More and more, I’m feeling called to spend less time on social media and more time connecting with people face-to-face. Some time ago I read Stolen Focus by Johann Hari.

Without totally giving away all the goodness that’s inside, the book centres around an experiment Johann conducted to take a 3 month break from social media and the online world.  The results that he experienced are pretty astounding, but what I found equally intriguing was the information I learned about the big tech companies who own social media channels.

These giant companies are strategic and highly calculated in the way they craft social media algorithms.  ‘Social’ apps are created with intention for us to spend as much time as possible using them. The more time we spend online, the higher the chances of seeing ads from businesses investing in their platform = the more money they make.

As eye-opening as this was, it filled me with dread.  I felt uncomfortable and sad about the way our attention is being commoditised. I know there are people out there who wouldn’t have issues with this… But I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t one of those people. Amiright?

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The social dilemma…

Herein lies the dilemma. Can you have a thriving small business without an online presence on social platforms.

Social media provides a FREE way to market ourselves and our businesses.

There’s no denying the opportunities social networks present to maximise money-making, but I can’t help but wonder –  at what cost?

I think the negative impact of social media is far greater than we realise. It will probably become more evident as time goes on and we have more data on the use of socials and its impact in our lives, too.

Are we becoming a society glued to their phones? Disengaged from our community and unfamiliar with the art of true human connection?

Don’t get me wrong, making money matters. But there’s gotta be a more balanced way to go about things. I know that I don’t want to spend the time with my kids, glued to a phone ‘working’ on my business.

In this one, precious life we have – the time I spend with the ones I love, matters most, NOT whether I went viral on my social media accounts.  I don’t want to teach my kids to find solace only in a screen, either.

I think now more than ever, we need to have a good, hard look at our marketing strategies and create a social media marketing plan that won’t see us spending hours locked in doom-scrolling.

Do you *actually* need social media for your business?

In a nutshell, no.

It’s hard to imagine a brand without a social media presence these days. But, in saying that, there are definitely other ways to connect with potential customers outside of using socials.

Socials ain’t all bad, right?

Let me first say, I don’t want to ignore the role of social channels in marketing ourselves and our businesses.  I mean, social media is essentially free, entertaining and is a great way to boost brand awareness and connect with new customers.

Also, who doesn’t love a funny cat video or two, amiright?

The scrolling vortex

The downsides to social media are pretty hard to ignore – especially when it comes to effective small business marketing.

Take Instagram for example- it can swallow up literal hours of time for little to no result. So many entrepreneurs spends hours cutting together the ‘perfect’ short form video to upload as a reel – only for it to have a few views and even less conversions to actual sales.

You don’t need to give social media the flick forever

When you create a clear strategy and plan – it makes it easier to be more intentional with social media use. Having a plan also makes it easy to lean into and trust our other marketing channels and how it all works together like one, big marketing machine!

If you’re picking up what I’m putting down – I’m sharing my favourite ways for generating leads and making sales outside of social media, to hopefully inspire you to do the same.

My favourite ways for marketing your small business without relying on social media.

1. Create an Email List.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably know you should consider creating an email list as soon as possible.   Email marketing is an excellent way to reach your customer base.

When you use email marketing, you don’t rely on algorithms like social media does.  It’s a guaranteed direct line to your audience, every time.  It is a powerful tool to connect with your audience and build the know, like and trust factor that we need as consumers to make a purchase decision.

Starting in email marketing can feel overwhelming but my advice is to keep it as simple as possible.  I build my email list from my in-person events as well as through my email opt-ins.

And when you have a great email opt-in, you can be more intentional with your social media posts and drive your audience to download your freebie.

ways-to-grow-your-business-without-social-media

2. Search engine optimisation (SEO).

This goes hand-in-hand with your blog but can also be a stand alone concept.  SEO is about structuring your website so that it has the best chance of being seen in top search engine rankings.

Q: When should I ‘do’ my website SEO?

A: The best time to work on your SEO is when you build your website and the second best time is now!

SEO involves things like keyword research and placement, image size, structure and site speed to help boost organic traffic.  If you are clever about your SEO, you are improving your chances of ranking in Google and increasing your potential of being seen without having to show up on things like social media all the dang time!

If you want to know how I managed to rank on the first page of Google for multiple keywords, download my beginners ebook – SEO Rookie for my step-by-step tips.

3. Start a blog.

I find the word blog can be a bit misleading.  

still have clients ask me ‘Is blogging still even a thing?’ The answer is yes.  Blogging is 100% still a thing (and will continue to be).

Instead of the word blogging, think of blogs as articles – just like this blog article you’re reading!  They are a way of sharing your expertise, connecting with your target audience and positioning yourself as a thought leader in your niche.

Blogs are also an integral part of your website strategy and getting your website seen on Google.  The more you blog about particular topics, the more your website will be associated with certain subjects or topics.

4. Host an event.

Granted, in person events have been slightly trickier the past few years thanks to ol’ mate COVID.  But I feel like as the situation improves across the world, so do the chances of hosting an in person event.

There is really nothing quite like the connections you make with people in real life.  I truly believe that we are here on the planet to learn more about ourselves from our connections to others.  It’s all part of the human experience and I feel like from a business perspective, it’s so often overlooked. 

Events are an opportunity to educate, entertain or inspire your audience (or all of the above!) in a unique way that only you can do.  You can make max impact and leave a lasting impression which helps to cement your brand and business, hopefully in a good way, for days, weeks or years to come!   Events can also be a fab way to build your email list at the same time.

