Why Your Social Media Marketing Isn’t Working – and What You Can Do About It

Everybody wants to market their business on social media. It’s the hot new way to get the word out. And everywhere you turn, “experts” are telling you that you must leverage social platforms if you want to be successful.

But over and over again, we have people come us with horror stories about this. They invested heavily in social… only to see little to no useful results. And they don’t understand why. 

They followed all the top advice. They spent time and effort and money on it. What did they do wrong?

Below, we’ll answer that question — and offer advice on what you should do going forward.


Where Did Your Social Strategy Go Wrong?

Generally, we see businesses falling prey to four mistakes when it comes to social media marketing:

  1. The advice you’re following is for much larger companies
  2. The advice you’re following is coming from social media companies
  3. There’s no “social” element to your social media plan
  4. There’s no strategy to what you’re doing

Let’s look at each of these points in more detail.

Mismatch #1: You’re Following Advice for Much Larger Companies

Have you ever read social media marketing tips for small businesses and thought, “If I were to do that, I would need a whole marketing department… Or at least one dedicated full-time employee”? 

That’s because the advice is intended for companies with a marketing team or staff dedicated to their social media marketing. In fact, most of the “small business” digital marketing advice, tools, agencies, and even the U.S. government’s Small Business Administration is geared toward much larger “small” businesses.

Depending on the industry, a company can qualify as a small business if it has under 500 to 1,500 employees and earns less than $6-28.5 million in revenue annually.

And many of these “small businesses” have monthly marketing budgets of thousands of dollars — or tens of thousands — instead of hundreds.

But if you’re like the majority of small businesses, you don’t even come close to this description. 

It’s likely that…

  • Your business is run by a person or people who are driven by a passion for what they do, a drive to help others, or a vision for something different. 
  • You have under 20 employees. 
  • You make less than $1 million per year.
  • You do not have a dedicated marketing team – or even one individual solely focused on marketing.

This is why you’re frustrated and stretched too thin. And why that long list of digital marketing to-dos gathers dust — because you’re attending to all the other to-dos of your business.

How can you be expected to succeed with marketing strategies designed for businesses making millions and employing dozens — or even hundreds — of people?

Answer: you can’t.

But fear not. There are sound digital marketing strategies for the truly small businesses of America. 


Solution #1: Quality Over Quantity

Sure, if you had a team whose job is to write posts, find images, schedule posts at ideal times, and reply to comments, you could post every day or week. But losing sleep over this as a small business owner isn’t worth it. And if you force it, this will show in the quality of your posts.

So go for quality over quantity. 

Post as little as once a month — content that’s powerful, meaningful, and/or persuasive for a potential client researching you. 

Think about the purpose of your content. You’re likely trying to:

  • Gain the trust of new customers to spur your growth
  • Give them an accurate and inspiring portrait of who you are and what you do
  • Stick in their minds for when they eventually do need your services or products

Now ask yourself: What’s going to accomplish this more? A bunch of slipshod posts with typos that you wrote at 2 AM? Or a few curated ones that tug at the reader’s memory and curiosity?


Mismatch #2: This Advice Is for Content Creators – Not Your Small Business!

The social media tips you’ve heard probably go something like this:

“You need to create reels!”
“Wait, now you need a TikTok!”
“Maximize your hashtags!”
“Tumblr’s a thing!”

This advice is for people who are on social media all the time. But who are those people? Content creators. People who are seeking more followers. More likes. More comments.

But that’s not what you need. You need more sales. More clients. More appointments.

So why do these tips dominate the conversation? 

Social media companies gain revenue when people scroll. And people scroll when there’s (seemingly) endless content. 

Naturally, they want content creators to flourish! And these creators need to focus on the latest updates and trends to continue to gain the favor of the social networks.

But are these social networks as invested in helping a small recording studio to flourish? An arborist with 15 employees? A mom-and-pop restaurant? 


Does this mean that you should abstain from reels and TikTok? Never tag another hash? No. 

It simply means that you can’t post business content and expect to get the same audience that entertainment content does. 

It’s unlikely that people actively search for content about your type of business. So if you post and just expect people to find it, that’s unlikely to happen.

Here’s why. On average:

  • Only 9.4% of your followers will be shown your Instagram content
  • Only 2.2% of your followers will be shown your Facebook content

Again, this is the number of people that Facebook or Instagram will even bother sharing your content with. 

That doesn’t mean they’ll read it. Or like it. Or comment on it. Just that it will show up in their feed as they scroll by.

So if you have 1,000 followers, that means…

  • Around 94 people will get to see it on Instagram
  • Around 22 people will get to see it on Facebook

And if you have 100 followers, that means…

  • Around 9 people will get to see it on Instagram
  • Around 2 people will get to see it on Facebook

And if you’re starting from 0 followers, well, you can do the math.

These percentages are expected to further dwindle in the future. And they are likely far lower for accounts with fewer than 10,000 followers.

What to do?


