Astrid Bracke mentors small business owners, freelancers, and creative individuals, steering them to work in a slower, gentler and more profitable way. She advocates for a departure from hustle culture, offering insight into running a sustainable business, and shares her thoughts on flourishing in business without relying on social media.
Thriving in business without social media
The first time I considered marketing my business without social media was quite early in my business. I was at my favourite coffee place, self-consciously rearranging the teacup, tray and notebook on the table to create the perfect Instagram flat-lay. It’s not that I stood out in this respect: lots of other people were taking similar shots in that cafe. But it suddenly hit me: I can’t even have a cup of tea anymore without feeling like I need to turn it into a piece of marketing. I just want to have tea. And mentor people. In other words: live the life I’d dreamed of when I started my business and do what I loved—and was best at.
I realised that I didn’t want to go back to Instagram. I wanted a different business and a different life.
Marketing my business on social media
This month it’s been two years since I left social media. For the first three years of my business, I used Instagram to market my mentoring business. During that time I tried loads of different things: mini-challenges, talking to Stories, a Reel or two. I tried flat-lays, carousel posts, quotes and posts mixing text and images. I created my own marketing plan weeks in advance and tried to repurpose other content for social media. The strategy that worked best for me was settling on theme days: Monday was for “Monday mantras”, Tuesdays for selling something/sharing about the work I did, Thursdays for either something business-related or a post on what I was reading (to add a more personal touch), and Fridays for what I called happylists.
This structure solved one thing I struggled with: knowing what to post about. Yet it also meant that creating posts, posting them, engaging with other people and keeping up with the scroll created a lot of work for me.
It never really felt like me. Marketing my business, especially on social media, felt like this whole other job that I was supposed to be doing. A job that I could never really get on top of as the rules kept changing and features kept getting added.
In the months before I left social media for good I’d been slowly putting less emphasis on marketing through Instagram. I started using Pinterest to direct people to my website and blog. I’ve always loved writing my newsletter and I brainstormed ways of making it work harder.
Yet when I left Instagram for good it was fairly abruptly. I’d just launched my guide: Business boundaries that feel good, and needed a break but didn’t anticipate it being longer than a month or so. During that time I developed severe clinical depression and a month turned into six months before I started even thinking about social media again. At that point, as I was more or less rebuilding my life, I realised that I didn’t want to go back to Instagram. I wanted a different business and a different life.
I’ve discovered that I can market my business in a way that feels good, easeful and joyful.
What happened to my business after I left social media
The short answer to the question of what happened to my business when I left social media is “nothing”. My business didn’t go down in flames.
The slightly longer answer is that my business is now thriving, that newsletter subscribers and new clients find me without a single social media post. This isn’t necessarily because I left social media (although many of the people I work with are drawn to me precisely because of that reason). But leaving social media also didn’t destroy my business—quite the opposite in fact, as you’ll learn in my post about six lessons from two years without social media.
To be honest, I never made a lot of sales through Instagram, which made leaving easier. On the other hand, I also didn’t have the safety net of a large audience or following anywhere: neither on or off Instagram. When I left I had fewer than 130 newsletter subscribers, about 3k monthly impressions on Pinterest and 250 monthly website visits. According to conventional business marketing advice, leaving Instagram was a bad idea.
Yet for my own mental health, for my life and for my business, leaving Instagram has been great. It cleared up the space in my mind and week that I needed to reconsider my marketing as a whole. I’ve discovered that I can market my business in a way that feels good, easeful and joyful. I never thought marketing was my thing, but now I genuinely enjoy it.
What’s changed is that marketing now feels like an organic and aligned part of my business. Even when I was trying to repurpose blog and newsletter content into Instagram posts, creating these posts never felt part of my business. It felt like something outside of my business. Like a chore or busy work.
Follow your own inner compass and intuition to create a business that really fits you and your life.
4 tips for marketing with or without social media
- What are your strengths? Marketing can feel enjoyable if you use your strengths and lean into what lights you up. Love video? Great! Add it to your blog, newsletter or social media. Love writing? Focus on writing blogs and newsletters, improving website SEO (always a good idea) and creating written materials. Love speaking? Start a (mini) podcast, pitch to be on other people’s podcasts and create audio guides.
- You don’t have to market your business a certain way or on a certain channel just because conventional marketing advice tells you to. You don’t even have to market through a certain channel just because it seems like that’s where everyone is. Follow your own inner compass and intuition to create a business that really fits around your life.
- Review your marketing ecosystem and marketing wheel. Getting clear on my marketing ecosystem, and the marketing wheel tied in with it, makes sure that all of my efforts tie in together and that they direct people to where I want them to go: to. My website. You can learn more about the marketing strategy that works for me.
- It’s not all-or-nothing. Many of the people I speak to and work with don’t want to leave social media; they just want to spend less time on it. Even though the algorithm wants you to post as often as possible, you can decrease the frequency, use Instagram as a shop window that you update weekly, monthly or seasonally so that people can still find you. Use the energy you have left to explore other channels of marketing.
Astrid Bracke is a mentor for small business owners, freelancers and creatives who want a slower, gentler and more profitable business. She’s passionate about helping them create a business away from the norm of productivity and hustle culture, choosing a business that fits their lives, bodies and humanness. Find out more through her website, subscribe to her Substack newsletter and discover her mentoring offers and courses.