Social Media Marketing: Yay or Nay?

I've long had a bit of a conflict around social media. I want to use these platforms less and less over time. At the same time content marketing seems to be one of the simplest and cheapest strategies for indie hackers to get eyes on their product.

This mostly goes for things like Twitter/X and LinkedIn. Otherwise the impression I get from first hand accounts elsewhere is that Reels/TikTok/Shorts get a lot of impressions but not much conversion. This lines up with the idea that your viewers are not "primed" in a buying state when on these platforms; they just want entertainment.

So what's left then? Hyper-focusing on newsletters, blogs and SEO for organic reach?

The only other idea I have is to only interact with some of these platforms via social media scheduling tools - pure focus on being a creator than a consumer of content.

Jason Leow's latest post seems to agree! Saw it on the WIP feed now.…

Ha. I actually just (like yesterday) created a Substack called "Boldly Go Beyond Social" for THIS exact reason. So many people are ultra reliant on social media and fighting algorithms (that just bury their content anyway), and they're not seeing hardly any results from it.

(Not to mention Facebook has a lot of audacity deleting YEARS of people's content because their bots are drunk. People are losing their business over this, and it's sad to see.)

Anyway, yeah, for context, I have two audiences:

  • B2B SaaS/marketing content writer
  • brand + marketing strategist and educator (membership community) for service professionals

For the former, I'm primarily using LinkedIn, content marketing on my own blog, guest posting, and cold email. LOTS of cold email (but still manual - not automating it for reasons).

I'm also leveraging media (like HARO) and joining listings/directories + marketplaces (like Superpath).

For the latter, since most people ARE still on Facebook and other SM platforms, I'm leading them away with that Substack so I get access to their inbox. (I also have Convert Kit for automated emails.)

I'm also creating a Mighty Networks ecosystem (already have this but building it out) so I can replace a Facebook group + house my membership all in one place. I'm also using guest posting/guest podcasting when available.

I'll still be on social media, but I'm using it intentionally and will be mostly on Twitter + Facebook (just because I can't go totally dark there). For SEO, I'm using Medium, Pinterest, and YouTube.

For products, I highly recommend something like Substack + creating long-form content (whether written, voice, or video - or all the above) for your audience and lean heavily into SEO. I'd also use email marketing - if it makes sense for what you're selling and your audience. Twitter is always a safe bet for indie creators too!

Don't overlook guest blogging and/or guest podcasting if it makes sense for you! I don't see a lot of people talk about this, which means it could be a great opportunity with little competition.

You nailed it with your last paragraph: You want to CREATE content, not just be a consumer. (And especially not just consume entertainment content.)

This is very insightful, thanks!

You mention reaching out directly into groups, creating communities, appearing in guest blogs and podcasts, and listing in directories - this is kind of what I've had in mind as the potential longer term alternative here. Being intentional and posting in ultra-relevant niche communities and making direct connections with others. I.e. going back to a personalised network/social graph to deliver value (and get customers!) instead of the interest graph that has been forced on us for engagement.

I liken it to focusing on being a medium fish in many small ponds, than trying to be a gigantic fish in an entire ocean. There's a lot more food that way!

That way, you can also focus on controlling the network more. Specifically with things like email lists instead of followers. Longer term when there's budget (for tech) or time to manage it, owning the tech of your community is also beneficial since no one can take it down (within legal bounds I mean) when you run your own forum and newsletter infrastructure.

You're welcome! I'm glad you asked the question. It's something that a lot of people have been wondering about (not just here, but elsewhere), and it helped me organize my thoughts around it to explain to others too.

Honestly, it's ALL about niche communities and personal connections. It's how I've been able to stay in the freelance game for 15 years -- from getting new clients, being referred, getting stage speaking opportunities, and other really cool things that wouldn't have been available otherwise. If you just provide a great brand + customer experience, people are really quick to rave about you (even if they aren't customers lol).

In a world where people are looking to automate everything, that personalized touch can be a strong differentiator.

(And I have stories where I've landed clients because of how far I take this, and I'm happy to share my "secrets.")

I agree with you about the socialgraph vs interestgraph approach. Interestgraph has its place, but it's not the BEST way to connect and grow. I've found exponential growth with the socialgraph model because you can leverage entire communities.

I 100% agree with owning your brand assets.

I tell all my strategy clients we're focusing on email marketing immediately, even if that's not why they came to me initially. It's just common sense. And there are so many affordable tools out there, so there's no excuse to NOT prioritize this.

Also, I've heard far too many people talk about how Facebook is removing their entire group -- and people are running their paid memberships on Facebook, which means...they just lost their own business because a bot took down their group. (Good luck earning that trust back.) That should terrify people. Even if it were a FREE group to use as a lead gen tool, that's a lot of work to just have it disappear. I don't trust anything that much lol.

(Plus with free tools like Mighty Networks, Discord, and even Slack, there's really no excuse to not have SOMETHING growing off social media. Is it harder and slower growth? Absolutely. People are attached to social media, but it's way more sustainable and protected. Hopefully the norm around off-social communities change.)

That'd be really cool to build a tech solution to support community growth for creators, though! I find Mighty Networks does such a phenomenal job at this already (and now that they're connected with Convert Kit, it's even better), but their Mighty Network "marketplace" isn't as great as it could be, so creating a hub to FIND all these great communities across the internet would be such a valuable tool.

(Also, I've been brainstorming micro-SaaS ideas and this is one of them! I just have zero tech abilities, so even "no code" is above my paygrade, so...potential collab is in the air haha.)

Ha, discovery is a side of communities I've explicitly avoided because it's such a hard problem. What I've been able to find is directory sites for communities that are often tied to a specific tech. E.g. Slofile for Slack groups, and another site I forget now for discovering Discord communities.

I wonder if this idea of doubling down on the personalised touch & network graph extends for discovery as well? In my mind that's the only real way to bypass it. Otherwise you become tied to the platforms. And just because Slack and Discord aren't Facebook, it doesn't mean one is much safer in the end in terms of control and not getting arbitrarily banned.

I run a tech meetup/community myself: PHP South Africa. I've had discussions with many other meetup hosts about being such a horrible platform, but they all give me the same answer in return: "yes it sucks, but it's where everyone is, so yeah I'll shell out the $120 a year just to post events."

If people do succeed without these discovery mechanisms and go purely off of the tactics we've discussed, that's also not necessarily a scalable/automatable approach, like you say. So building SaaS for that might be tricky. Perhaps there's tools/features that can be added to ease that work, at least?

I don't think there's a major downside to remaining on Twitter/X as a creator of content as long as you have it mostly automated. I have a bot that I use to post my completed WIP todos as tweets and that's basically my entire feed minus a couple instances where I created a tweet manually. Some of the tweets get decent engagement, especially if there are images/video involved, and I don't have to scroll through twitter since the bot takes care of posting for me/I'm not tempted to look at my feed.

The one downside I can think of is notifications: prospective customers might engage with your tweet and you'll probably want to respond. That will keep you on the app if you don't want to be there in the first place. I like interacting with people though - and who knows, they might remember a nice interaction we had a year ago and decide to buy one of my products later.

It's depends on the type of product for eg I am doing #panicgone but while doing this I came to realise it's really hard to rank this site. and damn those google completions are so good. so I assume anything Informational is all gone outdated sonner or later becaue these generative AI is so good. But something transactional like what is the best tool, what the best x etc, is still hard for AI to judge/needs human touch IMO so we need SEO there.

Yay, if you know what you're doing. Or find someone who can streamline & optimize it