Small Businesses: You Have Options Other Than Facebook

It’s almost 2018, so I hope you’ll pardon the frustration here. But. This new piece of research that ran in eMarketer was mildly disturbing.

Ok. I mean I’m not as disturbed as I would be if I went to see “It” this weekend and watched it while high, but I’m disturbed enough to write this short note for small business owners.

Actually, isn’t that everyone these days? We all have side hustles, as much as I hate that term. I have my comic books, you may have a YouTube channel or podcast you’re really excited about.

Anyway, two disturbing points came out of this study:

  1. 24% of the survey’s respondents are going to invest in marketing and advertising. (For fuck’s sake!)
  2. eMarketer speculates that Facebook is so popular for small businesses because of a lack of other options.

These two points together, to me anyway, are hilarious.

On one hand, you have 76% of small businesses saying they’re not going to invest, or prioritize investing, in marketing and advertising. And then in the next breath, you have eMarketer saying the small businesses are going to dump money into Facebook’s slot machine out of a lack of other options.

You have plenty of options. Plenty. Facebook is just one of them, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t depending on what you’re selling, your audience, and how much money you want to dump into the slot machine until it pays out. Sometimes it does, more often than not, it doesn’t.

There’s this disturbing plague of short-term thinking when it comes to marketing and advertising. And you can’t blame my fellow millennials because I’ve seen this plague spread by more Baby Boomers than I have people my age, for what that’s worth.

Everyone wants to “move the needle” or have some other kind of metric they can quantify immediately so they can feel good about their fancy MBA from their fancy school.

The thing is, if you’re thinking short-term and running a business, the odds are good you’re going to fail miserably. ┬áSo if you buy a bunch of radio ads, and nothing happens immediately, and then you go, “Well shit I’m not running any more radio ads because it doesn’t work” then you’re shooting yourself in the foot. ┬áThis is because radio (and I’m including Spotify and Pandora when I say this), requires repetition. People have to hear/see interact with your brand multiple times before it starts to sink in and becomes a thing to them.

The other side to that argument is that Facebook is less expensive than other media. This is half-true. Facebook starts out being less expensive than anything else, but if you want to see more and better results, you need to put more money into it. The same way the Wheel of Fortune slot Machines in Vegas only pay out if you put more money into it. The longer you use Facebook, the less effective your ads are, which is kind of the opposite of every other media and platform out there.

Small businesses are, still … going into 2018, attracted to Facebook and other social media platforms because they think they’re “free.” I’m not going to bore you with a long thing on opportunity cost here, but I will tell you that free only gets you so far. If Facebook is rewarding longer, high-quality video, with their algorithm, then someone’s gotta make and pay for that. And then you have to pay to promote it because you need interaction quickly to tell Facebook’s free system to pay attention to your new thing. The costs add up quickly.

If this all sounds familiar, it should, because I said this shit five years ago in “Social Media is Bullshit” and it’s only now that the rest of the advertising and marketing world is catching up to me. But I’m not interested in saying “I told you so.”

What I am interested in telling you is that you have plenty of options to promote yourself if you’re a small business. Radio, TV, and the newspaper might seem expensive, but those prices are always negotiable. The salespeople will hate you for it, but their rate cards are the start of the conversation, not the end of it.

If you want to put money into content (which you should, as long as you have a distribution plan for that content), then that’s something worth doing that won’t show immediate results. In fact, you’ll have to wait at least a year on the content front before it really starts to pay off. Unless Google makes some kind of algorithm change that benefits you during that time and starts bringing you traffic.

So, do me and yourself a favor. Facebook ads can be great as long as you have a plan, the budget, and know to watch out for their numerous shenanigans built to get you to put more money into your ads. But don’t go dumping money into Facebook because you don’t know what else to do.

Invest in marketing and advertising, but do so wisely. If you do, you’ll see the results yourself. You just have to wait a while, but we’re talking about your life here. This is not the time for shortsighted bullshit.