This past Monday, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were all down for just under six hours due to an internal error. And small business owners everywhere started freaking out.

We get the Wall Street Journal delivered to our home every morning, and I almost spit out my coffee reading an article on the outage in the Business section this morning. They interviewed a small business owner, Lisa Hamilton, from Australia (read the full article here), and a couple of lines from the article really stuck out to me. This one first:

All three services [Facebook, Instagram WhatsApp] are key elements of the business she runs with her husband, Peter, 40, she said. It took some time to resolve the issue after Ms. Hamilton discovered her company, Help2u, was blind to 100% of her customers.

No wonder people were freaking out- if someone suddenly pulled the plug on the only mic I had to reach my people, I’d be panicked too!

But if you suddenly have ZERO control over your ability to market your business, shouldn’t that be a sign to us all that we need to change the way we market? Because marketing SHOULD be something you have a measure of control over.

What if you’ve built your audience exclusively on Instagram, and it gets hacked? Or your Facebook page is flagged for abusive content from a vindictive follower, and the company shuts you out?

Because these things HAPPEN in real life!

You MUST diversify your marketing efforts.

I know that this is a complex issue. Social media has, in many ways, allowed small business owners to grow FASTER than they might have been able to otherwise. I’m grateful for the way that social media has helped me connect with clients across the globe. We utilize Facebook ads and groups, and Instagram’s been enormously beneficial for my business- I’m not suggesting we all quit social.

But here’s what I AM saying:

When you build your audience exclusively on someone else’s platform, you’ve only rented that audience’s attention.

Like leasing an apartment vs. buying a house.

As a renter, you hope that the landlord will continue to allow you to renew your lease, but they’re not obligated to do so. That landlord can also make changes to the property without asking your permission. They might raise your rent, even inform you they’re selling the property and will not be renewing your lease.

We couldn’t even paint the walls in our old apartment without asking for permission!

When you build an audience on YOUR OWN property, however, like a blog, website, or email list, your visibility and income isn’t exclusively subject to the whims of changing algorithms, social media outages, or rising costs-per-click.

While the rest of the world is freaking out that their only source of marketing, and thus, revenue, just went dark, you know you’ll continue to book new clients and make sales, because you’ve diversified where people are finding you.

You made your own dang basket, instead of place all your eggs in Mark Zuckerberg’s.

My business coach recently said “We’ve all been so reliant on Facebook that our other marketing muscles have atrophied.”

But what other kind of marketing is there?

Because social media has been so effective, we’ve forgotten that we can still…

  • Start a newsletter- keep your audience up to date with new offers, sale periods, new content, and helpful tips
  • Blog for your audience- recent work/shoots, new things you’re learning, tutorials, FAQs, and more.
  • Partner with other vendors to promote one another- referral programs, co-hosting events, pop-up shops, etc.
  • Invest in search engine optimization (SEO) to help folk stumble upon your site via Google, DuckDuck Go, etc.
  • Podcasts- start your own, be a guest on someone else’s
  • Reach back out to previous clients- host an event, remind them you’re still active, give a referral incentive if they send a new client your way
  • Send a good ol’fashioned note in the mail to compliment a vendor on what a great job they’re doing
  • Same thing for past clients- something handwritten in their mailbox to remind them you exist
  • Sponsor or contribute your services to a local community event

Is social media easier, faster to gratify(at least on the surface)? Sure! But it isn’t the only option available to you!

I also want to draw attention to this part of the WSJ article from today-

In Australia, Ms. Hamilton said she was also blind to support from Facebook itself, a source of huge frustration when seeking to get her business rebooted.

That bolded line- when seeking to get her business rebooted- as in, her business could not run without Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp being functional (if you haven’t read the article, Ms. Hamilton’s business specializes in web design, social media marketing, and information technology support).

This is dangerous territory, my friend.

Unless you’re running a Facebook-based business, i.e. you’re a Facebook ads expert/manager, your business should not be conducted exclusively on social media. Perhaps it was just poor word choice on behalf of the WSJ writer, but Facebook should not have the power to “get [a] business rebooted” or not.

Facebook should not be the one giving permission for you to earn money from one day to the next- Facebook can only control what is on THEIR platform.

But when you’ve built your entire business on their platform, you will find that your revenue is indeed at the mercy of a company who prioritizes their own profits over yours.

Diversify your marketing | Abby Grace

Small business owners, we need to talk

October 6, 2021

  1. Karen Field says:

    Excellent post and insights!

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