„Success is getting what you want;
happiness is wanting what you get.“
What is your Social Media aiming for?
Usually, I start with a quote that is clearly aligned with the topic of the day. Today the quote is all about getting one thing and maybe wanting another. And it surely is not – in its original context – about Social Media. But after scrolling through my Instagram feed this morning something got me riled up. Like seriously annoyed and on fire. But let’s get back a bit.
You might remember how I wrote about growing your audience in this blog post. Or about making a connection and how this helps to find your target group. After diving deep into the topic of Social Media and especially Instagram I had this realization that not every cup of tea is for everyone. And that some things are legit overvalued and not as important than others measures or goals. Especially on Social Media.
And that’s why I am writing this blog post today. I changed my target audience on Instagram to #womenempowerment and #businessgrowth and two things happened. First of all, I have to block at least two „gain more followers in seconds“-accounts per day. Which is super annoying. And secondly I get a lot of ads telling me how person XYZ grow from 1k follower to 200k follower in a month/week/year and I should watch this tutorial or apply for that course. And every time I see these ads I ask myself: What do you guys think my Social Media aim is?
Reasons to be there.
Getting annoyed by these ads didn’t happen overnight. I think it is super natural to think of your social media account at first in a numbers way. Which is normal because you are creating something or you want to share a message with the world. Social Media is for the social interaction, so yeah and of course you want people to engage with you. But beside these reasons, I found an astonishing number of people craving for another kind of success on Social Media. And it goes something like this.
Reason #1: „I wanna be seen.“
Like I wrote: Of course you want to be seen or heard. Depending on what kind of Social Media you use. But I am talking about a different kind of want to be seen: In terms of black and white, there seem to be two reasons for people to try to reach as many as possible humans. Either they are on their own mission, fiercely promoting the cause they have in their mind. Or they think to have as many followers as the Kardashians give their life meaning, purpose or an upgrade.
I think it’s a very human thing to have the want to be seen as special or important. And to want the feeling that the life of oneself is valuable and have a meaning. But if you put something up on Social Media and the pure intent is to get some sort of validation of yourself and your life, that’s simply not healthy. And can make you bend your Social Media personality into something that you are not. With the shocking result that people like or validate you for something that you are not.
It’s a vicious circle. So ask yourself „Why I am I really putting up this picture?“ or „What cause do I promote with this blog post.“ And if you realize it’s not for the benefit of your mission or your followers aks yourself this one simple question: How do you feel about yourself? Do you feel undervalued and not appreciated enough in your everyday life so you try to get your fair share of social approvement via Social Media? It’s a hard question but also of uttermost importance. If you’ve answered with yes, try some „I appreciate myself“-exercises at least once a week. For example, you can write a list of all the accomplishments or successes you had during your last week. It’s not going to „heal“ this problem in an instant but done regularly it helps improving one’s feeling of self-value. And lets you move on to use Social Media differently.
Reason #2: „Like like like. Grow grow grow.“
This reason goes very often hand in hand with reason #1. The constant thriving for more likes, more followers, more clicks, more whatsoever. Besides this being an incredibly exhausting hustle, a mere focus on growth, likes and clicks can lead to you ending up with the wrong crowd cheering for you. Or worse: Not cheering at all.
To make this more concrete and less abstract here is an example from my Instagram channel. Earlier this year when I started my Personal Branding Photography business I wanted to promote it through Instagram. I, being the rational German most of the time, tried to do all the right things and approached my hashtag selection as rational and (assumingly) fitting as possible. I knew my target audience was going to be small business owners and freelancers and I also knew that I wanted to support them through my pictures in their business growth. So I basically used hashtags like #businessgrowth #smallenterprises #freelance etc.
See although this wasn’t entirely wrong, I ended up with two problems. The first one was that I attracted a lot of accounts that were (to be super frank) shady. Like these crappy „Hey, I am 23, I have five Lamborghinis, and if you buy my book or hire me, you will have more money than Bill Gates within three months“-type of accounts. So I got a lot of new followers and my like-numbers were in an acceptable range. But the accounts I attracted were so far off from the accounts I wanted to attract, my growing numbers didn’t help me at all.
Another problem that came along with this: The accounts didn’t stick. So there was a momentum of growth, and over time you could see that overall my account grew. But it was like Cha-Cha-Cha. For every two new accounts that followed, one did unfollow. And because of the wrong audience, there was little to no-engagement. Or the kind of engagement that has anything to do with a real connection or conversation.
Also getting high follower numbers or a lot of likes can be gained by an amazingly huge amount of unsound practices. Starting with the obvious thing – buying followers and likes – or using the really unnecessary practice of follow-and-unfollow (which is SO annoying I can’t stretch this enough). It can also lead to a point where you are (again as mentioned above) bending yourself again and start to post things that attract more following or likes but is less in line with you and your business.
