Can you build brands without social media? 🤔

Johanna Renoth tells you how! ❇️

Hello! 👋

In today's Morning Rush, we're sharing our conversation with Johanna Renoth, founder of Bye, Social Media — an agency that helps you build brands without social media. ✨

Creators, entrepreneurs, and brands can learn about marketing through her elaborate guides or consulting.

We caught up with her to discuss social media, algorithms, and creators' relationship with social media.

Let's jump into the conversation. 👇

Sunaina: Can you tell us about yourself and what made you start Bye, Social Media?

Johanna: I'm part entrepreneur, part creative, and part academic. I love online business and how creative I can be with it. Bye, Social Media! came from my deep frustration with social media marketing. It didn't come to me naturally, and I found no success with it. Over the years, I forced myself to do it and felt gross in the process, trying to be who I thought I had to be to make it on social media. After years of being mean to myself about posting on socials, I decided to permit myself to let it go. I embarked on a journey to learn about marketing — mainly how I could market like myself in a way I enjoyed. For example, answering the questions in this interview is fun. I like sharing my thoughts here way more than I ever did as a LinkedIn-pretend-thought-leader.

Sunaina: What kind of content do you post on Bye, Social Media, and who is it for?

Johanna: I post marketing how-tos and tips on how to build a sustainable solo business as a creator, freelancer, creative, etc. — all through the lens of cutting back on or getting off social media. My content is a great fit for somebody who likes to think for themselves and knows that white-knuckling alone doesn’t get you anywhere, the same as just sitting on your couch waiting for a manifestation to fall into your lap. Reality tends to exist between both extremes — sometimes, your intentions become a reality quickly, and sometimes, your goals require intentional effort.

Sunaina: Why do we think a social media following signifies a creator's success today?

Johanna: It's very measurable and visible. Everyone can see if you have 1 million followers on TikTok or Instagram. It looks good, right? Think about the social proof in that, too! Would you intuitively think somebody with 5,000 followers is better at what they do than somebody with 397,000? Likely not. It seems the more people trust another person, the better this person probably is at what they're doing online. Their 397,000 followers make that creator look important and successful. These numbers can be deceiving, though. They say nothing about a creator's monetary or general well-being, nor do they let us know if what they're doing is good, helpful, or even factually correct.

Sunaina: We speak to many creators who tell us algorithms bog them down. What can creators do to build distribution beyond social media platforms?

Johanna: First off, algorithmic anxiety is a thing. I wrote about it here. As humans, dealing with a technology that makes decisions over our lives can feel so weird. With social media algorithms, in particular, there’s no transparency. We can only make an educated guess about how they work and build our livelihoods on top of those guesses. That’s very stressful! It’s not surprising that people feel powerless, frustrated, or anxious when dealing with algorithms.

The best thing you can do for yourself as a creator is to build out other marketing channels that make you less dependent on algorithms. If you want to be on social media or enjoy creating content for these platforms, you want to be set up to harness the pros of socials and create more of a buffer around their challenges.

Sunaina: What are the repercussions of going viral?

Johanna: I’ve said it before and will repeat it: if you’re banking on virality in your marketing strategy, that’s like building your business in the casino. It’s nice when it happens, but you can’t build your business in hopes of one epic win. You have no control over virality, and waiting for a viral break to build your business or career as a creator sets you up for a lot of frustration. It’s not a marketing or content strategy for the long term.

Also, you need to be ready to go viral. What happens in your business when, thanks to algorithmic fairy dust, 5x or 10x people ask about your product or service? What if your merch requests skyrocket? What if what feels like the entire world wants to collaborate with you overnight? Can you deliver on that? What do the structures in the background of your operation need to look like so you can? You should be able to seize the moment if you’re playing the viral game. What can you do to set yourself up for that?

Sunaina: What are the three things creators can do to stabilize their content creation journey?

Sunaina: What's that one thing about social media that scares you?

Johanna: Several things, actually. For one, I'm deeply uncomfortable that about half of humanity uses and depends on Meta's platforms in one shape or form or another. No company should exist that has insights into half of humanity's communication. Their hold over global communication streams is insane!