Solution #2: Boost Your Content

You spent all that time and energy creating social media content. But you’re not Kim Khardasian, and you don’t want to be.

There’s still a way to ensure people get the opportunity to see your content.

Pay for it.

On both Facebook and Instagram, you can pay as little as $1 per post to have Meta show your content to a wider audience. So even if you are a very small business, you can afford it.

Take some time to set up at least two audiences:

  • People currently following your page (likely your current customers)
  • People who fit the general demographics of your target audience

Then choose the appropriate audience for that particular piece of content. 

Ask yourself: Is this content best suited to someone already familiar with my business — or is it a good introduction to who we are and what we offer?


Mismatch #3: There’s No “Social” Element to Your Social Plan

Now, there is still value in scheduling content and doing nothing more. 

People often visit social profiles as a way to research companies. Having a freshly updated page with information that shares why they should pick you is valuable.

So if you’re thinking of it as another way to communicate what you do and who you are, that’s fine. 

But if you’re thinking of it as a way to bring in leads, boosting can help. And to really take it up a notch, you need to get social.

That means interacting, liking posts, commenting, and joining groups. Basically, communicating. 

Use the social media networks to truly network.

Make each interaction both a genuine conversation and an organic way to mention what you do. 

After all, you spend many waking hours thinking, discussing, and doing things for your business – and dreaming things, if you count sleeping hours! The point is, it makes perfect sense for you to bring it up when it’s relevant to an online exchange. 

Your audience doesn’t know everything you have to offer. Make it clear to them!


Solution #3: Engage with Your Audience

So you’re ready to engage. Great! But here’s what usually follows when small business owners start there.

You get a few posts up. Or maybe you’re even consistent with posts for a few weeks or months. 

But nothing really happens. And you walk away thinking, “I tried social. It didn’t work.”

That’s because social works better when supported by an overall digital marketing strategy. 

Now you’re feeling that old overwhelm. “How do I become strategic about using little emojis with heart eyes???” 

But bear with me — because “strategic” sounds way more intense than it is!


Mismatch #4: There’s No Strategy to What You’re Doing

Imagine if you went to the symphony and each musician decided to play whatever they felt was best at the moment. Or whatever they had time to practice. 

You’d hear this cacophony of cellos cranking out Shostakovich while the piccolos ran through “Stars and Stripes”. Even if every musician played amazingly, it wouldn’t sound good.

This is what it’s like to hire freelancers to bolster your online outreach without a digital marketing strategy guiding them. 

One day you post an “inside” image showing employees at your shop. The next day, you link to an article you think your customers might find interesting. Two weeks later, you post about a sale… the day it’s happening.

None of these things are bad in and of themselves, and your social channels can certainly have more than one type of content. However, it needs to feel like there’s a rhyme and reason behind what’s being posted. 

All the pieces of your marketing – social media posts, blogs, videos, LinkedIn updates – need to work together in concert. You need to be sharing a consistent message about what your business does and who it serves. And you need to have a plan for the journey someone will take from discovering your business to converting to a loyal customer.

Otherwise, it’s noise-fuzz to your potential customers, and they’ll turn away in confusion.


Solution #4: Hire Skilled and Strategic Help

Let’s go through what these terms mean and why you need a synthesis.


Skilled Help

This is the cheapest option to find help with digital marketing. It’s someone who has a specific skill set you lack. It could be coding, writing, graphic design… You know, the freelancers of the world. This person can complete the work better than you – or someone else on your staff who is not a professional.

This person might be able to make your website look better or your copy error-free, but they do not have much expertise beyond their particular skill set. And they aren’t looking out for your big picture – truly, they can’t, because they aren’t grooming your digital marketing strategy.


Strategic Help

This option involves consultants, agencies, and deeper subject matter experts. 

With their help, you can clarify how you want to position your brand. You can determine who your target audience is and what they want. You can look at analytics to see what’s working and what needs to be fixed. You can find and act on opportunities for encouraging repeat visitors and increasing cart size.

In short: they help you make sure your marketing works.

But sometimes these individuals just offer advice. That’s well and good, but you still have to coordinate the skilled help. 


The Double Whammy: Strategic and Skilled

This is ultimately the kind of help you want to be able to afford. In this scenario, you can guide the strategy but focus on the parts of the business that are really your areas of expertise.

Some agencies offer strategy and provide the skilled help — that’s how it works at WR Digital Marketing. 

If you are not quite at the point of affording an agency (even a small one), we offer this advice as an alternative:

Get some basic marketing education yourself to make sure you can “direct the symphony” a little more effectively. (We offer ongoing workshops that support business owners with this.)

Or hire a “strategic help” staff member and have them coordinate the skilled help for you. 

No matter what route you go, make sure the person or people handling your social media understand and are focused on the business purpose behind your content. 

If they say you need to be on TikTok or to add more emojis, they may be right. But make sure to ask them why. You want them focused on getting you customers, not followers.