Social Media

Why Social Media Marketing Does Not Work for Small Businesses

Two Men Using Tablet Computer In Creative Office
Written by Peter Visser

At the risk of offending every social media ‘genius’ out there, social media marketing just doesn’t work for most small businesses. Here’s why.

Dislike-from-small-businessesReason #1 – Terrible advice

All over the internet there is advice on how your business should be using social media to drive traffic and sales. A lot of the advice sounds sensible. Work out a strategy, execute it, measure it, tweak it – and there are a whole host of software providers that are able to help you with that.

But let’s break it down. What is actually involved in executing a social media ‘strategy’ for a small business?

Let’s say they want to start off with Facebook, which rarely happens, because all the ‘geniuses’ are telling them to go after Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and a bunch of others at the same time. They start using a simple strategy where they spend $300 per month acquiring new fans, then another $300 per month promoting their posts to their fans.

Simple, right? Well, now they have to pay an employee to take care of that, who in turn has to find content that is worthy of the finicky Facebook crowd. I have been down this road and will cost around $500 per month of that employee’s time.

Now they are spending more than $1,100 per month for something which is probably being done poorly, which means the ROI is terrible. On top of that, you are only using one social network. It would probably be more beneficial to hire a cold calling company to place 1,000 calls for that same price.

Reason #2 – Social media marketing companies

Advice from a stranger

I get it. Small businesses should outsource their social marketing efforts. However, when you look at the price tag it makes no sense at all. I recently got 3 quotes from different agencies. The cheapest option was $3,000 per month.

My average client has turnover of about $500,000. 50% of that is spent on labor, 20% on stock or materials, and 10% on fixed costs. That leaves them with $100,000. So now they are supposed to spend 36% of what’s left on the lowest package there is for social media marketing?

Reason #3 – No one likes what they say

If you are a roofing company, no one is going to think it is ‘cool’ to ‘like’ you. Nor are you going to spend the money to make a funny viral video. You want to sell something, but you have to focus on conversations. You constantly have to think outside the box to create compelling, and shareable, content. Who has the time?

Should small businesses just ignore the social channels?

Not necessarily, but they can use them in a way that is free and gives a direct benefits to their business. One client of mine uses Facebook for customer support. He simply tells his customers to like them on Facebook and they can answer any of their questions. Granted, he is a dentist, which means that he gets a lot of questions.

Other small businesses may not be able to do that. If you build custom homes, for example, then you are only going to have about 3 customers per year. In that case it is probably better to use your profiles for social proof.

Use other online marketing mediums first

I am not saying that social media marketing doesn’t work at all. It just doesn’t work for small businesses. Instead, they should be going after online marketing mediums that are designed to sell their products and services such as SEO or PPC. There is plenty of scope to substantially grow the average small business in these areas.


About the author

Peter Visser

Peter has been in the online space since 2008 when he created his first online company. Since then he’s made all of his money online. As well as designing and implementing custom strategies for businesses, he is also an avid fan of any kind of beer.

  • rashed

    Nice post. It is very useful for them who are going to start social media marketing. Thanks.

  • Sattyajit

    Yes, I agree to Peter
    Visser. I think, really don’t use Social media marketing for a small business.
    In this case, SEO is perfect for small business and we always use better way.

  • yeamin hasan

    All over the internet there is advice on how your business should be using social media to drive traffic and sales.

    • That’s right, but have you ever though about what that actually means? It means loads of time and money. Most small businesses should really be exploring other avenues before splashing out on social media.

  • Romicca Dichoso

    I can only agree.
    Yes, the internet is the best medium to advertise and introduce
    products/services a company offers. But, for small businesses this kind
    of advertisement might only cost more instead of a profit. I think, more
    than investing to marketing strategy, focus more on the product quality
    and let the word-of-mouth spread the news. Besides, there are also ways
    to advertise in the internet for FREE. The one given above is a good

    • That’s true. By looking after your current customers you can get yourself some vocal brand advocates.

      • Romicca Dichoso

        Afterall, customers are always right. Your product might be well known but its still up to the customer’s opinion if they liked it or not 🙂

  • dhawal soni

    I totally agree with the details mentioned here as the Social Media is
    very Strong method of Advertising but as shown in this blog it cant
    bring best results for small businesses and it also had less impact on
    the people.This media technique is best for large businesses only .the
    article gives very useful information about the Social Media marketing techniques.

  • John Richman

    Good post. It is smart for those starting to learn about social media marketing to read this.

  • Vibin Unnimon

    Good post.I totally agree with the details mentioned here as the Social Media is
    very Strong method of Advertising but as shown in this blog it cant
    bring best results for small businesses and it also had less impact on
    the people.The internet is the best medium to advertise and introduce
    products/services a company offers.

  • dada vai

    This 100% right, really good post about Social media. Internet is the right place where marketing wold be done perfectly.

  • Fuad Ahmed

    It is very cost for social media marketing and not small business. It needs to promote and connect with social network in the world for marketing.
    I like to read it. Thanks for advice!

