Small Business, Big Stress: How to Overcome Social Media Marketing Anxiety by Trusting Your Heart, Not Just Data

Let me start by asking you a few questions…

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed when it comes to social media marketing?

Do you find a lack of focus, irritability, and maybe even anxiety when it comes to updating your social media?

Do you find that sometimes you can as a result spend too much time scrolling?

Do you find you can get frustrated by either a lack of followers or likes on your posts?

And finally…

Do you compare yourself to others? Either through your business or even just personally – do you see what they are doing and does it make you feel like you aren’t doing enough?

If in your head you answered yes to any one of those questions, then this blog is for you.

But why am I qualified to deliver a talk on social media anxiety?

Well, because it’s been my life for the last decade, so first, a bit of background on me…

I’ve worked as a journalist and digital marketing consultant for almost fifteen years now – when I was 21, Facebook made its way to the UK and as a result, near enough my whole career has been digital:

From setting up the first ever live stream website and Facebook page for my old newsroom, to working through the night from midnight until 8am running the website and social media for Good Morning Britain, to running digital campaigns with big brands like adidas, aviva, Barratt Homes and more…

I’ve photographed more grumpy celebrities at 5am than I choose to remember, am a Huffington Post published author, and even spent part of my career being the social media voice of a celebrity dog.

Essentially – digital media has been my entire career – and by default a huge part of my life.

Such a huge part in fact, that almost four years ago, I started to notice what an impact the digital world was having on my life:

My desperate need for instant gratification, my sudden obsession with the way I looked, my constant scrolling, my addiction, not to mention my posture, and a constant dull pain that had begun to form in my right shoulder from too much one handed scrolling.

Social media was starting to consume me – and it was only when I first discovered yoga that I began to realise this.

Yoga taught me to be more mindful, it made me aware of the occupational impact that my job had on my body, it gave me time away from the screen, it enabled me to switch off, and all of a sudden, something inside me started to change for the better – and I had to find out more, so I trained to be a yoga teacher.

Fast forward to where we are now and I’ve been self employed for a year and a half as a Digital Marketing Consultant under EmPower media and I’ve been teaching yoga under EmPower yoga for almost two years.

And I really feel the yoga is the yin to my digital yang – which is why I use a lot of my yoga teachings to influence the way I coach my clients digitally.

Social media shouldn’t be a stress, it should sit comfortably with you, it should be a natural part of what you do and what your business does.

But to many of us it might not feel that way, it might not sit right with you ‘putting yourself out there’, it might take up way too much of your time, it might make you feel inadequate when you compare yourselves to others and it might at times lead to anxiety and acute stress.

Plus there’s the added pressure of the ever conflicting advice: 

Scheduling Content Ahead of Time is the Gold Standard

More Content = Better

Post [insert recommended number here] times a day

You NEED to do Video

Post multiple images to beat algorithms

You must be on every platform 

Geotag

Hashtag

The list goes on…

And with all this information we find a challenging paradox: the digital tools we need to complete our work are often our biggest source of distraction.

And there’s science to prove this, the Addiction Centre has reported:

According to a study by Harvard University, self-disclosure on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also ignites when taking an addictive substance. The reward area in the brain and its chemical messenger pathways affect decisions and sensations. When someone experiences something rewarding, or uses an addictive substance, neurons in the principal dopamine-producing areas in the brain are activated, causing dopamine levels to rise. Therefore, the brain receives a “reward” and associates the drug or activity with positive reinforcement.

So when an individual gets a notification, such as a like or mention, the brain receives a rush of dopamine and sends it along reward pathways, causing him or her to feel pleasure. Social media provides an endless amount of immediate rewards in the form of attention from others for relatively minimal effort. Therefore, the brain rewires itself through this positive reinforcement, making people desire likes, retweets, and emoticon reactions.

Another perpetuating factor of social media addiction is the fact that the reward centres of the brain are most active when people are talking about themselves. In real life, it’s estimated that people talk about themselves around 30 to 40% of the time; however, social media is all about showing off one’s life and accomplishments, so people talk about themselves a staggering 80% of the time. When a person posts a picture and gets positive social feedback, it stimulates the brain to release dopamine, which again rewards that behaviour and perpetuates the social media habit.

