It's the End of Summer, Labor Day Weekend! If you're a small business you've planned out your attack to take full advantage of "sale" time, and cleaning house feels great! You open up your design program, create a nice little ad stating what's going down: 20% OFF, 30% OFF, 40% OFF, 50% OFF, BOGO, MYSTERY BAG, TIMED RELEASE! Customer's love it because they can score a deal, and you love it because you get to make room for future plans or potentially earn back a little more on your original investment. It's a win win! So you count your inventory, prepare your online store, send out your newsletter, and as you cross your fingers, you post to social media. Sound familiar?
Now here's the reality of it: "Oh shit! It's Labor Day next week! What the hell am I gonna do!" You finally get off work from your day job, you get home, make some dinner, knock out a few episodes of *insert binge worthy tv show here*, and you open up your favorite small business tool: Instagram. "This company is doing 25%, I could do 30%!", "Oh wait, this company went 40%, I'll do 50%." You pour a few hours into what you think is a clever string of promos and marketing tools to showcase what you've got planned, and plan out the rest of your week between your actual job to prepare your website, count inventory, edit photos, apply discounts, build special collections.. the list goes on and on...
Labor Day weekend hits, you once again cross our fingers before tapping the "post" button, and then you wait... after refreshing about 20 times in 5 minutes, no one has seen your post. Then an hour goes by, 10 likes, 2 hours, 11 likes, 3 hours, 12 likes. All your hard work, excitement, passion, creativity, just had a huge dump taken on it. Reality sets in along with frustration and failure, but it's not your fault. You were prepared! Ready! Your customers love what you do or you wouldn't be here. So you scroll through as normal, playing it cool, and start to realize something, it wasn't you at all. Every small business you follow: 100 likes in 19 hours, 37 likes in 1 day, or the worst one, 17 likes in 2 days.
These accounts aren't small either, and typically sit between 20K and 50K followers. Even the larger accounts that sit between 80K and 200K are barely reaching 10% of their followers, so what gives? The big bad wolf is what gives, or "takes away" rather. Everyone's mortal enemy, the Instagram / Facebook Algorithm. (Who we will be calling "Steve" from here on out, because just thinking of the word "algorithm" makes me want to slam this keyboard into the monitor with frustration.) Steve is like a bipolar infant, one day he's great and you love what he's done for you, the next day he hates your guts and wants to put you out of business. There's no rhyme or reason to what Steve does. Steve's job is to give you a taste of how good it could be, and then becomes a monster and takes it all away.
What does Steve want? Steve only wants one things from your small business: Money. You know, that thing you need to keep your small business afloat, to invest in new projects, to turn your creativity and passion into an actual product, yea, he wants that. Instagram and Facebook are worth $530,000,000,000, and 85% of their income comes from ad sales. Wrap your brain around that one. As a small business, guess what you probably don't have much money for. Bingo! Ads!
What's the return like? Well, it's not so much the return itself, it's paying enough to actually see the return work the way you want to. If you have an extra $50,000 laying around for ads, stastically it's proven that you could generate up to $150,000 in profit. However, the typical small business doesn't have $50,000 laying around, and is honestly lucky to make that in a year. That $20 in ads, you guessed it, $60 in profit. The overall return typically ends up doubling, but in order for that double to really pay off, be prepared to give the company that's destroying your small business A LOT of your revenue.
Before the days of social media, getting seen by your demographic was much more difficult. Imagine paying $1000 a month for a billboard in a part of town that doesn't see a high volume of traffic. It was nearly impossible for a small business to gain traction, and the days of 'direct to customer' didn't exist. If you weren't selling your products wholesale to local store you might as well give up before you even get started. Today you have to pay to play, no matter what.
It's hard not to be frustrated, to not complain about it, epecially when a majority of us out there are just trying to continue to do what we're passionate about. Guaranteed your favorite brand, company, artist, creative, has been in your shoes at one point or another, which is a comforting thought to keep in mind. Keeping your head up is key, and never count your chickens before they hatch. There's always going to be loss, and great risk that comes with making something you obsess over and love to see work out in the long run. It's not easy, and no one said it was going to be. Keep being creative, and know you're not alone.