Why social media likes don’t pay the bills (and three things to focus on instead)

instagram dms

Social media is one of the most powerful and cost effective marketing platforms currently available to small business.

In the past few years, we’ve personally witnessed countless businesses completely transformed with good socials and a strong content marketing strategy. Brand awareness, leads, sales — it’s all possible.

And yet, there are still so many businesses struggling to make it work for them.


It comes down to this.

Likes don’t pay the bills.

A fixation on followers at any cost is distracting some small business owners from really reaping the benefits that come from cultivating a smaller audience of passionate, engaged brand advocates.

In other words? Followers alone don’t equals sales.

We need to change the conversation. For small businesses to win on social they need to be chasing business, not (just) likes.

Here’s why.

The value of likes

Social media numbers have their place.

They can do wonders for social proof, for one. Potential customers usually conduct a digital interview with a business long before they work with or buy from them.

For service providers, having a good following can act as ‘proof’ that you’re trustworthy and that others have enjoyed working with you. For product based businesses, positive reviews establish trust and confidence.

What’s not helpful, though, are followers that aren’t potential customers themselves (bots, people trying following for follow backs, competitor businesses, people in other states/countries when you are a local business, etc).

Chasing followers like these are ego boosters, but usually end in tears. They’ll follow/unfollow, they won’t engage in a meaningful way (hello, random bot comments), and at the end of the day they aren’t going to buy.

There’s a better way to do things.   

Using social media to win business

Small businesses need to start looking at social as a way to build real and meaningful relationships.

Here’s three ways to do just that.  

1. Start conversations

Social media is a conversation starter, rather than a deal closer.

In marketing speak, this sort of thing is called ‘top of funnel marketing’. In real speak, it means that social media is kind of like the handshake and initial chat you have with a new acquaintance you meet. If you like the chat, you’ll stick around for more and maybe even form a friendship.

The role of social is to allow a business to develop the relationship that eventually leads a client or customer to buy from them.

Step one? Find where the ideal clients for your business are hanging out, and form a social strategy that places your business there. Whether it’s Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Instagram or Snapchat — pick one, and go all in.

2. Add value

People don’t like being sold to. And these days, it’s easy to ignore any business that tries to.

If you want followers to connect with you and follow you on social, you need to be providing them with something they want. A social media ‘follow’ or ‘like’ is a big thing — it means that a potential client or customer likes your stuff so much that they want to see it in their news feed.

In order to attract followers, small businesses need to be crystal clear on who their ideal client is, and then go all in on producing content that those people find valuable.

The key? Being specific, not general. Tailor your content to your audience. By speaking to everyone, you’re ultimately speaking to no-one.

It’s also important to keep in mind that this social media thing isn’t all about you. Whether it’s through educating, informing or adding value, focus on a content strategy that helps your clients with their problems rather than just promoting your product or service.  

3. Develop ongoing relationships

Step three is to continue with step two over, and over, and over — or forever.

It’s that simple, and that hard.

Think of social media as entering into a kind of relationship with every follower you attract. Like all relationships, trust and rapport is key. You get that by giving more than you take, and you do that by consistently delivering value.

Then, when the day comes that your followers need a product or service like yours, your business is the obvious choice.

Yes, it’s slow burn and (especially for service based businesses) followers and likes don’t translate into immediate sales. It takes time, patience and consistency. But in the end? It’s how you win.

Chase business, not followers.

Never miss a story: sign up to SmartCompany’s free daily newsletter and find our best stories on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.