These 3 things are non-negotiable to make social media work in 2024

I’ve had lots of good discussion this week about the merits of social media for small business after last week’s blog.

Some people feel strongly that social media can work for small business.

I’d agree with that. It can work. So can hiring a skywriter.

I’m looking for tactics that are so reliable at bringing in a steady stream of new business, they pay for themselves. Social media in 2024 does not do this.

I have a 3-part formula for what needs to be in place in order for social media to work as a lead generator for small business.

#1:  YOU Have to Like it.

The entire point of social is to connect with your audience in a way that feels authentic to them.

If, like me, you’re uncomfortable with social media, your Facebook group probably isn’t going to be a place of authentic connection.

The key to widely-seen social media posts is good engagement. While you can technically hire people to reply to comments and answer questions, these interactions need to “feel” real to the audience in order to increase trust and connection and therefore leads.

It takes a very special social media contractor to be able to forge this authentic connection with your clients. I know a couple who are talented enough to do this, and occasionally enlist them myself, so if you’re looking for this send me a message and I’ll hook you up. 

#2 – You Need A Hook

Hooks include:

  • Purchase opportunity;
  • Humor/ Talent;
  • Aesthetic; or,
  • Teaching something people want to learn.

You need to elicit enough engagement to be seen by people outside your immediate network, which means you need your “hook” to cultivate a following.

If you run a product business, or a product/service business, chances are you have pictures and video of what you sell. This allows your followers to purchase based on your feed.

If you run a service-based or consulting business, especially one that’s complex to explain, it’s futile to use social as a lead generator unless your audience can assess what you offer there. That’s when the rest of the hooks come in.

You can build an aesthetic feed that attracts people based on looks, but this takes a lot of work which increases your spend.

You can use humour or talent to attract people. Again, lots of work for most people.

You can teach people things they want to learn. Teaching your audience is a marketing tactic I love and believe in.

The thing is, creating a steady stream of “teaching” content is nearly a full-time job in itself.

Quality Content is Tough to Replicate

Kate, my business coach, was telling me recently that I need to automate more of my administrative tasks. Her point was although the tasks aren’t difficult, they take up more time than they need to.

Certain parts of my job are perfect for automation, because they’re easy to replicate. They are the exact same every time I do them. Good content is not the same every time, that’s why it’s good, and why it’s expensive to produce.

Many small businesses have a correspondingly small marketing budget, which means they need to direct their resources to lead generation in a very results-driven way.

A big corporation might be able to sponsor an event, or make a charitable donation, and hope all those brand definition-type projects add up to more leads.

You and I don’t have the luxury. We need to build a rock-solid brand and then spend our marketing budget on tasks that result in new audience members choosing us.

We can’t tinker around with social until it starts working. We need whatever we try first to start working right away. Which brings us to point 3.

#3 A High-Producing Referral Network is Vital for Social Media in 2023

The final thing you need for social media to be a successful lead generator is a network of reliable referrers. 

Word-of-mouth marketing isn’t a small business thing, it’s an ALL business thing. However it’s a much bigger part of your overall marketing activities for small business, especially if you’re using social.

The truth is, no one achieves social media greatness on their own. If you want to/ plan to use social media as a lead generation tool, you need a referral network that will help you.

You need people willing to consistently like your posts and engage with your content. They need to re-share your posts with their contacts so your content reaches a wider audience.

Most importantly, they need to consistently send business your way offline as well so you have a reliable method of lead generation in place. It will keep your business afloat if all of a sudden TikTok is banned, Twitter implodes or Instagram’s algorithm changes.

Let’s be honest, there’s a non-zero chance that those things could happen.

Don’t Give Away Your Indepedence

Have you ever driven your own car instead of going with a group because you didn’t want to rely on anyone else to get home?

That’s how small business owners should think of social media. Don’t avoid it; definitely incorporate it into your marketing plan if you want to. Just don’t rely on it to the exclusion of more stable options.

Make sure you have your own reliable way of getting where you need to go. THEN add social media and see if it can amplify your already-successful lead generation program.

If you think the end of social is bad, wait till you experience the end of Google. I believe it’s coming, and that’s what I’m writing about next week.