It’s official, Facebook has been declared uncool by millennials. Now that their parents are now flocking to Facebook, many millennials are deleting their profiles in search of greener pastures as an escape from the prying eyes of parents, seeking sanctuary in the likes of Instagram [conveniently owned by Facebook] or Snapchat. Add to that the distrust that has been placed on the Facebook brand by consumers following the data scandal of recent years and the continued scrutiny the social networking site is put through.

The declining user numbers on Facebook are evident in the growth of other social media sites. But who’s to say there won’t be a similar rise and fall of these other sites in the years to come? There is absolutely no guarantee they are safe from the scrutiny and public perception of being untrustworthy – consequently causing a rapid decline in users.

The future of Facebook is bleak, and so is the future for businesses who decide that social media is the be all and end all of their marketing success. With this decline in social media users comes a decline in engagement and sales for businesses pushing brand and product messages through their social media channels.

It’s no doubt a dangerous practice to be building a following on social media sites alone, yet many small businesses are doing just that. Having over 1000 followers on your LinkedIn company page may look great and feel even better. But what happens to those 1000 followers if LinkedIn shuts down tomorrow?

I wish not to scare you off from marketing to your audience on social media. However, there are some dangers to consider when relying solely on social media as the primary platform for engaging with your audience online.

you have no control 

You do not own those contacts on social media, they belong to the platform. Facebook, for example, can do as they wish with your audience, to show them what their algorithms think they want to see. Your followers can drop off at any time and you can do absolutely nothing about it to re-engage these people.

it’s difficult to send them on a journey to purchase 

We want our contacts to become customers, to do this we need to be able to guide them on a journey to a purchase decision. Buying decisions are no longer linear. It usually takes a series of small influences for a consumer to come to a decision.

If you’re no stranger to inbound marketing then you know there are four stages of the buyer’s journey: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. It’s easy to attract an audience to your social media page, but where you really want a follower to get to is the next stage of the buyer’s journey, converting them into a contact, then of course closing them into a customer and add so much value to the relationship until they become a raving fan for your business. Getting them OFF your social media page and onto your website is the first step in turning alike into a lead.

it costs more time, effort & money

It costs more time because you need to post quite regularly to keep an audience engaged. It costs more in the effort because you need to work four times as hard to convert alike into a sale. It costs more money because today you need to pay to play in social media land. With the cluttered social media landscape, we all exist in, it’s easy for our content to become a needle in a haystack as our audience is drawn to pictures from friends, videos of puppies, movie trailers and Game of Thrones fan theories. This is where boosted posts and targeted ads come into play and can take a fair chunk out of the marketing budget.

get them into your marketing database 

It is a risky business building your audience on social media alone. One of the most valuable assets of any business is their database and this is where businesses should be building their audience, in a database they own and control. The gold in any digital marketing activity is in the list and the data that comes from it.

One of the first rules of social media is to get your followers, fans, and connections off social media and into your database. Your social media channels are not the answer to the success of your digital marketing success. Social media for business is simply a means to an end.