Six lessons from two years marketing without social media

In my courses, programmes and 1:1 mentoring I regularly teach small business how to market without social media. For many of them, the desire to quit social media has been with them for a long time—but they need the courage, strategy and support to actually make it happen. In this post, I share the 5 things I teach small business owners on how to market without social media. 

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This month marks two years since I left Instagram and stopped using it to market my business. I was so ready to leave—yet hadn’t actually planned to stay away more than a couple of weeks.

Looking back, it’s been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. Leaving social media was the first time I really started embracing marketing my business my way. It was the moment when I gave myself permission to completely follow what felt right to me—a strategy that I’ve been using ever since.

In this post, I share 6 lessons I’ve learned from 2 years marketing without social media. I’d love to hear how you use social media in your business, how you feel about it and what, if anything, you’d want to change.

If this is a topic you’re interested in: check out my free email series on moving your business away from social media, or join the waitlist for my group programme Marketing without social media to get my support in making lasting changes.

#1 I don’t need social media in order to run a thriving online business

Now that I’m not longer on social media, I am 100% marketing my business in a way that feels good to me. The kind of marketing I do now, largely through my Substack newsletter, community and outreach, fits me much better personally.

I’m not an “always on”-person, and being rewarded for how much time I spent on a platform makes me feel rebellious and tired and slightly icky.

I’m a writer, someone who thinks on paper and values deeper connections. I’m good at creating workshops and mini-courses. I’m not someone who enjoys the fast, the visual and the ephemeral. Leaving Instagram has cleared up so much time in my business and even more mental space in my brain. I no longer feel that niggle in the back of my mind telling me “I haven’t posted yet today/this week, I need to do it!”. I feel lighter being off social media. Mainly, though, I feel lighter marketing in a way that fits me. I believe that it is that, how I’ve found a way of marketing that feels good to and for me, that has made my business thrive the way it does right now.

Full transparency: I was making barely any sales through social media—I never sold a single 1:1 mentoring call through Instagram, although sharing about the two small business guides I launched in 2021 did help me get a bunch of new newsletter subscribers, and a dozen sales. Making so few sales through social media made it easier for me to leave, perhaps.

At the same time, I did not have the security of a large community anywhere—including social media—to provide a safety net.

Market your business without social media

#2 I didn’t need a big following elsewhere in order to leave social media

At the time I left social media, in October 2021, I was still finding my feet in business, which showed in the number of clients I worked with, the number of followers I had on social media and the number of subscribers to my newsletter.

I don’t have a record of how many newsletter subscribers I had when I left social media in October 2021, but I do know that in January 2022 I had 135. So in October 2021, I probably had a little less than that—more than 100, I think, but certainly not more than 135 subscribers.

I feel lighter being off social media. Mainly, though, I feel lighter marketing in a way that fits me.

I blogged semi-regularly on my website as well: WordPress tells me that in October 2021 I had 250 visitors to my website, which was more than in September and November of that year, probably because I had just launched my business boundaries that feel good guide.

In the summer of 2021 I got really into Pinterest—I’d taken a course that helped me set up Pinterest and landed on a strategy that worked for me at the time. This showed: from 607 impressions in July 2021 to 2930 in October 2021. Of these impressions, the outbound clicks numbered 20 in October 2021 and engagement—saves, outbound clicks, Pin clicks—was 60 in October 2021.

These numbers mean very little by themselves of course. They do show that I didn’t have a huge following elsewhere.So often you hear about business owners leaving social media and feeling able to do so because they have a huge newsletter list, or a podcast, or a YouTube channel that does well.

I currently have over 1200 newsletter subscribers, 1143 website visitors in September 2023 and 2352 impressions on Pinterest over this past month, with an engagement of 985 (full disclosure: I contribute any of my current Pinterest success to my wonderful VA Laura who pins my blog posts for me).

Bottom line: as little or as much as these numbers mean, I didn’t have a big audience anywhere when I left social media in 2021. And I was able to grow my community substantially after leaving, using the kind of marketing that takes less time, is aligned with me and my needs and makes me feel good.