So only if your only focus is growth because you think bigger is better, but you don’t care for who is following you and if they engage with you: You create empty „numbers“. If that gives you a kick, just seeing your numbers peaking and growing, it should be a warning sign for you. Don’t get me wrong, numbers are important. And there are numbers you should be focusing on. But the quality of your audience and how they interact with your content is always more important. And future fempreneurs: Social-Media-addiction is a real thing. And it’s not just about being online 24/7, it’s also about the kick and satisfaction you get from things like „Likes“ and „follower growth“.
Reason #3: „Just buy that damn product.“
To be honest. This can end up in a rant. I know I shouldn’t but. So to be very open here: We are all selling something on Social Media if we present ourselves as business owners. If I show something of my personality to make you bond with me and get a feel for who I am as a person, yes that is with intent. And it pays into the „I promote my business“-account. And I think that’s legit. It’s legit because although it pays into this account my main reason to be on Social Media is not to make a quick buck out of you.
I am on Social Media because I know it is important to give you information about myself. I want to inform my followers about the latest things that are going on. And I want to give help and be educational. Because I deeply believe that Social Media is not developed to be a marketing tool but to be a platform to connect. And more important: To serve first. And especially for us business owners it is not a tool to push a product or service into the market but to give.
Still, I get approached by people asking for my advice on how to improve their Social Media channels. And when I ask them what they want to give to their community or what side of themselves they want to show, their answer is somewhere between „Why caring for my community, they should buy more of my products!“ and „I don’t really care about what I show as long as I get more people to buy my products.“ And that attitude makes my gut crouch. Because that attitude is SO different from mine.
Of course, I would love to be hired by all of you. But please hire me if you have the same set of core values. And that means no to cheap sales tactics like „the doors are closing, buy now“ or „there are only X spots left“. I don’t want to frighten my potential clients into signing up for a photo session with me. You are also not going to read anything like „this or that service, now available for a discount“ on my pages. The reason? I don’t want to be hired because of my price. Don’t hire me for my price. We can negotiate if there is a valid reason for negotiating (you trying to make a bargain is not one of them). But I will not devalue myself for the pure purpose of selling more. And so this leads to me thinking Social Media is not for car-sales-tactics. It’s for you and your community to add value. Whatever feels like adding value to you.
And sure, for some people these tactics work. And they can use Social Media as a very powerful instrument to force sales and generate income. But well. For me, it just feels wrong. Without giving something back to your community it feels like simply besting your community. And that should be done anywhere. As in nowhere. Not on Social Media. Not in real life.
Reason #4: „Can someone please sponsor my vacation?“
Well. We’ve all been there. One time in our lives. Looking at one of those amazing „Hey, I am at the beach of (insert your favorite location here) and enjoying a marvelous stay at the (insert your favorite place here) because my life purpose is traveling the world and seeing places. And that is my profession now #travelblogger“-Instagram posts. Thinking „Why can’t I be a travel blogger?“. Because in my case: I’m not very adaptable when it comes to food. So instead of an „I am at a beach“ it would probably be an „I see another toilet wall“-post. I am not sure how successful an „I’ve been on all the toilets in the world“-account would be but hey, anyone wanna sponsor me?
Just kidding. Back to the topic. There are a lot of travel- and lifestyle blogs/vlogs/Insta-handles out there. And also a lot of ads promoting the perfect course to become a famous traveler/lifestyler. And sometimes I hear people saying they are simply on Instagram to cash in and get sponsored. As if it would be an easy thing to get sponsored. Easy in a sense of You don’t need to put a lot of work and effort into it. But unless you are really passionate about something – be it clothes or traveling – don’t think Instagram/ Facebook/ Pinterest/ YouTube is an easy way of getting sponsored for a certain kind of lifestyle.
It. Is. Not. I don’t say it is impossible to become an influencer or someone who make a living out of advertising deals. But I am pretty sure that without having a passion about something you are not going to become the next best influencer. It kind of goes back to #3: Add something of value and have something to say. But don’t look for a digital sugar daddy who sponsors your life because you’re too lazy to put in effort and work. And going back to #1 it will also not make your life an ounce more valuable.
IMO. The humble version.
When you head over to my Instagram channel you will probably realize I live what I preach. Or at least I hope that is what you see. My number is still below 1K and if I continue growing as I did in the past month I probably will hit 2k when I am in a nursing home playing some chess. But frankly, I so do not care for my numbers. Sure there are reasons to care for the numbers. And it is important to have a good ROI if you use Social Media as a marketing tool. But look at the right numbers. Look at your engagement. Look at what kind of accounts follow you. Share something of value.
Give your Social Media accounts a different goal than simply growing. Going back to the opening quote: Growing constantly can be a success. But always make sure that it is the success you want and not just a random goal you’ve reached. Aim for something more than growing numbers. Look for quality rather than quantity. And take the time you need for it. Social Media is not for short runs at a high pace. It’s for marathon runners, not for quitter or quick fixes. And Social Media is also not there to fix your personal insecurities. So don’t try to get in the best shape of your life to seek validation by „likes“.