By Lisa D. Jenkins

Are your clients questioning the value of social media? Wondering if you should reconsider offering social media services?

In this article, you’ll discover why and how an agency discontinued its social media marketing services.

The challenges of social media marketing for small businesses

Social media marketing has become an indispensable part of most marketing strategies. However, managing social media can require significant time and resources — which may not be feasible for small businesses and agencies catering to them.

Jamie Teasdale is the founder of Propel Businessworks, a digital marketing company that lends insight and creativity to small businesses, giving them tools they need to plan, promote, and prosper.

Jamie Teasdale, founder of Propel BusinessWorks, discovered social media services come with several hidden challenges.

In 2009, the down economy was snuffing out a lot of businesses. Solopreneurs and small businesses were wondering how they’d survive. Jamie took this as an opportunity to start her agency. Propel BusinessWorks’ mission is to help small businesses plan, promote, and prosper on their own terms.

In the early days, Jamie got a lot of requests for social media services, and it seemed to her like a lucrative opportunity to grow her agency’s revenue. She already offered services like brand strategy, website design, content planning, and email marketing.

As social media marketing gained popularity, she added it to her roster of services. Every business needs a Facebook page and Twitter handle, right? So, her agency included strategy, content creation, community management, and advertising.

For many years, social media marketing formed a significant portion of Propel’s revenue. However, over time, Jamie realized social media marketing was becoming more of an Achilles heel than an asset for her company — they were unable to execute social media marketing well for their client base of solopreneurs and micro businesses.

There were several key challenges:

  • Limited Budgets: Propel’s small and micro business clients did not have large marketing budgets. The bottom-line budget for monthly fees or ad spends they could afford was not enough for Jamie and her team to properly manage their social media. Of course, you can discount your rates. But soon, you might find yourself working extra hours for little additional pay. Your client may also not be happy with the quality of output.
  • Significant Time Commitment: Managing social media well requires a significant amount of time for creative content creation, community management, campaign management, and in-depth analytics. Jamie found that her clients were unwilling to pay for the actual time needed to manage their social media.
  • Platform Instability: The social media landscape has changed drastically in the past few years. The platforms change their algorithms and introduce new features frequently. Jamie and her team found it difficult to keep up with all these changes while also handling client work. She did not want to deliver subpar results or risk damaging her agency’s reputation.
  • Pay to Play: Organic reach on social platforms has reduced drastically. Businesses now need to spend considerable amounts on advertising to gain visibility. As an agency catering to solopreneurs and small and micro businesses, this is tremendously difficult, if not impossible.
  • Low-Value Perception: Your clients may not see value in community management and social engagement. They may care only about vanity metrics like followers and likes. This mismatch in expectations makes it difficult to demonstrate ROI to your clients.

Why pulling the plug on social media services may be wise

Given these challenges, Propel decided to stop offering social media marketing altogether. For Jamie, this decision was driven by her responsibility to do right by clients and her team. She felt she could not deliver results commensurate with the time and cost. Over time, social media became more of a chore than a passion for Jamie and her team.

While some of Propel’s clients proactively asked to be pulled back from social media, Jamie and her team transitioned some existing clients to alternative strategies. Focusing on their core values and expertise, they pivoted their marketing efforts to things like email marketing and SEO. They knew their clients could use their ad dollars in different ways and still get people’s attention.

Depending on rented land like Facebook and Instagram is always risky. Jamie recommends focusing on your owned platforms like your website, email list, and blog to help you control your marketing efforts. You get to set the rules versus constantly adapting to others’ rules.

This move led to some short-term revenue loss but gave Propel the freedom to niche down and focus on its strengths like branding and web design. Eliminating social media unlocked the capacity for Jamie and her team to take on more profitable work aligned with their passions and values.

Advice for other agencies reconsidering their social media services

Social media is a huge part of the marketing world, undoubtedly. It should be conducted cautiously, carefully, and thoroughly. Jamie believes if you aren’t focusing on your social media services in those ways, how well can you execute them and help your clients succeed with them?

“I think from my standpoint, if you cannot do it well and put food on your own table… If you are discounting your services because the client can’t afford it and you are working 80 hours a week, just trying to make it happen, is that worth it for you?” Jamie explains.

Once, Jamie had her own personal Instagram account that was suddenly banned. She repeatedly tried to contact someone at IG, but her messages went unanswered. It was only after threatening legal action her profile returned. She took this as a sign to not feed the social media beast any longer and took all of her content back into her own hands by blogging on Propel’s website.

She encourages small businesses to do the same. Small businesses don’t need to be on all the social platforms like everyone else is. She believes they need to think about how they can be authentic with their brand and not just plug content into a machine just because they think they need to be there.

Instead, Jamie recommends considering each platform’s purpose, who’s on them, and where your business fits in — “push pause, assess where you’re at, take stock of your priorities… and take the foot off the pedal of obligation.”


Lisa D. Jenkins is the director of editorial at Social Media Examiner. Her expertise in social media comes from years of serving destination organizations and businesses in the travel and tourism industry. This article first appeared in the Social Media Examiner.

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