Social media icons floating above people with umbrellas

Up until recently, I was contracted to work as a trainer for the biggest social media company out there. And it was a fun experience.

Trips to Sydney to learn, a great team to travel with, teach with and promote the platforms with.

But beneath the surface there was always something not quite right.

For all the answers we could provide and all the fun shows we could put on, there was always an elephant in the room.

And that’s the company’s complete lack of user support or customer service.

Don’t get me wrong, if you advertised on the platform, there was some level of assistance available. But when you’ve got a technical problem, have been banned or restricted for seemingly no reason, getting help was hard.

Initially the Australian team would gladly assist with whatever they could. I could relay back instructions and updates to schools, churches, politicians and high-visibility individuals who were deemed worthy of support.

But the trickle of issues became a gush as I became known as the local “Facebook Guy.”

And that’s when I realised that not everything was ok with the world of social media.­

There was a point when I noticed that things weren’t quite right.

My realisation that social media wasn’t delivering on its promises came around mid 2022.

I had not long finished three events that took me to Sydney, the Sunshine Coast and Dubbo. And they were fun.

Each crowd was positive, glad we were there and I exchanged email addresses with a lot of people in all three places.

And that’s when things started going wrong.

First it was one very well-known business that had noticed that their usual healthy reach and engagement had dropped by 90%

Then several businesses in Sydney were scratching their heads as to why their accounts had been banned from advertising with no explanation whatsoever of why and being given no avenue of appeal.

And a series of nearly 40 individual businesses from Darwin to Broome and Cairns to Perth came to me with a steady stream of problems with handing over accounts to new business owners, issues with being locked out of their business pages and their Instagram shops being banned without explanation.

Even those who were paying Facebook for reach through ads were having ads disabled, pages locked and profiles banned.

The explanation? Breaches of community standards and advertising policies.

And nothing specifically telling them what community standard or advertising policy was breached.

In all these cases, I just started referring people to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Bilson. That office seems to be the only way to get anything out of Meta when it comes to unexplained and unfair actions that stop your business from operating on social media platforms.

I strongly recommend that you head there if you are a small business or family enterprise that is affected by any online platforms automated bans, blocks and account access issues – particularly if they are stopping you from doing business on those platforms.

­As businesses, we need to reduce our reliance on social media.

You may be able to build a successful business on social media, but the very nature of social media platforms means that you can’t rely on social media to sustain that business.

Here’s why.

Making money relies on you getting your customers off social media and onto a website or email. Social media platform do their best to prevent from happening without paid ads.
Community Standards and Ad Policies change without notice and can wipe out a business in a day. Especially if what you’re doing is network marketing, affiliate marketing or health-related.
We’re nearly 30 years into the internet age and we have less trust now than ever in anything that anyone tries to sell us on social media. We’ve seen every claim and we’ll report you if we think you’re a scammer. Even if you’re not.

The aim of social media platforms is to keep you on the platform and engaging with its feed for as long as possible in order to show you as many ads as possible.

The only way that a social media platform wants to help you grow your business is through ads. All the groups, business pages and enterprise tools are only as good as your ability to build communities without offending them enough to report you – or buying your way into feeds via advertising.

And there is no customer service if you don’t pay.

You are not a customer of Facebook if you’re not buying ads. You are a user. And there is no user support on any social media unless you’re paying for ads.

So what do we do instead?

Social media, in business, is good for only one thing.

Getting attention.

Either through what you post or the ads you’re paying for.

Once you have that attention, no matter what tools the social platforms have provided for you, it’s time to move off the platform.

If you’re in the early stages of getting to know a client or customer, bring them over to a podcast a blog post or a YouTube video. Something that shows your depth of knowledge beyond some clever words and pretty Canva graphics on Facebook.

If they’re a bit further along the journey, whatever you do, don’t bring them into a Facebook Group. With all the changes going on in those lately, it’s clear that your connection with your audience in there isn’t safe either.

Facebook is not a good place to maintain your own community if you haven’t already got one that is well established.

Use Discord or Discourse or the many different private community tools to do that. Mighty Networks is a good example. Speaker Engage is a pay-once option.

I’m not suggesting that we dump social media altogether. I still use it quite a lot. But I’m suggesting that we replicate the value of our social media efforts in some other ways.

Start your own newsletter now

I can’t emphasise this one enough. Get a free account with Mailchimp, Mailerlite or Brevo. Put your contacts into a list, set a regular schedule to send something out and then just share your knowledge and thoughts in your areas of expertise. You’ll be surprised who finds it helpful. I certainly have been.

Start hosting classes

Yep. The old workshop and webinar model. And deliver a crap-tonne of great information. There’s nothing you know that can’t be Googled, so they might as well learn it from you. Start small and local. Record what you can. Invite people via LinkedIn and your new newsletter.

Take your conversations off-platform quickly

Social media is a terrible place to have valuable conversations as it’s full of a thousand other things clamouring for your attention – and theirs. Phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp, email – anything that brings the conversation into a place that is more direct. Quality conversations happen online, but not on social media.

Host meetups and events

These have been remarkably successful for me. I’ve made so many new connections, clients and strategic partners by getting people together to meet in real life. Networking may be a dirty word amongst introverts, but I’m basically one as well – and if I can do it, so can you.

Stop paying monthly subscriptions for social media scheduling!

Your story is worth sharing on social media without a monthly subscription.

Sociamonials has all the regular features you need in a social media scheduler but with one big difference. There’s no monthly subscription.

Just pay once and you’re done. Never pay again.

You won’t find this deal on their website – you’ll need to get it here.