I'm guessing you clicked on this blog because the whole concept of a marketing plan that doesn't include social media seems outrageous (and maybe a little enticing..)- am I right?
Funnily enough, 2022 seems to be the year where I've noticed a switch up in priorities for my clients... with a desire to focus on diversifying marketing platforms, removing the need for validation from social media and seeing it for what it is - a shop window for their services or products.
But what could happen if you left social media for good and focussed on the plentiful other forms of marketing?
A connection of mine did just that so I thought it'd be interesting to put some questions to her to find out how she's finding a life without social media, what made her do it and how has she replaced social media in her strategy.
Watch the full interview on YouTube here or keep reading! I've added subheadings so you can skip to the parts that you're most interested in.
About Rebecca Caution, founder of Hush Club
Rebecca is a coach, breath worker and founder of Hush Club. Hush Club is a new membership community which practices breath work every week and is all about quietening down, shutting off the noise, slowing down and connecting back with you.
Let's get straight in to this interview! A change in marketing strategy...
Let's start by sharing Rebecca's big change from November 2021.
She made a big, bold decision which might shock anyone in the service-provider industry. What did you do Rebecca?!
So I woke up one morning and started deleting all of my social media content and shut down my accounts - Instagram and Facebook specifically!!!
Why would you remove social media from your business plan?
What led to your decision to do that? Was it a bit like '13 Reasons Why' with multiple things or was there a catalyst? In order to make such a bold decision was there one thing that really pushed you over the edge?
It's something I'd been considering - or feeling - for a long time. I had just taken a a 3 month break at end of 2020 because I was really quite spent after the pandemic. Especially because of how I reacted to the pandemic, which was to throw myself into work in an almost unhealthy way. I really exhausted myself and then just had to stop.
Then after that period when I'd stopped and really not even thought about work (although it was whirring in the background), I came back and thought to myself, "I'm going to focus on SEO and LinkedIn". That's not what I ended up doing... I fell back into the easy routine of doing what I'd always done on Facebook and Instagram.
So that was the beginning... but all through 2021, I went through phases were I was sporadic. I'd have a period of activity then I'd go inwards... then a period of activity then go inwards... I'd been working with a client who was struggling with social media and in my coaching session I just said "if you hate it, just don't do it".
What was their response?
Interestingly, their response was 'ahhh' *an enlightened sigh*. Actually, on reflecting on that coaching session, just saying that to someone else made me go,"yeah, that sounds amazing!" . When you talk to people about this, they go "ooh that sounds brilliant!"
So that happened, it was always kind of going on inside but the exact catalyst and why I woke up one morning and started doing it - and it really was like this - I'd had a really vivid dream where I was trapped in a corner and trying desperately climbing on to the roof of this house and when I got up to the top and was free of this restriction I was just like "this feels amazing, I'm free!"
When I work up the dream was so vivid that I was like 'I know exactly what this is about, I'm going to delete all my social media'. And I did it!!
Wow that's so crazy! And I totally get it. I feel like the past 2 years especially (the pandemic years) social media just felt so noisy. I think if we were to all look back on the time spent on our phones, I'm sure that for most people it at least doubled! Obviously ,we were so restricted with what we could do with our spare time so it just felt so noisy. I definitely felt that. I definitely felt that overwhelm and that burnout and how do you produce content from a place like that? How do you have that creativity? It's kinda impossible and I did the same as you and had a break from social media for quite a while and removed myself from it and came back with a different mindset around it. It's a shop window, it's not my validation and not where I need to go. My validation comes from the work that I do with my clients rather than the 'likes' and 'comments' and 'follows' on social media so I totally understand the decision, I really do.
I suppose the next question is...what went through your head after you'd done that, you've got a business that relies massively on visibility and awareness, being a service provider?
I'm a huge believer that successful businesses existed long before social media was a thing so there's no reason why they can't exist without it. But initially, did it sink in and were there any moments where you thought "shit, what have I done?? What am I going to do now?!"
Did you have any hesitations or regrets?
Interestingly, there really wasn't and that's stayed with me. During a recent period when I was promoting Hush Club, I definitely had inklings of "I don't know how to do this without social media and was it a mistake?" but I'm being guided by how I feel. And the thing I noticed most was that I still felt that this really wasn't a positive place for me . I hadn't found a way to make social media work without it taking more away from me than it was giving me. Ultimately, it all comes down to return on investment. In terms of your energy too.
The answer is I didn't really think about it, I just knew it was what I had to do and knew it was the the right thing to do for me. I also knew, as you said, that there are plenty of other businesses who don't use social media. More and more businesses are not using social media, taking an ethical standpoint.
I'm going based on my 6th sense, but I think that as consumers become more and more aware of privacy - which I still think there isn't huge amount of awareness on or understanding of the implications - I don't see that people will be using social media in the same way in the future.