#3 It’s all about interconnection

In the first years of my business any marketing strategy I had basically consisted of doing as much as possible in what felt like a very haphazard way—even if I was following a plan or strategy devised by someone else. I essentially kept throwing things at the wall to see what would stick.

Early in 2021 I devised a much more interconnected way of marketing. I stopped marketing for just one channel or platform, got really clear about what each channel did and what my aim was, and all my marketing led back to a hub, my website. Visualizing this for myself made everything easier, more efficient and more manageable to me.I’ve written more about my marketing ecosystem here, and I frequently teach others to devise their own as well. If you’d like to set up a marketing ecosystem that feels good and aligned, and is efficient and effective, my new group programme is just the thing for you. It’s running in the Spring of 2024 and you can now waitlist for it right here.

#4 I attract the people I do because I’m not on social media

I firmly believe that our business needs to serve our own needs first. For me, leaving social media was something I really needed to do, for my own mental health and joy in my business. But it’s turned out to do more than just that.

I’ve started to attract the (lovely) clients and subscribers I do because I’ve chosen not to be on social media. Not only are these frequently people who want to spend less time on social media in their business themselves—or even quit it altogether—but they are also the kind of people who struggle with the fast pace that social media requires. 

Often, they, like me, are the kinds of people who appreciate the slower and gentler, the deeper and more sustainable pace of marketing off social media.

Having this happen feels nothing less than magic to me: by taking a step that is so aligned with who I am and how I want my business to run, I’m attracting people who feel similarly aligned and right for me and what I have to offer.

#5 I feel so much less pressure now

Social media never felt quite right for me and my business and I felt increasing pressure (and annoyance) at having to show up, having to keep up with changes and most of all, having to keep feeding the algorithm. Posting less worked for me for a while, but knowing that posting less also meant that what I did post was shown less than if I were to post more often just added to my frustration.

I also feel less pressure to do the kinds of things that other people are doing. Of course I would sometimes also be inspired by what other people were sharing, but there were times when these posts brought up feelings of comparison in me. I know that I do my best work when I keep my eyes on my own page, and being distracted from that felt off.

Marketing your business can feel joyful, easeful and aligned, I promise. Discover more about how to achieve this by joining my gentle and effective 4-month group programme Marketing without social media.

#6 I’m using other ways of keeping in touch with people

Even before leaving social media I would joke that I essentially live under a rock. I haven’t kept up with the news for years as I realised that doing so was just bad for my mental health.

The only downside to leaving social media was that I no longer saw updates from people that I did want to stay in touch with. I considered creating a new, private, account that I could use only to follow those people, but never got around to doing so. Instead, I explicitly reach out to people that I want to connect with. I send old-fashioned emails asking people how they’re doing and set up virtual tea dates. I respond more frequently to small business newsletters that I’m subscribed to. I am more explicit in sharing my appreciation for the work other people do.

Of course, all of this is not black-and-white. There is no reason for any of you reading this to leave social media. Perhaps that’s a seventh lesson I’ve learned over the past two years: sometimes people feel like it’s somehow objectively better to leave social media. But marketing on social media is not morally right or wrong. It is only right or wrong for you, for your life and your business.

Leaving social media altogether isn’t the only option. You can do so gradually, and not all at once. You can use social media differently than you are now, for instance more as a shopwindow rather than a constant stream of updates.
What matters is what works for you and cultivating more than one marketing channel (which is a key part of what we’ll be working on in Marketing without social media too).

An experiment

Take a moment to think or journal about these questions:

  1. How do you currently feel about social media?
  2. What is the role of social media in your current marketing? What is your aim in using it?
  3. Which non-social media forms of marketing would you like to experiment with?

If my newsletters and free resources resonate with you, I might just be the right mentor for you. I don’t believe in 10-step-plans, or get rich quick schemes. I do believe that it is possible to create and run a business that fits you and your life: your values and rhythms, your strengths and passions. I strongly believe that you don’t need to do all the things, or be on all the channels to make your business work. 

I’m here to help you feel more supported in your business. I’m here to give you the confidence to run your business from that place of deep inner knowing inside of you, offering my signature blend of mindset shifts and practical steps.

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