the time I put into everything.
And, if you know me, I’m a HUGE fan of passive income. You know, create something digital once and keep on selling it.
So, in January of 2018, I launched the course. I put the workbook in my shop and I was giving away my Durango Procreate brush.
My email subscriber count grew and my sales blew my mind.
It worked. And, still does to this day. Here we are in 2021 and it still sells.
Video sells products. People want to see how things are done.
I went from an email subscriber list of like 100 to over 60K.
Which brings me to the number that does matter.
Your Email List
This is the only subscriber count I care about. These are the people I reach on the weekly. Whether they follow me on social media or not.
It’s the list that I own.
If you do get kicked off of Etsy, YouTube, Instagram, then how do you let your audience know how to find you?
Your email list.
Your conversion rate is always much higher. There are no algorithms blocking you. It’s personal. You’re sending an email to that person.
Consistently sending emails, like four times a month gets you a higher conversion too. More people are likely to open those emails.
Will everyone on your list open your email? No. But that’s okay. That conversion number is higher than social media that it doesn’t really matter.
Just like social media, email needs to be personal and consistent.
And, if people unsubscribe, that’s okay too. In fact, I welcome it! You want people that want to hear from you anyway!
I use FloDesk for my emails – and it’s not as advanced as some marketing platforms, but it’s cost effective. Click here to save 50% on your subscription*. I use the annual plan and it’s just $209 for the entire year (I was paying like $3K a year for Convertkit at the time – you read that right!)
But you need a strategy before you start collecting emails. And, this post doesn’t really have time for that (maybe a later post). Just know that it’s better.
What I’ve Learned for Myself About Social Media
I’ve learned to ask myself what do I have time for and what do I want to make time for when it comes to social media?
Based on my analytics I really just want to focus on Pinterest and YouTube at this time.
I have hired social media managers to handle my Facebook and Instagram and the engagement rates didn’t increase. So why pay someone to manage those with no real results?
I can nurture two items that free up more time where I can focus more on creating.
With Pinterest I use a social media manager and we use Tailwind to schedule my posts. It’s automated once a week. Boom. Done.
YouTube still makes me money (traffic drivers and ad revenue) but I saw a huge drop in traffic in 2020. This could have been partly to the fact that we were doing 3 videos a week. Too much. I heard that their algorithm doesn’t like that anyway.
I’ve scaled back to about 3 or 4 a month for 2021 depending on how many weeks we have in a month.
YouTube videos are long and with Tik Tok and Insta Reels being popular in short format, I think people just don’t want to watch YouTube video.
I won’t give it up, but I won’t be killing myself to do all of those videos every week.
It makes me want to do more with Tik Tok, but honestly, those short format videos can be even more stressful to produce. I haven’t quite made a decision here. I know they are more popular on my Instagram Reels (in my feed – not Stories) and will keep that in mind.
With Instagram I have no intention of killing it off but I made a decision to unfollow everyone but my team. I mean, I’m not seeing your posts anyway! Instead if I want to look through IG for anything I can use hashtags and I can follow those. It’s okay if that makes you mad and you want to unfollow me. It’s nothing personal.
I’m not on IG that much anyway. It may look like it as we post every day. But that’s thanks to the Later app to schedule*my Instagram posts each week. Once a week and I walk away. I can look at comments on that app and reply. I don’t get on Instagram to even look at my feed anymore. Unless you’re a dollhouse builder and then I’m over on my dollhouse account I have drooling over that stuff.
I turned off messages on Instagram too. I have to admit, I loathe DMs. Like, loathe them. I get asked questions that too often require way too detailed of an answer and my thumbs aren’t meant for that. So they go unanswered and it stresses me. And, honestly, most of those answers are on my website. I don’t feel bad turning them off. I thought I would but it’s one less thing I have to deal with.
My Advice to You
Pick two social networks (I know Pinterest is a search engine, but it does fall into this category in most reports and studies I find) and focus on them hardcore for about six months.
Don’t stress over letting things go. It’s fine.
Be consistent with them so you can get some good analytics to review. These platforms will have analytics.
And, engage. That’s the only way to make your own account grow. Engage with others and they will eventually engage with you. I’m sure if I put more strategy into Instagram with engagement I could see conversions, but I’m tapped out.
If you have a website, install Google Analytics and check on it. See what’s working.
Learn how email marketing can help you. Go to Pinterest and search it. So many good articles. Like I said, I might do one later here if you want.
Make adjustments based on these things. Nurture your email list.
Honestly, there is no right or wrong thing for you until you try it and have measurable results.
Remember, what works for one person may not fit for you. You have to experiment and be patient. If businesses were instantly successful overnight more people would be doing it, right?
Finally, stop worrying about follower count and worry about engagement. You have more important things to do anyway, like be amazingly creative!
Oh – and if you didn’t catch that above, I started doing this in 2015, and you can see my follower count now (not that big of a jump in about 5 years) so don’t sweat the small stuff.
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