Since the dawn of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and, in more recent years, YouTube, bloggers have turned to social media platforms to promote their posts and gain a following.
And, even though many have already found success in doing so, when you weigh the work it takes you to build an audience on any social media platform to the risks involved… it gets hard not to ask if you can simply go without it.
Social Media’s Love-Hate Relationship With Blogging
I still remember the days of double-digit organic reach on Facebook in the early 2010s, when you could share a link to the latest post on your blog and get thousands of engaged visitors to it in a matter of hours.
For better or worse, those days are long behind us. Today, the average reach of an organic post from a Facebook page is anywhere from 1% on a rainy day to 5% if you’re lucky and, with stalling user base growth and growing competition for attention, it’s not going to get any higher.
Social media platforms have always had a love-hate relationship with bloggers. On the one hand, bloggers create content that keeps social media users interested and engaged. On the other, they lure users off social media platforms to their blogs, which eats away ad earnings.
Twitter has been a hit or a miss ever since it turned into a thing, which is why you won’t see many bloggers selling courses that teach you how to get hundreds of thousands of followers for your Twitter handle.
In fact, very few people can figure Twitter out well enough to come up with a system that’s capable of bringing results—for themselves and for others—consistently. And those who have seem to be keeping the goods to themselves. Can you blame them, really?
Pinterest was blogger haven for a while, and I used to come across countless bloggers, some of which I knew personally, boasting about the hoards of traffic that they’d get from the organic growth of their pins.
Until Pinterest, looking to continuously grow its ad earnings as any other social media platform does, made changes to its algorithm in 2020 to promote pins that kept users on their platform rather than have them click away from it.
Not every blogger wants to show their face on YouTube, but Google’s video-sharing website has been a valid expansion option for a while now.
Get it right, and you can attract tens, hundreds of thousands, and, in rare cases, millions of viewers for your videos, becoming an influencer, selling stuff through affiliate links, and getting a cut of Google’s ad revenue with the YouTube Partner Program.
Get it wrong, and you will have spent hundreds of dollars on costly gear as well as countless hours learning how to shoot, edit, and post videos on the platform, only to come out feeling like a complete failure.
Plus, with competition from TikTok’s short videos and Instagram’s newfound focus on video, the chances are that competition is going to get tougher, and we will see the same thing that happened to Facebook and Pinterest happen to YouTube: creators who keep users on YouTube will be rewarded; those who try to get them to click away will see their videos fade.
Naturally, these platforms make one tweak after another to their algorithm, and each eats away at the organic reach of the posts on them over time. This causes big brands to spend more money promoting posts and indie publishers like bloggers and niche website owners to run away.
Economists call this the Law of Diminishing Returns. At a certain point in time on any social media platform, known as the Point of Maximum Yield, you will have to keep throwing time and money to reach an ever-shrinking number of followers.
And some platforms just disappear into the ether, along with all the work that you put into them. Did I hear anyone say Friendster, MySpace, Google+?
Pros of Social Media
- If you build a large and engaged audience, you can send a lot of traffic to your blog whenever you publish a post;
- It’s easy to experiment—and you can find out which posts work and which don’t in as little as a few hours;
- Your blog looks more trustworthy to its readers when it has social media accounts with many followers;
- Following and influence means money. You can make good money from sponsored posts and collaborations with brands.
Cons of Social Media
- Your ability to drive traffic to your blog is at the mercy of the social media platform (and is vulnerable to algorithm changes);
- Designing images and writing posts for social media takes time that you could have invested in creating content for your blog instead;
- It’s easy to get distracted with “vanity metrics.” You can get all the likes in the world, yet not make any money out of it;
- Sooner or later, organic reach on every social media platform starts to decline, and you’ll need to invest more to reach less people.
Can You Grow a Blog Without Social Media?
Some say that it can’t be done, but trust me on this and don’t listen.
I’ve been blogging without maintaining social media accounts for my blogs for years—and it’s not like I came up with this stuff all by myself. I learned it from the courses of others who had mastered it before me.
You can grow a blog without social media if you create search-engine-optimized content that ranks organically on Google and build an email list that enables you to self-promote new posts to an engaged reader base.
Quitting social media can be scary, I know. Especially if, for the past several years, you’ve been spending a hefty portion of your time diligently promoting each and every post on it.
Besides, what are the alternatives?
Getting Traffic From Search Engines
Well, to begin with, there’s always good ol’ Google.
According to SEO Tribunal, there are 5.6 billion searches on Google every day. You only need to rank for a few of them to start getting thousands of organic search visitors to your blog posts a day.
This, of course, requires you to have a good system for understanding how people search for things on the Internet and how to create content that not only gives them answers, but ranks well on the Google search results pages where they’re looking for them.
There’s more than one way to achieve this, and I’ll point you to a few good courses in a moment.
But, to sum it up, it requires you to shift your writing away from the clickbaitiness of social media toward a more practical approach based on the things that people are actually searching for on Google.
For example, instead of writing a short post about a trendy topic intended to get a viral burst of visitors, you’d write a long and helpful one on an evergreen topic instead that gets you a steady flow of visitors from organic search every single day.
Does it work?
Here’s a snapshot from the Google Analytics property of one of my blogs:
This blog is one year old and has no active accounts on social media or any sort of social media following at all, yet, as you can see, it gets 50,000 readers/month every month, on a consistent basis.
The downside to this method is that it takes a long time—six to nine months, usually—for each post to achieve its best rankings in Google.
Unlike social media, where telling whether a post worked or not takes a few hours, you won’t know if a post made it to the top of Google’s rankings or not until at least half an year after you’ve published it.
If you want to learn about blogging without social media but you don’t know where to begin, check out my round-up of the blogging courses that are actually worth your money.
Wink, wink: there’s not that many of them out there that are good, and I’ve only given you the ones I consider pure gold.
Once you’re there—and you’re getting a sizeable number of organic visitors to your blog every single day—you can start to think about building an email list.
Building an Email List
Yes, you read that right: an email list.
Email has been around since 1971, when its creator, Ray Tomlinson, sent the first email message to himself.
A lot has changed since, but the way we communicate and consume content over email has remained constant: you have a message you want others to read, so you send it to them in the form of an email.
If you wrote the subject line and message body well, you get 21.33% of the people in your list to view it and 3.99% of them to click on the links in it. Suppose your email list has 10,000 subscribers. That’s 400 visitors to your blog every time you send an email!
|Email List Size||Average Click-Through Rate||Traffic to Your Blog|
(per Sent Email)
|1,000 subscribers||4%||40 visitors|
|10,000 subscribers||4%||400 visitors|
|100,000 subscribers||4%||4,000 visitors|
Compare that to the shrinking 1-5% organic reach on Facebook and the fact that you own your list—without being dependant on any social media platform’s algorithm—and building one suddenly starts to look like a no-brainer.
You don’t need social media to become a successful blogger. If you create content that’s optimized for search engines and build an email list, your blog can have tens, hundreds, and why not millions of visitors a month and earn you a living.
At the end of the day, whether to scale your activity on social media platforms down or end it altogether is a choice that you need to make for yourself. Some bloggers benefit more from being on social media than others.
Still, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought here. And I’m curious to read your take on the topic in the comments below!