The Social Media Reset – Why Small Businesses are at Risk Using Social Media

It's time to diversify and change up digital marketing plans

February 5, 2021

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SMBs in the US and around the world, it’s time to change up your digital marketing game plans.

My call is based on two trends impacting the current go-to channels for many SMBs – email and social media.

  • Email marketing is less effective now
  • Social media messaging platforms are increasingly exposed to hackers, spammers, and trolls.

Social media’s influence is also widely debated today with critics citing the impact on social, political, economic, and mental health issues. Internet addiction, cyberbullying, spreading hate speech, and many others are some of the big issues we read about every day.

External forces have shaped our personalities and values since the dawn of time. But, social media has evolved to intensify the impact of influences and influencers. This is especially prevalent in winning hearts and minds.

Harvard Business Review article titled “ARE WE ENTERING A NEW ERA OF SOCIAL MEDIA REGULATION,”  expressed this very well. In the article, the author, Dipayan Ghosh shared this view:

“The social media business model relies on leveraging individual users’ data to push highly-personalized content in order to maximize scroll time, incentivizing more customized, and thus potentially more extremist, content. 

Politically polarized media isn’t a new issue, but the kind of hyper-individualized polarization made possible (and indeed, made inevitable) by current social media models poses a uniquely dangerous threat. And the violence at the Capitol last week graphically illustrated that danger.”

Used negatively, this model has produced a toxic cocktail that has accelerated social discontent and division for many years. And social media anonymity makes it worse! Some friends and business associates even asked me recently, if social media has a viable future? 

Is a kinder, gentler social media landscape possible? 

I hope the platforms we have today introduce reforms to reduce their power, influence, and surveillance capitalism impact.

So yes, we need a reset. I hope social media originalism will drive the future strategies, features, and technologies of social media companies.

So, more conversation and less hollering, hostility, and hectoring is my hope. Given the complexity of the industry and the massive number of stakeholders who need to provide input, change will be very slow.

People are sensing a revolution.

In this period of social media sector soul-searching, friends who currently use social media to promote their businesses and engage with customers have asked me what they should do.

Diversify is my advice. Use different platforms for different needs because there are risks involved when mixing business with personal activities. 

The ubiquity and reach of social media can be great to promote your business to large audiences.  However, these platforms are not suitable for communicating or engaging with customers anymore.

How is social media bad for your business?

Here are a few reasons!

  1. Mindset. When they’re on their favorite platforms, most social media users just want to have fun sharing photos and videos, or chatting with friends and family. Have you ever been watching a great video on Facebook and get interrupted by a 20 second, unrelated un-skippable ad? How did you feel about the advertiser?
  2. Cancel Culture. If you are social media dependent today for marketing, you are also more exposed to the threat of “cancel culture.” How? If you own a business and use Facebook to promote your business, you are at risk of targeting by protestors. This targeting will very likely happen if you express a public opinion that they find objectionable. In cases like this, you are a very soft and easy target and damage sustained in hours could impact your reputation forever. Remember, the Internet is forever.
  3. Privacy and Confidentiality. Big tech simply cannot be trusted with your data. They use it, mine it, share it, and monetize it. And it doesn’t matter what they tell you or disclose in their “terms of service”. In Silicon Valley, the “terms” are for you to follow, not them.

Are there alternatives?

If social media has drawbacks, are old school alternatives such as SMS and email better? Although both are ubiquitous, they have their own problems. Email marketing is not only costly but also has low open rates. SMS has length limitations and user experience issues. Both are also susceptible to spam which can become a business reputation killer.

While that’s the bad news, we have some good news which is also personal plug time. Built-for-purpose notification apps like MessageSpring address all of the issues highlighted above, with the added bonus of a powerful translation feature that supports 120+ languages. And, given the increasingly diverse, and multilingual communities that we’re seeing in big cities now, this is a really valuable inclusion-boosting function.

And speaking of valuable functions, here are a few more:

  • Opt-in driven – all relationships and notification paths are strictly opt-in.
  • Whether you’re a subscriber or a place/business, you own your data.
  • Our growing CRM feature set will help you learn more about your customers
  • QR-code-based digital membership cards to cut down on cost/waste and increase efficiency and security
  • Teams function to divide and conquer notification workloads
  • Proximity marketing with our proximity beacons
  • Groups for audience segmentation
  • Text-to-speech to address some disabilities
  • Vouchers to reward and entice your audience
  • Event-based notifications with rosters
  • Notification analytics
  • AI-based COVID Risk Management integration. This feature alerts you when your employees are at risk of coronavirus infection.

A watershed year ahead

As a tech industry veteran and avid sector spectator, 2021 promises to be a fascinating one for social media. While social media companies have faced big challenges before, they’ve often shrugged these off with minimal impact to their popularity or bottom line.

This time could be different because 2021 is shaping up to be a watershed year for social media. This is especially true due to COVID-19 and social and political upheavals, and recent changes at WhatsApp.

It’s a space we should watch very closely in the months ahead because the future direction of social media has big implications for all of us. What do you think will play out in the year ahead? Maybe you see things differently in your part of the world or industry? We’d love to hear your predictions and views.

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