Between the turmoil resulting from Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter and the hiring freeze and subsequent layoffs at Meta, it’s been a rough month for social media. And for small businesses, that’s a big deal. Every dollar and every hour invested in marketing matters when margins are thin, which means it’s critical to be sure that those resources aren’t going to waste.
So is social media marketing still worth it, whether it’s paid or organic? Or is now the time to make a strategic pivot away from Twitter and Facebook? Let’s get into the details.
Don't feel like you have to stay on social media
If your business ceases to advertise on social media, at this point it looks like you’d be in fairly good company. According to Gizmodo, big names like GM, United, and Pfizer have stopped advertising on Twitter since the takeover “amidst concerns about a rise in misinformation, hate speech, and other distasteful content under [Musk’s] watch.”
Not all businesses have the luxury of being able to sacrifice revenue to take a moral stance. But if social responsibility is a part of your business’ brand, it may be beneficial to cut ties with Twitter specifically to avoid damaging your reputation.
And as more and more regular users threaten to quit using the app—and a fair number actually appear to have done so—your audience may be moving on. Advertising is pointless if it’s not targeted to your audience, so it’s worth doing some research to see whether the people you’re selling to are staying or going.
But don't assume social media is dead
On the other hand, what if that research shows you that your audience isn’t leaving after all? What if you’ve had tremendous success advertising on social in the past, and your key performance indicators are remaining level or even rising? Obviously, you’re not going to be eager to decrease your social budget.
Negative headlines and nasty buzz don’t mean you should assume the worst. Don’t just cut bait to cut bait—if you’re not seeing any negative indicators right now, there’s no reason to rush into anything.
So far, we’ve said two things: leave if you want to, and stay if you want to. Doesn’t seem all that helpful. So what’s the real deal? What should a smart business do?
Watch, plan, and act based on your business — nobody else's
Whether your big strategic pivot is to pull out of social media marketing completely or it’s pushing your chips in and increasing your spend, that major pivot probably isn’t advisable today. All we know right now is that things are likely to change. But we don’t have a good idea of how they’ll change. If you’re not sure what the landscape is going to look like going forward, you can’t accurately determine where you should pivot. So for now, in most cases, the smart play is to wait and watch before taking any drastic action one way or the other. That doesn’t mean you do nothing, though.
The worst mistake you can make is to assume that things will return to normal. They might, but you need to know what’s going on. If your business relies on social media to get traction with your audience, knowledge is going to be power going forward. Follow the situation closely as it develops, and be ready to act.Part of that will mean devoting some resources to thinking about what the future might look like. If Facebook or Twitter takes a nosedive, do you want to just shift your efforts to the other? Is it more worthwhile to shift more money and time towards LinkedIn, or Instagram, or even TikTok? Is it better to simply wait it out and see if a replacement like Mastodon catches on?
There’s no silver bullet for this, no one correct answer that is going to work for every single small business. You won’t be able to simply follow the crowd, at least not at first; not if you want to be agile and act quickly if the social media situation does become dire. But if you have a plan in place for that eventuality, you’ll be in much better shape than a competitor who’s just stuck their head in the sand.
Don't panic — yet
There may be upheaval on the way for the social media landscape that businesses have become accustomed to over the past decade. But that possible—even likely—upheaval doesn’t mean that social media is going away. It certainly doesn’t mean that businesses and marketers should “move on” from social media as a viable channel through which you can reach your audiences.
For small businesses, the most important advice is: don’t panic. Don’t make massive or drastic change to your marketing plan just yet, not before it’s necessary. Because as likely as social media turmoil looks at the moment, it’s not guaranteed. And even if that paradigm shift does occur, we simply cannot know yet what the paradigm will shift to. That means that your pivot will likely be blind, and that’s just not smart marketing.
For now, watch carefully. The situation is morphing rapidly, and things may even have changed between the moment this is posted and the moment you read it. And if Twitter or Facebook suddenly become untenable for advertisers, you can’t get caught off-guard. Wait to do anything drastic. But be ready if—or when—the moment comes.