Social Media and the Bewildered Business Owner

Warning. Uncomfortable Social Media Marketing Truths Ahead

A warning before we start. This article examines the perception issues of using social media as a marketing tool for SMBs. It has links that lead to facts and figures collected by respected authority sites to back up the prose. It’s a good 10 minute read, and if you choose to dig into the citation, it could be longer than that.  If you’re happy with that, let’s move on.

You’ve got to love social media. I mean, look at it. It’s about you, your friends, your good times.

You share photos, memories, and ideas. It’s fun. What’s not to like?

Here’s a thought. You have a business; wouldn’t it be great to pop that business on social media. Put your great products in front of this fun-loving, easy-going crowd?

Well, it might be.

In preparation for writing this I did my research, made sure I was up to date by scrolling through social channels on various platforms and get a look at business pages and business account performance. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the new kid on the block Tik Tok. Gathered my sources and resources.

I’ll cut to the chase and give you the headline right here; so you can go and do something better with your time if this is all you want to know.


Most businesses are terrible at leveraging the marketing potential of social media. Just awful.

There. Done. Businesses are, for the most part, awful at leveraging the commercial potential of social media.

I’m guessing many of you knew that anyway. Well, it’s nice to get it confirmed. If you want the data, and some ideas about how to do it right, carry on reading.

If not… well goodbye, then. I’m glad I could confirm what you thought all along.

Still here? Ok. Let’s get into this.

Mindset of Social Browsers

It’s  mid evening, you’ve finished work, you decide to flip through your social media channels. What’s your mind set? Well one way to look at it is to ask the intentions of those that are doing just that. Here’s a link to Oberlo, a website that has asked that very question.

This looks good. Social media is a gold mine waiting for your business to just turn up and start digging.

46.6% log on to connect with friends and family. Pretty much as you’d expect.

But look, just a few lines below. Commercial gold. 27.7% “Finding inspirations for things to do or buy” and a very decent 26.3% are even more candid about it “Finding products to purchase”

With almost 2 billion people online, getting to 26% of those eager to buy “stuff” has got to be a winner, right?


What people say they do. Versus what they do.

Because what people say they use social media for, and what people actually use social media for, are quite different things.

Our friends at Statista have looked at actual social media activity here

Viewing photos, watching videos, sharing content, networking and news dominates.

Having a buying intent is at best 11% and on some platforms as low as 7%.

There’s some serious cognitive dissonance going on here. People’s initial intentions do not match reality.

Worse than that. Most social media users are very marketing averse. Survey Monkey say 74% of users have stated they are “sick of seeing ads”. They object to seeing adverts in their stream or timeline or profile. They will delete, hide and complain if the ads are for products they are not interested in.

Hmm. For all that, 11% of a couple of billion people is still a massive potential market.

Yes, it certainly is, but the story doesn’t stop there.

What do these users with commercial interest buy. What are they looking for?

The Marketplace of Ideas

Let’s look at the biggest commercial platform. The platform with the best users-to-commercial-intent ratio. Facebook.

In Facebook’s case the commercial intent is overwhelmingly directed to the Facebook Marketplace.

Depending on the source between 800 million and 1 billion Facebook users use the marketplace. Of that initial 11% we mentioned above, almost all of Facebook’s commercial potential is in the marketplace. In fact, the amount of sales done outside the Facebook marketplace is less than 1% overall.

Still, that’s millions of people? Right

Well, again it depends. What are you selling? Because most sales there are personal classified, followed by clothes, electronics and entertainment.

If you are in those markets, you’re in luck. You probably have a viable market. If not. Well, it might be tough. Check out the other major channels like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. The commercial viability once you separate by market on those is lower than Facebook’s

Shall we drill down further? Go on, you know you want to. This is like ripping off a plaster to see what’s underneath.

Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing Social Channels and Advertising

Reach for it

The last factor to consider when drilling down to the real potential of social media is reach.

Reach is a funny one. As a business you may have a reach. Maybe you serve a particular area, perhaps you can only deliver nationally. Perhaps you offer a service and have a specific region or radius you need to work in. That’s your reach.

The maths, in short form would be to get an estimate of the number of people in that area. Divide it by 2 for the number of people active on social media, then take about 8% (as an average across platforms) of that as those with real commercial intent in any given year.

For example. In very broad terms, If you’re serving a city with one million that would give you a social media reach potential of commercially interested users of 40,000 per year. That’s about 110 per day.  How many are in your market – will depend on your market. (I Can’t answer that, mind reading is a skill I gave up on a few years ago. I get headaches)

Pay your entry fee at the gate

Then there is the reach that your social platform will allow you. Your new business page isn’t necessarily going to be seen by anyone. You’ll need to build up an audience with engaging content and/or you may need to purchase reach by using the platform’s advertising network.

