“If your business isn’t on social media it may as well not exist,” is a phrase often spoken by people who don’t understand social media.

What they fail to realise is that their statement isn’t really applicable to every business. For some businesses having a strong presence on social media is vital, but this is not the case for everybody. It all depends on what type of products or services your business sells, and where your customers are.

A large part of the population also still has a somewhat tainted view of social media, relegating it to a mere distraction for the young and easily misguided.

Is Social Media Really Here To Stay?

Yes, the idea that social media isn’t going anywhere is true. However, we also need to understand that the various incarnations of social media – Facebook, Pinterest, Myspace – are transitory.

We’ve been involved in a social media revolution since the days of BBS or Bulletin Board Systems where people could go online to post messages and read messages from other people. Sound familiar?

Over the past decade we’ve seen the rise and fall of various social media networks – Myspace was eclipsed by Facebook, ICQ was made redundant by BBM, and BBM was democratised across devices by WhatsApp. And who remembers Yahoo?

So it seems that we actually like the social media concept, and that we’ll follow the trend and cross over to the new network as it becomes more desirable and more popular than the network we’re already on.

Engagement on Social Media

Businesses are investing huge amounts of money and resources into effective social media campaigns. But do we casual social media users really take social media as seriously as those businesses? I think the fact that we’re so willing to jump ship to the next new network shows that, perhaps only subconsciously, we don’t.

A study conducted last year showed that people on social media aren’t all too interested in interacting with branded content. This is illustrated by the fact that the engagement rate for a business’s posts on Facebook is less than 0.1%.

Here’s how that translates: for every 1 million fans that a particular page has, a post is likely only to receive about 700 likes, shares, or comments. (And likes are a much less valuable metric for engagement than either of the other two.) And the outlook for interactions on Twitter is even worse, with only about 300 interactions per 1 million followers.

Businesses should also consider how people interact with their social media pages. I know I’m hugely guilty of the extremely effective social media complaint. Consumers love to complain to businesses on social media, in fact they do it about 879 million times a year. And why not; it’s effective because will always attend to your complaints before too many other people see the complaint and it affects them negatively.

Social media is great as a customer service tool. I’m always very impressed when a complaint is attended to quickly, efficiently, and publically. However, when your business’s page becomes an expensive customer service portal instead of an effective way to share interesting, relevant, and valuable content to your fans, you may need to reconsider your social media presence.

It’s also not guaranteed that every one of your carefully and expensively crafted posts will even reach your audience – people log onto social media at different times, their newsfeeds are curated by algorithms, and a lot of people will likely just absently scroll past your content, like they did when that photo of a colleague’s 4 year old daughter winning her preschool fancy dress showed up on their newsfeed.

So What’s The Alternative to Social Media?

After reading all that you may be asking yourself whether businesses should be cutting their losses and finding something new. Despite everything I’ve said, the answer is still no. Partly because social media networks understand everything I’ve written above, and they still want to make money, so they’re finding new and more effective ways to advertise to users, and partly because it can work very effectively if you approach it the right way.

An example of this is Facebook’s new targeted ads which allow businesses to advertise directly to particular people and groups of people based on the vast amounts of information they collect about you on a daily basis.

The Most Effective Digital Marketing

However, a still viable alternative (or combination), is one that has proven over the years to be highly effective. And that’s email marketing. Facebook may think it’s smart and fancy for targeting ads at individuals directly, but we’ve been doing it for years with emails going directly individuals’ inboxes. And it’s about 40 times more effective than social media advertising.

Email has many advantages over other forms of online marketing. The first is that a business has ownership and control over its list of email contacts, and what type of information is held for each contact.

The same is not true for the list of your followers on social media as those profiles are effectively owned by the network they’re on. Owning and controlling your sets of data is crucial for crafting effective campaigns.

It’s also stood the test of time. Social media networks may come and go, but email is an integral part of the way we do business and also how we interact on a personal level. It really is the standard for online communication; an email will never be replaced by a Tweet because email performs exactly the function that we need it to, and as such it’s become indispensable.

There are also a bunch of features available to email marketers such as A/B testing your emails, adding personalising features to mails, offering exclusive content, and tracking your mails to gather even more information about your customers and your campaign.

Social media has a place in your marketing strategy, and it shouldn’t be ignored or be thought of as inferior. But the fact is that email is a proven method of communication and it gives your business control over a centralised database to use as a basis for digital communications direct to your market.