I love hosting Honest Biz Brunch events for Perth women in business.  I release tickets to these intimate, round-table discussions through my email list.  To have first access to tickets (and they always sell out fast) my audience has to join my Honest Biz Mailing List.  This has helped me to not only sustainably build my email list, but enjoy build lasting connections with other business owners.

5. Business networking.

Business networking could be considered ‘old school’ but don’t underestimate its effectiveness, even in this digital age.  In the right networking environment, you will meet like minded business owners who will share advice, stories and tips to help you succeed.  It is also the best way to forge friendships (hello word of mouth marketing!) and establish future partnerships or collaborations.

I like to think of business networking like having your own personal cheerleaders and ‘little black book’ to cross refer to your own audience, too.

If you’re looking for more authentic, relaxed networking (minus the elevator pitches) definitely check out my Honest Biz Events.

6. Collaborate with another business.

Partnerships and collaborations can be a highly successful modality to market your business. This is where networking comes in handy.  Networking is an effective way to ‘put yourself out there’ and meet different businesses with the same target audience whom you could potentially collaborate with.

Some ideas for collaborations or partnerships are things like hosting an event, workshop or masterclass. Or you can create a situation of cross promotion – maybe you each share a discount code to your audiences or hold a giveaway together.  If the idea of organising an event feels a bit much,  put yourself forward to be a speaker or guest presenter at another businesses’ event.  This is a fantastic, low-cost way to really boost your exposure to an aligned audience.

The beauty of collaboration is that you can double your reach and impact and also halve your workload at the same time!  Social media can play a role in collaborations and it’s these sorts of applications where I actually think social media can be really helpful.

7. Start a podcast.

Another way to grow your business without social media is to consider podcasting.  You might think that podcasting is a saturated space but my advice here would be similar to a website – if you’re not on there, your ideal clients can’t find you.   

Many consumers have their ride-or-die podcasts that they listen to religiously, but many also use podcast apps like a search engine.  They turn to podcasts to find information about particular subjects or niches.  Because of this, keyword research can again play a part in making sure people can find your podcast, however; most apps also search show transcripts now which helps in this arena.  You don’t need to have a hefty number of podcast followers to see results.

If you don’t have the capacity to produce your own podcast right now, ask if you can be a guest on someone else’s! Similar to being a guest speaker or presenter, being a podcast guest helps expose your business to oodles of new people, without the overheads. 

When you’re thinking of pitching to be a guest on a podcast, consider:

  • Whether they have the same/similar target audience. For example, there’s no point being a guest on a gardening podcast if that has absolutely nothing to do with your story or your brand.
  • How to you pitch. Cold emails/messages/DM’s aren’t always the best way to pitch to hosts, especially for in-demand podcasts.  Do your research, find out if there’s a process for applying to be a podcast guest.  It also always helps to have followed someone for a bit, consumed some of their content so you can approach them in a more genuine, authentic way.

I know many businesses that have generated many leads through podcasting, including me!  I can totally vouch that it works.

Podcasts are similar to blogs in that they allow you to share your expertise, experience and add value to your audience.  And in an increasingly busy world, a lot of people are turning to podcasts. For this reason I always recommend turning your blogs into a podcast and vice versa! 

8. Word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

So here’s an idea, how about actually telling people what it is you do!?  You know, when you’re standing around at school pickup time and one of the other parents asks you what you do for work – TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS!  So often we play small and don’t want to talk about our business, especially if it’s relatively new. Let’s stop that, mmkay?

Word of mouth marketing is powerful AF and even though it is one of the most simple (and perhaps the oldest) forms of marketing, it doesn’t make it less potent.  In fact, it has truly stood the test of time.

In a 2012  Nielsen global marketing study, it was found that 92% of people trust a recommendation from family or friends above ALL OTHER FORMS of advertising.

See? Powerful AF.  So powerful in fact, that billion dollar businesses still consider WOMM their most valuable marketing channel.

Social media can be helpful here too.  I find Facebook groups a fantastic place to get a recommendation and so they can be a useful tool in encouraging WOMM.  Facebook also has reviews available on business pages and in the same Nielsen study online reviews were the second most trusted form of advertising, so together these two things = good stuff for your biz.

9. Linked In

Okay, so maybe this could be considered social media but I categorise it differently because it isn’t part of the Metaverse.

The thing I like about Linked In is that there doesn’t seem to be the same algorithm that keeps us scrolling (and scrolling) for hours on end.  We can hop on and off, spend a little time there without it taking over our days.

Linked In is a great tool for B2B business models.  It is an online networking tool enabling you to connect with aligned businesses, publish posts (think of them like mini blogs) to help build thought leadership and add value as well as share your events and market your services.

There is a job search element to Linked In too, so you could actively look for potential job opportunities that would align with your skills.

Let’s just hope Linked In doesn’t do an Instagram and change its algorithm ten times per month or encourage everyone to start posting short-form videos only…

Social media isn’t the only way to market your business.

If, like me, you’re feeling tired of doom-scrolling Instagram, I hope this blog has given you some inspiration for different ways to grow your business without relying purely on socials.

At the end of the day, I’m a big believer in doing what feels right and true for YOU and your business, not because someone told you to.  Feel free to pick the ideas that feel aligned and that you realistically can execute in your current business setup. 

On that note, if you love social media and what it creates for your lifestyle and business, then you do you. However; I do think that even if social media is your go-to marketing strategy, you should consider adding at least one more channel into the mix.  All it takes is for your account to be suddenly deactivated, hacked (it happens – read the comments on this post for evidence of this) or for a glitch on the platform to lose contact with your entire audience.

Diversify your marketing and start simple.  Build your email list with an epic lead magnet, use your social media platform and direct your followers to download so you can start in the very least to build an email list.

Want more? 

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