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  • William Adams

    I agree with Peter 110%! We have lost clients due to advising them to focus on content, and seo. With every new hosting account we start for a new client the free ad words, facebook ad accounts are used. The result is always the same. lots of impressions, lower click rate, and no paying customers.The majority of my clients report they get customers from the search engines, and not social media. I’ll take 15,000 organic searches, over 15,000 FB likes, or tweets any day of the week. In my not so humble opinion, social media sites are good for a backlink, nothing more.. Take into consideration the fact that most fb users are 13, and statistics show that 67% of the traffic on FB are looking at pictures. Not much is left for small business seeking ROI from facebook.

    • Hi William. Thanks for your comment. Yeah maybe I am just naive to social media, but if it takes someone more than 20 minutes to explain how they will track ROI I run for the hills lol.

      • William Adams

        Maybe I’m just an old school I.T Engr! I’ve spent hours researching
        demographics, and usage stats for my clients who insist they will grow
        their business via FB, and other social engines. The studies I’ve read
        only back up my own data, and your conclusions. Social media does not work for small business.
        With that said, I’m going to try an experiment using the new FB embedded posts. The services section of my new website will use embedded posts as content on my site. Each post will have a unique link, and subject matter. In short I will attempt to replace the entire services section with targeted FB posts embedded on my site. Then sit back , and wait to see the results. Will people who land on my site click back to FB, or will I get traffic from facebook? My money is on organic search.

        • I’d be interested to see your results!

          • William Adams

            will do, i’ll have this started next week,

          • William Adams


            I’ve done what I said I would, and so far the results are as expected with one surprise.. I installed an FB widget on my site that has “recorded” 1million FB likes, but as expected no new clients to date. people look, like, and leave. 1 million likes seems great at first glance,but the numbers do not add up. when the stats from alexa, google, and swayy are compared the amount of likes does not match the traffic my website is receiving. the average click rate for my embedded posted at only 20 a day per post. i’ve been posting 5 stories a day, and linking them on twitter, and FB. as soon as i have complete stats, i’ll send them to you if your still interested. i’m also interested in your opinion.

          • Yeah if you could send them to me that would be great! Just send an email to

  • Hello Peter,

    Would it be possible to see the Dentist Facebook page in action? I am curious to see what kinds of questions a dental patient would make public.

  • moovd

    Best advice on social media on the internet! Kudos!! > Si

    • Thanks I appreciate that. Let me know if you have any insights.

  • Great article, very useful. Motivates me to give Fiverr another chance…

    I tried to hire someone there about two years ago. I couldn’t get my account to register, so moved on and had forgotten about it.

    I’m using a different computer now, so I’ll give it another shot. I could use every offer you recommended, and definitely want to get about two of them started ASAP

    seo services in Hyderabad

  • Totally agree with your points. We have been pounding our heads against the wall convincing our clients and potential clients that social media is a validation of their company and not much more. Sadly, so many small businesses have become distrustful of marketing companies due to the underwhelming results from social media marketers.

    • Yes it makes it kind of difficult. In the long run it would work, but there are so many other forms of marketing that can have immediate results.

  • AndyYc

    Brilliant post from someone with common sense. Unfortunatley this good advice will be drowned out by millions of markerting companies scaring clients into spending money on social media campaigns that are going to be a complete waste of time and money for their business.

    • Thanks Andy! There is a time and a place for it, but if it doesn’t lead to a sale then there are potentially other things a business owner could be doing.

  • Déborah Ibañez

    Brilliantly stupid!!! Are you telling that it is best for companies to invest in SEO and see results in probably a year or more instead of start promoting their products and selling now? Well companies need to sell in order to survive and grow, dude this is basics of economy and business, you should use that logic in your posts, is not a digital marketing or social media problem it is how you move your pieces. As a small buisiness owner I would never hire someone like you, oh wait! you just know how to make rich corporations. By the way social media marketing is also PPC. hahaha what a dumbass!!!

  • Carla Gadyt

    I can see the point of this article, however this part that says “You constantly have to think outside the box to create compelling, and shareable, content. Who has the time?” it’s really how small businesses can make a difference on social media! I’ve watched and worked with small businesses that think outside the box and create original valuable content and a social media presence that works for them and their community! It takes time and it requires the right person to do it, but it really is how you can do it.

  • Skylark Media Consultants

    “Use other online marketing mediums first”. I’d be interested in hearing more about what those should be. You mention SEO and PPC, but those can be expensive options for a small business in a super competitive market. I think it’s important to have a presence on social media because it helps to legitimize a company and it can help with SEO. The key is not getting carried away and spending too much time on it. A good social media consultant can help you determine what that number should be.

    • This article is over three years old now. Almost everything has changed since I wrote it 🙂

      • Skylark Media Consultants

        So does that mean you’ve changed your position? 🙂

  • Ajit Balkawade

    there is a calculation error in the article. “That leaves them with $100,000. So now they are supposed to spend 36% of what’s left on the lowest package?”. The lowest package according to you is $3000. 3000 is 3% of 100,000 and not 36%. Huge error!

    • Reddy I. Bell

      Few businesses would choose the cheapest package.

    • Negro Libre

      Actually, I think you actually missed his point. $3000/month is $36,000/year, which is is 36% of $100,000.