I agree and I feel like there's a level of implosion coming. I think that certainly my daughter's generation (my daughter is 10 years old) - are going to look and see the negatives that it's created and think they may not want a part of that, "I don't need to tell everyone". Or they're going to find another way of way connecting that's not social media,
It's quite telling that recently, there's been a huge drop in shares for Meta, and increased investment instead in newsletter marketing. Which is quite interesting when you think about this social media powerhouse and actually looking at other ways people can market their businesses. I think that in itself is a tell-tale sign of what, perhaps, the future holds.
And even just on a personal level, I think social media was set up with all the right intentions but it's just not used in that way anymore. We don't use it to be social, we use it as a way of validating ourselves and that's dangerous.
Unfortunately, I don't agree that social media was set up with the best intentions! I think the internet was set up with the best intentions in mind but I think that since then the tech space got heavily involved, it's now all about data. Of course, Facebook are saying their purpose is to connect people but we all know that's not what their purpose is. And obviously there's nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit of profit but I just think that, with the last few years, what people are looking for in their lives, so much has shifted and I hope that younger generations are going to be more intentional with how they spend their time and with what they're sharing online. Because privacy is such a big issue and as people start to understand that more, they're going to be more savvy with what they do online.
Do you feel like you have a lot more time now you're off those platforms?
I do! And I feel like I'm much more focussed as well, my phone use is much more reasonable, and I feel like I'm much more able to concentrate on doing the things that I want to do. Writing more and forming my thoughts outside of that space. Now, the opinions and thoughts that I consume are really considered because it's newsletters that I've signed up to or places that I intentionally go to or, more often than not, books that I read. Everything is slower and I really do feel like it's changed my life.
How has it effected your business direction?
I love that. My clients, when they come to me, I generally find that their direction and structure, they intuitively know where they want to go but what generally happens is that there's all this external noise which tell them what they should or shouldn't be aiming for, what they should or shouldn't be doing and that then skews their direction and structure. Sometimes my job is to say, "right, let's just go right back to basics, let's go back to why you started this business in the first place".
So, with that in mind, do you feel that, without social media, the direction of your business is a lot clearer?
Yes I do and I guess in terms of the 'how', I feel more comfortable with the not knowing 'how' and having the freedom of trying different things and learning from the different things I try and formulating my process based on experience rather than 'everyone's doing that so that's how I should do it even though it feels awful'.
So being guided by what feels right for you and not necessarily the 'go-to' formula/structure?
Exactly, because periods of self-doubt or feeling unsure are completely natural but if you're going in the direction of 'this feels good to me' you can't really go wrong. As opposed to doing what you 'should' be but it's making you feel awful, you're not going to get anywhere are you?
No and it's never going to be a long-term strategy either.
The big question that's on everybody's lips is... How do you market your business now?
How do you market your business without social media?
With the promotion that I've just done, my first launch away from social media, it was just a small beta, if you like. I had a goal of getting 10 members (with a stretch goal of 15-20 people) into my new membership. So I just used my email.
And did you achieve it?
Just about, but yes!
That's incredible because, if anyone is to take anything from this conversation is that it is possible. Yes it requires probably a lot more planning in terms of where you're going to market yourself, if growth and development are something that you eventually want to do. It is so possible to market yourself in ways that feel right to you, not the 'should's'.
Yeah! So my email list is about 300 - so it's not a hugely significant mailing list - but I think the thing that I've done well is that I've always been a good networker and that's what I love. I really love connecting with people. I approach sales in that way as well, because that's really what I was doing with this promotion - it was like I was inviting people who were already in my world to a free trial and following up with them, which is a conversation and that's what I love. Same as on Instagram really - people have already chosen to follow you but they're on my email list and they've shown that extra bit of interest actually, to get on there, have a personal communication with me.
So longer term, how am I going to market myself? A big part of my strategy is networking. Networking very intentionally and in spaces that I pay for. You and I have spoken about lots of different methods that I might try - simple things like flyering and posters. Chelsea actually gave me the amazing idea of producing stickers with QR codes to link analogue with digital. There are loads of things to explore and that's really exiting for me because I like the variety and I like working new stuff out. I can gain support wherever I need it, but I think the bigger picture for me is the basics. The actual basics for me are exciting! So many people, I think, have just not bothered to do anymore, like SEO, writing blogs, collaborations, PR. There are so many possibilities, there's a whole world out there and it feels like we've all become completely lost in our obsession with social media. Because it's free, I guess?
I think there's something to be said about the ability to access an audience for free via social media and the pro's that that brings, especially if you're just starting your business. There are so many positives to that side but yes I completely agree with you that the marketing side of the business is almost now seen to be easy - all you need to do is set up a profile, share behind-the-scenes and share content spend time creating content... to the point where people actually wouldn't even dream of putting money behind an ad campaign via social media because 'why should I pay for it when I can do it for free?' I think that's it really easy to forget that prior to social media being in existence, marketing budgets were so much bigger. Because there was so much more that needed to be done.
