Social media marketing is worthless

Image via Unsplash. Seriously. Use it. It’s great.

Let’s face it: social media is garbage for small businesses. It’s fun for sharing photos with friends but unless you’re willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars a week on advertising or have a huge, organic following, the return on the effort is limited at best.

I’ve been following social networks for a decade now, mostly as a passive consumer. I’ve come to understand the power of the various platforms. Twitter and Facebook are primarily for news consumption and broadcasting while tools like Instagram and Snapchat have replaced photo albums and meme aggregators. In the end, all of these platforms were built in a time when “genuine” content was paramount and monetization was a dirty word. These platforms aimed to scale first and then be useful second.

They failed.

While there there are now seemingly more people on Facebook and Twitter than are off the platforms those people aren’t buying through Facebook. That doesn’t stop them from trying to convince us to try. We dutifully created our accounts, building pages for our businesses that saw little to no traffic. We were told to hashtag our carefully-staged #cupcake photos and retweet #influencers who would promise us further attention. We were told to buy targeted ads for a few pennies and watch the customers roll in. But there was a problem.

None of those tactics worked. Instead we found a black hole of time and money. Business Twitter accounts and Instagram pages are expensive to maintain and rarely “convert.” The entire experience is wildly inefficient.

The other day I saw a photo for a beer bar in Hong Kong. I live in Brooklyn. The photo was wasted on me. Another business closer to home, an excellent restaurant, has 143 Instagram followers — about as many as would see an advertisement on their sandwich board in a day — but very little interaction. They take special care to stage their photos beautifully with excellent lighting and plenty of yummy food but they get nothing from their careful curation. Bupkus. Zero. They get far more from foot traffic.

Twitter and Facebook and Instagram failed them. And they’ll keep failing them.

Small business need help. Social media isn’t a medium for real-life sales and it shouldn’t be. It is too scattershot, too indecisive, and too noisy. At WalkTo we wanted to create a one-on-one experience — a walker sees a special deal that they can access in a few steps. If you’re going to stage your bar to make the oranges you use in your housemade bitters look great why not put the photo on a medium — and send a message — to customers that can stop in and have a drink?

The bottom line is this: I don’t want to see beer bars in Hong Kong. I want to see beer bars in Brooklyn. I don’t what to know what someone is eating in LA. I want to know what my friends are eating in Manhattan. And, as someone who has tried social media advertising, I don’t want to throw my money away and snake oil and promises of “targeting.” I want to focus on people who actually want my sandwiches, my gifts, and my drinks. It’s time to show social media marketers that we’re tired of their lies. It’s time to figure out a better way.

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We think WalkTo isn’t worthless and we think it’s fun. You can try it for Android and iOS here and tell us what you think.