Being A Social Media Advertiser Made Me Feel Like A Scumbag

…and other great learnings experimenting with dropshipping

There was that one time I experimented with dropshipping.

The whole concept of dropshipping is that you sell goods from the supplier directly to the customer without going through the usual distribution channels. Essentially, by building up your brand and marketing you form a position for yourself to sell products at a higher price than the supplier price.

With every year that passes, I grow to discover a side of myself that finds professional freedom irresistible. Working remote, being location independent, and never having to step foot inside the shell of an office are all ideas that appeal to me.

A couple of months back, I started a dropshipping business. My intention was not for it to become my main source of income. Having dedicated less than 10 hours per week in pursuit of it, I hadn’t really even considered it a side hustle.

Upfront, my goals were:

  • Learn about e-commerce
  • Learn about digital marketing
  • See what it takes to get a small business up and running
  • Sell at least one product
  • See if I could upkeep a personal venture given lack of external motivators

Dropshipping was an idea I had toyed with for over a year, which never materialized in ways beyond watching a couple tutorial videos and fast-tracking a 2 hour online course.

One day, during my professional year off, I asked myself why not now?

So that’s what I did.

Over the course of three days, I subscribed to an e-commerce platform, experimented with various plug-ins, registered a domain, set up a business mail server, found a supplier, picked my products, designed my store, set up social media accounts, built some design assets and got myself up and running.

It was fairly straightforward. It would have been more difficult if I had built more strategy into setting up the foundations, but again, I didn’t go it with intentions of it being a long-term pursuit. I dived in to quell a curiosity. I believe in doing simply for learning’s sake.

What I quickly learned in under 3 weeks was that dropshipping was definitely not for me. More so, digital marketing was definitely not for me, at least not in the realm of social media advertising.

First off, quick research in the space revealed there to be trending formulas that perform best with advertising via Facebook and Instagram. These formulas capitalized on:

1) Consumers’ low level of attention due to digital over-stimuli in their day-to day lives

2) Short-lived appeal to sensationalized terminologies; what the internet likes to call ‘Power Words’ — mesmerizing, astonishing, insane, etc.

In short, social media advertising felt manipulative and superficial. What I hadn’t realized was that the ‘art’ was really lacking in this relatively new form of marketing propped up within the last decade. For new marketers working with a small budget to be successful, they have little choice but to jump on what currently is proven to work to get the most bang for their buck (less text, more simple graphics, alarmist copywriting, etc.) Innovation and true creativity are reserved for those with higher financial backings, typically working out of an agency with pre-existing high reputation.

Easy enough as it was to create eye-catching graphics and catchy headliners that followed the same model as 90% of other ads out there, I saw it as a redundant and meaningless exercise. I have a pretty adversarial relationship with social media so that probably didn’t help.

To be fair, even though I didn’t get as much out of the creative experience of marketing as I’d hoped, it was worthwhile to gain insight to the analytics side of it all. Granted, this whole experiment would have been more interesting if I had invested more time and money to learn how to build out the brand strategy overtime. I ended up only keeping the business up and running for about a month with negligible sales before I pulled the plug and decided the interest wasn’t worth the subscription costs.

It could have been a decent side hustle, but at that stage, I took what I learned and decided to pivot and not waste other opportunity costs. One of the best things I’d learned coming out of it was that lack of external motivators was not a factor that led to the eventual toss of my white flag. Contrastingly, pursuing this venture on my own made me feel compelled to put my greatest efforts forward — an attitude I didn’t necessary have when working for others.

Experiments that don’t pan out are never considered wasted time. As always, I’m onwards and upwards to seek out the next great endeavour.