I think you just highlighted a good point, and in the name of transparency, I do need to say that I had spent 3 years building a community on social media and had consciously been funnelling those people onto my email list. Obviously not all of the them and I am talking small numbers, I had around 2000 people on Instagram and around 300 on my mailing list.
What I'm doing is definitely risky and everyone's situation is different. Personally, I'm able to take that risk but everyone's business is different. I think that starting from scratch without social media would certainly be challenging, but not impossible. If you're going to do something like run events - and actually the biggest influx to my mailing list was when I'd run a couple of events.
I think it's just about thinking creatively and strategically about what it is you're doing and how you can get what you need.
I agree. I definitely think starting from scratch without social media now would be very difficult. I do think that it's great to be able to have this conversation and open up a conversation - among friends of the industry, the industry, the people watching this - about how we can do more that is community driven but not necessarily on social media.
When we last spoke, I'd just finished doing a trend analysis for a large company on wellness trends for this year and community is such a driver for most people in 2022 and I think that's something we, as businesses and business owners, need to bear in mind. If engagement is falling slightly on social media or you're not getting the results you need perhaps adding something 'in real life' and in person could be the balance. Really thinking of ways which you can incorporate that in your strategy and your marketing is so beneficial, not just for this year, but forever more. I think it's important that we have that human connection in business, for sure.
A final thought - what makes a good newsletter?
So any more amazing tips? Rebecca has an amazing newsletter, she's such a good writer and I can only imagine that it's going to keep developing over time, I'm excited to see what's to come from you.
Maybe a final thought on developing a newsletter? What is your biggest tips - is it consistency, is it the writing talent, is it what you're sharing, is it transparency?
What do you believe makes a good newsletter?
I think it's about being clear on your values and being authentic (a word I don't really like) and being really true to your values and just showing up as yourself. Working out what you like - what kind of newsletters do you like? For me, the reason I write the newsletters I do and the way I do is because that's what I like. I like that 'I'm sharing something with you - intimate and personal - that I'm not sharing anywhere else. That real honesty and transparency. I'm sharing my journey and everything I'm experiencing. So I've just gone with what I like and the people who come to your newsletter tend to have those same senses.
For me the biggest thing in business and developing a newsletter is the ability to really know who you are, that personal development element and that mind of just being really connected to 'this is who I am, I'm not trying to be anyone else or trying to do anything that anyone else says I need to do, I'm me, I'm very grounded in what that is' and that coming across in whatever communication you use.
A final, final thought... showing vulnerability on social media - is it good or bad?
Just to end this, something that really stayed with me from our last call is that you said that you don't believe that people should be pushed to be vulnerable in open spaces and that it can be quite dangerous. That's something that plays in my mind when I'm thinking about things and also something that comes up with my clients - the question of how do you showcase who you are and get this balance of personal vs. professional sharing without necessarily giving away your soul? Especially in the realms of social media?
That isn't to say it's wrong if you ARE somebody who is comfortable with vulnerable shares and sharing things that you've worked on, trigger work, shadow work and self development.
I wonder if that's been different for you, transitioning from social to newsletter?
I don't think that anyone should feel obligated to be 'vulnerable' because it's not necessary and there's no MAN in business being told to 'be more vulnerable' - I don't believe. There's something in there around beliefs of like-ability, so that's one facet of this conversation. I think being vulnerable in some ways can be helpful and maybe I wouldn't call it 'vulnerable' actually. I think we need to separate 'vulnerable' from 'transparent'.
For example, in my last newsletter I shared all my numbers and how I felt during the promotion. It did feel a bit vulnerable when I wrote it and there was a moment of being 'oh god is this a bit vulnerable?'. For me, I hold on to that feeling and work out why does it feel vulnerable? And in this case, I kinda felt like it was a good thing and I did want to share.
There's so much to unpick with it - sometimes we feel vulnerable and it's just because often that vulnerability is because were worried about what people think. I think people shouldn't push themselves and what they should do instead is maybe interrogate themselves a little as to what's at the root of that feeling or that resistance to 'being vulnerable'. I think it's a difficult one to navigate because I don't think there's any hard and fast rules. My newsletter was always a place that felt intimate to me so if someone signs up, they are quite invested in you.
Does it feel like a safer space?
Yeah because its closed in a way. Whereas on social media anyone can actually see what you're doing if you've got a public profile and it lives for a long time. A newsletter is a great way to explore and try things out. BUT so is social media! I used to think that social media was really great for me in lots of ways, I've just now got to a stage where I want to try something different.
You can subscribe to Rebecca's newsletter 'A Word of Caution' right here!