Here’s the shocking truth about that. Now it is estimated that only 5.2% of your page’s fans/followers will see any one post you make.

Thanks to Hootsuite for that titbit.

5.2% is the natural reach figure, and it gets lower every year. That means if you have 1,000 followers, 52 of them, on average, will see any post you make.

Almost no-one outside your followers will see the post.

Let’s recap.

  • Take the number of people in social media. Extrapolate that into your company reach. The geographical area of the community you serve.
  • Next divide that by 10 to get those with commercial intent in any given year
  • That’s your maximum potential market. Which means…
  • To estimate effectiveness, take how many followers your page or profile has and divide that by 20 (because only 5.2% will see your next post)
  • That’s how many your next post will likely reach.

There’s probably a huge difference between the potential and the actual. Ouch!!!

The good news? Is there any?

Yes. There is a lot of good news to be had here.

There are challenges, and entry to this market is not free, but it has massive potential for anyone willing to do it properly and invest time (and very likely some cash) into making it work.

Let’s start by being cynical.

Because most companies do not use social media effectively, those that do work well have pretty much a free run.

Here’s the four steps I’d suggest getting going on social media commercially.

Build an audience

Simple one to start with. Post regularly, post what engages. Do not post with commercial intent every time.  A ratio of two engagement posts to every one commercial post is a good starting point. The exact number will vary depending on your own audience and market, but that’s a good starting point.

Regularly doesn’t have to mean often. It may be that one quality posting a week is enough. If your product or service is a social one that invites engagement and changes often, then regular could mean three or four times a day. Start with a rhythm you know you can maintain.

A social media channel that has had no new content for a couple of months is a bad sign. It tells people that the business either doesn’t care or has gone bust. If you can’t keep a schedule, it’s best not to start it.

Whatever You Do. Don’t Just Press “Boost”

There is a thin line between being cynical and stating the obvious.

Social media companies are commercial. They exist to make money. They make most of their money from advertising. They set up their systems to make advertising the best answer to most questions.

That should come as a shock to no-one. The reason natural reach declines year on year is to push businesses to advertise.

Whenever users get better at making engaging content that increases their natural reach ”for free”, the social channels tweak their algorithm to make that more difficult.

Why? Because they don’t make money by giving your business a free ride.

Once you decide to advertise there are good ways and bad ways to go about it. Sticking with Facebook / Instagram as our example, just pressing the “Boost” button is a bad way to go about things.

Setting your audience, budget and timescale and monitoring performance are essential. A simple “Boost” doesn’t do any of that. It just increases that 5.2% I mentioned earlier by some factor that depends on how much cash you throw at it. A basic “Boost” may show your post to more people within your audience, but it’s poor at increasing your existing audience.

You probably want to increase your audience and that means getting your hands dirty with, in Facebook and Instagram’s case, The META business suite and doing it properly. Once set up properly that Boost button has a lot more power behind it.

There are some very effective paid marketing strategies that involve minimal budgets and work over time and in conjunction with a regular posting schedule that will get you ahead of the game.

Consider Brand Building

Immediate sales are the main KPI for success. A new client, a nice fat invoice. That’s the best.

Let’s not forget about the slow burn though. Brand building is the slow burn. If you have identified your market well in term of geographics and demographics, and are putting out engaging content regularly, then get your brand on that content.

Tag line, logo, personality. Whatever best captures the essence of your brand, get it out there often.

Local marketers can really benefit from this. Your business has a chance to be “the” local plumber, “the” best cupcake maker in the town, “the” estate agent people refer to in conversation. The long-term value of brand is significant and has real bankable value that grows over time.

There’s a whole extra marketing arm that deals with establishing brand and what elements might go into it that I’m not going to cover here. Maybe next time.

Be There

Once your page or profile is starting to gain momentum, make sure you are there regularly. If you choose to use a social channel to market your products or services, don’t forget it is a social channel. People will ask questions and expect answers.

Users will comment, love, like, reply and share and will expect you to engage as well. Opening a social channel means a regular time commitment to managing the user experience.

There’s More.

Once you get into it, there are many other things you can do to improve your chances of success on social media. A complete social media strategy looks at all the available elements and comes up with a rounded solution that is largely unique to each market.

If you want to know more, perhaps you would like us to  review at your social media channels then contact us at and we’d be happy to help.