As a digital marketing consultant I can tell my clients a million and one things they need to know about how to get the best results from their marketing, and if they want that, I will… but as a yoga teacher and more importantly a human being that cares about the health and welfare of others – I would rather work with a client to find a way to run their digital marketing mindfully, so that it doesn’t impact on their mental health and it doesn’t add to the already stressful position of being a manager of your own business. 

And let’s face it, when you run your own cooking business, or face painting business or beauty business, you are more than just a chef, face painter, or beautician – you are receptionist, accounts, HR, and more, marketing is just one more stress to add to the list.

So… that said – what are my top tips for being more mindful with your digital marketing?

We have to FEAR Less about it and we have to become fearless in our approach towards it: in other words, you have to #FindYourFearless

F ind time

The easiest way to stay mindful with any part of your business is to reserve time for this task. Even if that is simply fifteen minutes a day dedicated to your small business marketing, it’s fifteen minutes well spent if it is a designated time slot. A section out of your day given to replying to messages, crafting some content, or maybe idea planning – and don’t just make it part of your lunch break, or on your morning walk – sit down, at your computer and take some time to just focus on that one task.

E mbrace creativity

It is good to do things with your hands and step away from the phone, the computer or any other media device. So when you are planning digital content – how about using a sketchbook, a diary or a moodboard to plan what you want your digital content to look like? Sometimes a little break away from the screen can help you focus on creating. You may find you are much more able to trust your own instinct when you are not online constantly doubting yourself or comparing yourself to others. 

A uthenticity is key

What we see on social media can be a persona that people adopt – and we have to remind ourselves that a lot of the things we read and see online aren’t always true. The thing that speaks the loudest volume on social media is TRUST, so when you post, interact and engage with social media, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, don’t build a persona based on what people think of you – be the person that you are, because like attracts like and it’s a lot easier being authentic on social media than being something you’re not – don’t forget you’re speaking to the Twitter voice of a celebrity dog right now.

R eel life vs real life

Why do we compare ourselves so much to someone else’s highlight reel? We see someone who has better graphics, logo, brand image and we put ourselves down – we do it personally probably a hell of a lot more! Do you know the single most important statement I have ever heard in my life, that literally turned my entire outlook on life around? “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – THANK YOU Theodore Roosevelt (it wasn’t him that told me, he was just the first person to say it). Social media is the window to FOMO – fear of missing out – if you’re not on it, you’re missing out, if you are on it, you’re seeing what you’re missing out on – you are constantly comparing yourself to others, to their standards, their practices, and all this can become one huge added stress. So never compare yourself to the snippets of someone else’s highlights real.

L ess is more

It is not important to post 3-4 times a day to beat the algorithm. Post when you have something to say. Posting many times a day could lead to undue pressure, but also a loss in the quality of content. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to find that much to say every day. Just reflecting on why I am posting, why I am choosing to share something with everyone out there, and why I am putting something out in the public domain is often quite a useful practice to me. 

E valuate

It is ok to take a break. The world doesn’t end, nor does the business go kaput. Step away, re-evaluate, and come back to it. Don’t think that you can’t disappear from social media. There are other ways of connecting with people who matter, your customers, and perhaps use this time to focus on the creative side of the business. People who like your work and want to connect would stay with you. People who leave weren’t that interested anyway.

S tay present

It is impossible to manage all the various channels and get informative and useful content out, at the right time, all the time. If you have a particular preference for a particular channel, why not focus on it for a while and try and make meaningful connections! There are bound to be people who have similar interests and want to connect. Focusing our energies on one or maybe two can ease off the pressure and reduce the feeling of dread and overwhelm. 

S hift and change

FOLLOW YOUR HEART – you might start doing something and suddenly it doesn’t sit right with you, it isn’t working for you, so change it – don’t get stuck with that just because it was your strategy – or just because it was what your digital marketing adviser told you. Life changes, we grow up, we have kids, we get a new job, we meet new people – why should your social media strategy be any different for you? And on top of that, the world changes – new laws, new policies, new planets, new ideas… the social media world is part of that and it is changing all the time, so if Mark Zuckerberg can change his algorithms more times than you change your socks, it’s ok to change tact on your social media marketing.

So one final thought for today:

Social media for small businesses does not fit within a one-size-fits-all strategy, and I believe we need to re-evaluate the business model that puts social media right at the center of everything, because in reality, we need to not blindly follow the crowd but find a way forward that works just right for us – by following our hearts and not just the data.

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