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Get Dragon’s Den on the phone – I’ve had a fantastic new idea for a TV channel.

It’s called JustAds. As the name suggests, it runs wall-to-wall adverts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nothing else — just ads.

You can tune in and watch your fill of adverts for as long as you like, and the best part is that I’m going to coin it with all that ad revenue! 

And if you miss some, I’ll also set up JustAds +1, so you can catch up with your favourites an hour later.

What do you mean it’s a very stupid idea? People love ads. They’re always talking about them. Meercats, opera singers peddling car insurance, mindless buffoons getting overly excited about buying overpriced second-hand cars – we’ll have them all.

It’s literally money for jam!

Before you wander off thinking old Keef has finally lost it, think about the last time you looked at Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. How far removed from my idea of non-stop advertising overload is your newsfeed?

In the interests of science, here are my back-of-an-envelope stats of where we are today.

Starting with LinkedIn, my feed currently has 16.7% ads. (2/10, must try harder – Ed.)

Instagram comes in at 25% ads, and if you include all the other random dross it chucks at me, my feed is 80.6% from people I don’t follow. (For some reason, it thinks I want to look at car crashes all day!)

And I’m not on Facebook, so my daughter kindly worked out her stats instead – she’s seeing 30.3% ads in her feed.

I’m not on X (Twitter), and neither is anyone I know, which tells you a lot about the state of that platform.

So, we’re not at 100% ad coverage yet, but we’re nearly a third of the way there on Facebook.

When we do reach saturation point, remember you heard it here first.

Small Businesses need to make a choice

Given the ad-packed feeds we’re scrolling through on social media, it’s no surprise small businesses are feeling increasingly invisible. Organic reach just isn’t working any more.

But standing out comes down to making some intelligent choices, not just having loud voices or deep pockets.

The Crossroads: To Pay or Not to Pay?

Venturing into paid advertising on social media can feel like a terrifying step into the unknown. But running paid ads can be a rocket booster for your visibility, targeting the eyeballs you most want to attract and reaching that enormous audience you were promised you could reach for free.

But it’s essential to weigh the cost against your expected returns.

If you joined social media on the promise of free exposure, you may not feel like paying for it. If you’ve set aside little or no budget for paid ads, there is some creative legwork to be done before reaching for your wallet.

Creativity is Still King

In a sea of advertisements, being memorable is what’s important. Think outside the box. What makes your business stand out? Share stories, not just sales pitches. Engage with your audience as if they’re right there having a coffee with you.

Authenticity resonates louder than any ad spend can, and stories are sharable, which ads almost always aren’t.

Building Relationships Over Transactions

Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason. It’s not just a marketplace but a community. Engage genuinely with your followers and other businesses. Comment, share and participate in conversations. Building these relationships transforms followers into fans and fans into customers – you know the drill.

Just remember that all advertising costs something either in actual pounds sterling or in your time (which costs money).

Finding Alternative Avenues

Let’s not forget the world is wider than the walls of social media. Remember when Instagram and Facebook went down for a few hours last week? The amount of panic I saw in my WhatsApp groups was quite revealing.

As a business, you should never have all your marketing eggs in one basket. If all it takes is for Meta to crash and cause you to lose contact with your customer base, you’re doing it wrong.

Doing something different will lead you to untapped opportunities. Local events, collaborations with complementary businesses, networking, or leveraging print or email marketing can forge connections as meaningful as any ‘like’ on social media.

Should small businesses pack it in when it comes to social media? Absolutely not. But it’s not just about whether you pay to play. It’s about how you engage, share and stand out.

Social media is just one piece of the puzzle. Combine it with creativity, community building and exploring other channels, and you have a recipe for making a mark that lasts.

As for JustAds, maybe hold off on subscribing for now. Instead, let’s create content worth watching – ads or no ads.