Social media. It’s a powerful tool that most of us have a love/hate relationship with.
Whilst social media can in theory be a wonderful way to market ourselves and our businesses (free access to billions of eye-balls – what’s not to like?!), the way it’s set up and designed to vie for our time and attention seems most of the time to result in mindless scrolling rather than active conversations and connection.
For me, my social media use was coming to a crunch point.
As we approached the summer of 2021 I’d been using social media consistently for 5.5 years to grow first my blog and then my business.
Whilst I loved it and found it an amazing way to connect and build relationships with potential clients, I knew I needed to step away.
Having just had a baby as well, the stark reality of how much I was holding my phone in my hand was really starting to make me feel uneasy. Rather than being able to sit and enjoy my daughter’s presence and be in the moment watching her learn and explore, my instant reaction was always to fill ‘dead’ time with a little bit more scrolling.
It didn’t feel healthy.
And in terms on my business, it wasn’t having a positive impact on my bottom line.
I knew that whilst I did get some of my clients through social media, there were also loads of much more time effective, impactful ways that I could be getting sign-ups, that didn’t involve being glued to my phone all day.
So I committed to taking two months off over the summer.
July and August are typically quiet months in my business anyway. My ideal customers often take their children on holidays, take a break themselves and aren’t usually looking for a big dose of strategy at this point in the year.
Particularly in the summer of 2021, with lockdown restrictions easing, more and more people were finally getting to do things in person, in real life, and therefore weren’t on their phones filling their time to see my content.
It was the perfect time to step away and see what the impact was to me and my business.
I removed from my phone: Facebook, Messenger, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Guardian News. I haven’t had email on my phone for many years so that didn’t change, but I really cleansed my phone of all the shiny attractive apps that my thumb seems to automatically find its way to when I unlock the screen.
During the two months I didn’t visit any of these sites even on desktop unless I needed to check on client work to give feedback or attend to paid groups and communities that I run.
I removed hundreds of connections from Facebook and turned off all notifications. This enabled me to go onto the platform for the groups I manage only, without distractions. My newsfeed is empty, and will remain that way.
I announced on Instagram I was taking a break and changed my bio to state this, and I set up an auto-responder on Facebook Messenger. That way people knew I wasn’t checking DMs or creating new content, but that I would be back.
I still had my marketing VA (virtual assistant) schedule content to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. So I looked ‘active’ without actually needing to be there. I realise this is a luxury and not something everyone wanting to step away from socials can do, but I’ve got my business to a point where I have enough content and can prioritise money to make this possible for me. That has taken time.
Given the amount of hours I used to spend on social media, I have not missed it at all.
It’s the one thing I say when people ask me how it’s been: “You know what? I haven’t missed it at all.”
I have had plenty of other things to do that fill my time, I’ve certainly not been bored or lonely!
The summer of 2021 was the first time in almost a year I got to see family again in person and for them to all meet my new baby daughter. Being in the moment, in the present, without a phone in my hand, was so important to me. I’m so glad social media wasn’t a distraction during this time.
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And that’s not to say I don’t care about anyone I’ve connected with on social media.
I have made great connections with people who have become good friends through socials. But I stay in touch with them now via WhatsApp, phone calls or email. Or I… you know… see them in person! Instead of following them on socials.
I think the biggest realisation taking a step back from socials was that it massively reduced the anxiety that comparison brings.
Naturally because of the way social media is designed, we’re fed a constant diet of what our peers and counterparts are up to. And naturally, they’re showing off their best lives, best results and successes. So it’s a recipe really for feeling inferior unless you have your Teflon mindset when you scroll, which most of us do not.
What I realised when I took a social media break was that if I can’t see what everyone else is doing I just focus on me and what I think I should do next in my business.
No comparison. No distractions. Just me and a whole load of time to work on what I think needs to come next. That felt amazing.
During the break I immersed myself in studying marketing without social media. It was a reminder of the hundreds of ways to market your business that have been used for years and yet are forgotten now with the shiny, shouty allure of social media.
I’ve become quite accustomed during my working day or week to thinking about what I want to share with my audience – things I think will help you guys, teach you something or inspire you.
Without social media I realised I could send these things to my mailing list or write a blog (like this one!), instead of posting to socials.
Both these forms of communication are much longer lasting than a social post and much more likely to reach their intended reader, when I’m not battling against an algorithm.
Writing a book, using my email list, writing directly and personally to contacts and connections and getting speaking engagements were just some of the things I could focus on during the summer that were actually more impactful than pumping content to socials or scrolling endlessly.
During my break I read Cal Newport: Digital Minimalism.
Being reminded of the negative impact tech use has on your concentration was a wake-up call.
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Without social media I realised I still reached for my phone: instead of Instagram or Twitter I would find I was filling my time with checking WhatsApp, the weather and looking at photos of my baby daughter, just to avoid being still with my own mind!
As someone who helps health and wellness practitioners I know a lot of you are deeply rooted in the need to be present, mindful and aware of your actions and thoughts to feel happier and healthier.
Why, if we know the power of being present and mindful, would we want to invite in a form of distraction that fractures that presence into tiny pieces!?
Social media and technology more widely is a tool that exists by convincing us that we’re being more productive and connecting with more people when we’re using it. When it is actually taking us away from making an impact and truly having human interactions.
If we don’t give ourselves time without tech input, we cannot be creative. If you’re using social media for hours in a typical day, when do you allow yourself space to just let your mind wander and come up with new things and realisations?
If you’re constantly feeding yourself with other people’s opinions and content, when do you come up with yours?
You might be reading and thinking I’ve gone to the extreme. That after all these epiphanies, that I’m turning my back totally on social media and shunning it entirely as a marketing channel for my business.
That’s not the case.
I still really believe that used correctly, mindfully and strategically, social media can be an amazing way to reach your ideal customers.
But it is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to growing a client base and sustainable business. I don’t want to rely on it entirely or to allow it to take up any more of time that it really needs.
Here’s what I’ll be doing:
Scheduling more content – with the break I was able to get myself ahead and schedule a lot more posts and videos, so there’s less need to be glued to the phone. Doing this in batches at the desktop really helps separate from the lure to mindlessly scroll.
Logging on more mindfully – I’ve found a way on my phone to access Instagram without the icon being on my home-screen, so I have to search for it to get in, rather than my thumb tapping their automatically. This puts in a few seconds barrier to really make me think, do I need to log on right now? Setting a 20-30min period of time in the day to actively engage rather than allowing social media use to pepper itself throughout the day needs to happen now.
Engaging and connecting, not scrolling – having taken a step back I’m reconnecting to all the things I should be doing to use social media effectively, instead of scrolling through endless cat videos and memes (don’t pretend it’s just me!). Leaving comments, joining conversations, dropping into Direct Messages, seeking out new potential clients and audiences are all things I will be doing instead of letting the app dictate what I see and do. (If you don’t know what to do with your time on Instagram that actually gets clients you can download my checklist).
Considering doing things differently going forward – I am now looking into ways to host my communities off Facebook and also will keep an eye on my website traffic and asking where and how people find me. If there’s a point where so little of it is coming through social media, I might consider cutting back the number of platforms I’m on or coming off completely. I do think this is an exercise in trust and there’s work for me to do to ensure I’ve got enough enquiries and bookings coming in from other routes first. It won’t happen overnight. But it might happen.
What do you think? How do you feel about social media? Would you like to market your wellness business without it? Let me know in the comments!