It’s 2018 and your business isn’t on Facebook?! You’re doomed.

There is a common belief that to compete in the digital age, a business needs to be active on the various social media platforms. Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, LinkedIn, Youtube channels, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat - and those are just the most popular North American ones.

We’ve spent so much time and resources perpetuating this belief that we rarely stop to ask if it’s even true. Does your business actually need to be active on social media to stay afloat in the digital age?

I remember when MySpace first burst onto the scene in 2003. It seemed like something new was happening at a wider cultural level then blogging had made possible. The average person was given the opportunity to create their own online page where they could make new connections with people based on shared interests from the comfort of their homes. The space between us seemed to get a whole lot smaller.

Of course, it didn’t take long for brands, artists, and public figures to realize that this was an opportunity to interact with potential fan bases in new, unprecedented ways. Algorithms were created that allowed brands to speak directly to the people who were most interested in their content. It was a turning point in marketing history. The distance between the ideal consumer and product disappeared.

However, as more and more platforms emerged, drawing different types of users, and the realization that there was money to be made for this sort of direct access to consumers, advertising on social media became increasingly complicated and costly. The algorithms were changing constantly to now keep brands at a disadvantage. All of a sudden you couldn’t even freely share content with people who had already liked your brand, let alone those who hadn’t. Pay to play became the new norm and you were expected to play if you hoped to survive. It was a game that now required a consistent stream of high quality content, uniquely tailored to each platform, that would somehow stand out from the glut. This is why today it’s common for large businesses to hire entire teams devoted to digital marketing, fighting to keep up with this ever changing landscape of social media advertising. It’s a significant investment; despite the reality that with the click of a button a user can mute your brand from their timeline forever.

How can your small to mid sized business ever hope to keep up?

The truth is, it can’t. But the good news is that maybe it doesn’t need to.

We’ve so wholly bought into this cultural myth that “being on social media” is the only way to survive that we’ve sort of forgotten the main point of it to begin with: communicating directly with the people who are most interested in what you’re selling. We’ve traded the possibility of building relationships with our ideal customers for a sort of yelling into the void in hopes that someone is listening. Certainly bigger brands have figured out how to do this extremely effectively; yet this is where your small to mid sized business can actually be at a huge advantage. You don’t need to be active on every social media platform in order to compete. You just need to figure out where your ideal customers are and begin to interact with them.

If you’re a local pottery store hoping to reach more potential customers in your community; getting active on local groups and getting your work shared by others may be far more helpful than building out an Etsy account which enables you to share and sell your work across larger distances.

Or, if you’re a business that sells primarily to other businesses, building out a consistent and resourceful e-blast might be more effective than running Facebook ads.

The point is that building a fan base from the bottom up with the people you’re trying to reach is far more effective than wildly and inconsistently posting mediocre content across multiple social media platforms.