I'm also very concerned about how blurred the lines can become between how we want to use these platforms and how the platforms have conditioned us to think we want to. Where does my user intent end, and where does Meta's data extraction and business strategy begin? I noticed it in myself, for example, when I saw something cool IRL and immediately thought I needed to post it on Instagram. There's nothing wrong with wanting to share what you see with others. Yet, I did wonder to what extent this was a genuine impulse versus one incentivized by the platform and the behavioral modification methods social media companies like Instagram use to keep us hooked (if you're curious about this, Netflix's The Social Dilemma is a good starting point to learn more). I've deleted my social media accounts for a while now and have noticed, surprise!, that the post-on-Insta-impulse is gone.

Sunaina: AI: ally or foe? Thoughts?

Johanna: Phew, that's hard to tell at this point. I'm fascinated by the possibilities AI affords us. I've been learning more about it to become more efficient at work (hehe, and get off earlier), and it's been really cool. We're on the brink of a new era in human life that is as much of a breakthrough as the invention of writing or the printing press.

I don't know enough about AI to tell whether it could have the potential to destroy us at this point. The pros and cons of AI is a big topic that extends far beyond what I can explore with this answer. What I do know, though, is that it's not great that with AI, we're seeing the same power dynamics play out as with social media companies. Yet again, a few companies dominate this new technology, just like a handful of companies dominate social media (Meta, Twitter, etc.) and the internet's architecture (Google). Just like there are only two central smartphone systems — iOS and Android — I'm concerned that only a handful of AI systems will be available. When you look at the number of AI products built on top of ChatGPT, I think there is a reasonable justification for that concern.

Sunaina: Do you have a prediction for 2024?

Johanna: If only I had a crystal ball!🔮

I’ll tell you my hopes and intentions instead. I’d love to see more creators and businesses build solid marketing strategies. That sounds very unsexy compared to “10x your following with ChatGPT”. However, it sucks if you have constant anxiety about algorithms or are burning yourself out creating content because you feel you need to do it for the algorithm. Even if you go on that epic trip in 2024, that background noise is a part of your life. It’s not fun to sit in front of the best pizza you’ve ever smelled, seen, and tasted in your life on a balmy summer night in Italy and think about the fact that you still need to create content that day and respond to comments and DMs or else the algorithm will be mad at you. Being engaged is part of being a creator, of course. Yet, I think setting up your content creator and solo business journey on social media is possible. Hence, you still have a life and can enjoy those precious, memorable moments without worrying about your socials. You’re a person, too, not just a personal brand on the internet.

I’ll be excited to see creators thrive because they know how to use social media with intention and are nurturing owned channels like a newsletter. I love to see solo and small businesses win and stop freaking out about algorithm changes because they know they have options and build those out. Socials can be a fit for you as a creator. A solid career as a creator comes from when your livelihood doesn’t depend on them, though. Real power is knowing you can do less or walk away and be fine. You deserve that level of chill!

So, that was our conversation with Johanna. Found this chat interesting? We recommend subscribing to her newsletter. 👇

Also, check out Johanna’s marketing agency right here. 👇

🥁 Event Alert: Building a UGC Portfolio & Landing Brand Deals with No Experience

We're back with another Masterclass, and this one's packed with great information. If you've been meaning to build and scale your UGC career and need help knowing where to begin, this session is for you.

We're hosting Nikolina Jurišić (also known as Nina), a UGC creator with five years of experience in content and social media. Her collaborations include brands across diverse niches, including beauty, apps, food, fashion, and jewelry. 

Why should you attend this Masterclass?
  • To learn how to craft a compelling portfolio that showcases your strengths and versatility

  • To learn how to develop a unique brand voice and craft pitches that grab attention

  • You'll also learn to identify relevant brands and network with industry professionals & build long-term partnerships with brands 

Register to attend this Masterclass for free. 👇

That’s it for this week! We’ll be back with another story next Tuesday. 👋🏼

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