Beyond the Hype: Do Writers Actually Need Social Media Marketing?

Hands holding a cell phone. There is a black notebook and pen on a white table along with a cup of espresso and a glass of water.

Instead this is an exploration of why writers and other creators are constantly told that we have to be on social media to run a business, build a brand, or sell our work. And more importantly, is it necessary to be on social media to be successful? 

This is not to disparage the self-expression, sense of community, or success that many creators and people have found on social media. It’s also not an attempt to say social media doesn’t produce marketing results. 

Instead, this post is for writers and creators who are exhausted by the constant demands of generating content and managing their social media presence. The ones disappointed by the results and who feel their effort isn’t reflected in the metrics. 

So here’s the numbers and logic to back up what you might already feel: that social media is a drag on your writing and business. 

Why are we told that we need a social media presence?

If you’re a writer, creator, or developing a personal brand, you’ve probably heard more than once that you have to be on social media. It’s positioned as a non-negotiable. If you’re not on social media then you’re not serious. You’re missing out on essential marketing. You’re not going to get where you want to go. 

But where did this edict come from? 

It’s not complete BS. The origins of the you-must-be-on-social-media-to-be-successful-at-anything stemmed from a very real acknowledgement that social media could cover a lot of marketing bases. Including: 

  • Increasing awareness 
  • Reaching new audiences 
  • Building relationships and community
  • Broadcasting messages easily 
  • Cost effective 
  • Low barrier to entry

It’s why people and businesses flocked to social media and experienced exponential success at first. And then told everyone else that they *had* to be on social media. But it’s also why social media companies got savvy about creating environments and products that profited from people seeking to market themselves or their businesses. 

Is social media still effective?

Again, this post is not a claim that social media doesn’t work. It can raise awareness, build brands, sell products, and more. Every day people are meeting their business, organization, or personal goals on social media.

But here’s the real secret about social media–the odds are not in your favor. 

In the early days of social media, people experienced wild success. Anyone, anywhere could find your social media profile or posts. Whether by organically searching for it, discovering it via a hashtag, or having it served up to them based on preferences or people similar to them interacting with it. 

This is where the you-must-be-on-social-media decree started. 

It was almost too easy to gain new followers, boost sales, or interact with customers. But that was also because social media was slow(er) to monetize than traditional media outlets. Once social media companies realized the sheer monetary value of paid advertising, everything changed. 

The algorithms were modified periodically. Paid advertising became crucial for business accounts. And news feeds became so packed you had less than a second to capture attention. 

Let’s unpack these changes a little more.


Each social media platform has different algorithms to sort and prioritize content in the name of optimizing the user experience. But you know what the algorithms also do? They make it harder to appear in the news feed or seem “relevant” unless you know how to play the game. 

While you can educate yourself on each platform’s algorithms, the tricky part is they’re continually updating. Each company evaluates the effectiveness of the algorithm, current user trends, and more in an attempt to optimize how content is displayed, read, and interacted with. Which means you can spend a lot of time and effort in keeping up with the algorithm. 

Pay-to-play models

Even if you’re an expert on the different algorithms, it can still be difficult to surface in people’s feeds without paying to get there. That’s because organic reach (i.e., not paying to boost or promote a post) is on a sharp decline. 

Here’s some organic social media stats for 2023:

*Engagement rate is defined as the percentage of interaction (likes, shares, comments, retweets, etc.) divided by the number of views (also called impressions). 

So literally the only way to get in front of people or encourage them to interact with your content is to pay up. And this isn’t by accident. Social media companies are funded by paid advertising. It’s also why it gets harder and harder every year to reach new audiences. 

Increased competition

In 2023, there are billions of people and millions of businesses on social media. Here’s a quick snapshot of the number of users on the top platforms: 

  • Facebook: 2.9 billion
  • YouTube: 2.5 billion 
  • Instagram: 2 billion
  • TikTok: 1 billion 
  • Twitter: 556 million
  • Pinterest: 445 million

Which means you are competing with millions of people and businesses also creating and posting content. Some of it will never cross your path or directly compete with your content, but those are staggering numbers nonetheless. You have to be incredibly compelling or eye-catching to stand out. 

What are alternatives to social media marketing? And are they as effective?

Now that we’ve explored why social media can be difficult to navigate and produce lower-than-anticipated results, you’re probably wondering, but what’s the alternative? 

Well friends, if you’re beginning to rethink your social media strategy, the good news is there are plenty of marketing options out there. 

Here’s a breakdown of some common marketing channels. Including interesting stats to know, what each channel excels at, and how it stacks up against social media.


Stats to know: 

What it’s good for:

  • A centralized location or landing page for everything about you, your writing, and your work. Think of it like a profile page but with WAY more options for customization.
  • Because you own your website, it’s less likely that you’ll ever lose access to it.
  • Advanced control over the design, content, and layout (i.e., a higher degree of customization).

How does this stack up against social media? 


Stats to know: 

What it’s good for:

  • Personalized and 1:1 communication with your audience 
  • A list of contacts that you can take anywhere
    • I.e., if your email marketing platform shuts down, you can export your list and go to a different platform. You can’t export your Twitter followers and move them to a new platform.
  • Nurturing your current audience towards a purchase or other action

How does this stack up against social media? 

Paid and organic search

Stats to know: 

What it’s good for: 

  • Paid search is great for driving new audiences to your website (i.e., people who haven’t heard of you but are searching for your product or service).
  • A robust organic search strategy (including SEO and good content) provides better visibility, trust, and authority for your website.
  • Organic search can be a cost-effective way to gain visibility.

How does this stack up against social media?


Stats to know: 

What it’s good for:

  • Increasing engagement with your website or content 
  • Driving new traffic to your website or other platforms 
  • Repurposing long-form content (blogs, eBooks, etc.) into smaller, digestible bites 

How does this stack up against social media? 

In-person events

Stats to know: 

What it’s good for:

  • Connecting with audiences that are already interested in you or your work
    • Think about it–nobody attends a conference or event unless they’re interested in the subject matter or speakers 
  • Selling products directly to consumers 
  • Building community 

How does this stack up against social media? 

Do writers actually need social media?

So the big question: do writers actually need social media to promote their work or build a personal brand? 

My take? Absolutely not. 

As you can see from this exploration of social media performance, it doesn’t quite stack up against other marketing channels. Sure, it was outpacing these channels ten, even five years ago. But those channels have caught up and they’re just as impactful. 

If creating content, posting said content, and maintaining your social media presence is a drag, maybe it’s time to step away. It’s a personal and business decision, and I’m not here to tell you that you *have* to step away from social media. 

But I am here to tell you that if it’s the right decision for you, go for it. It’s not as scary or detrimental as you think. See above–the numbers speak for themselves. 

Another caveat to this post–I’m not claiming the alternatives to social media require less time or energy. Or even that they’re easier to use. Or that this is giving you a free pass to not do any marketing and expect results. 

You will still have to work hard to maintain alternative channels. You will still have to learn how to use them effectively. And you will still have to market yourself in order to reach your audiences and grow your brand. The difference is that you can choose a channel and a strategy that feels authentic and fun. 

For example, I love writing my email newsletter. It was a lot of work to set up my email system, solicit people to join, and write it, but I love it. It feels authentic.

I’d much rather spend my time and energy writing something thoughtful and well-researched instead of posting a picture of my coffee mug because I need something to post. 

And you know what? I see better views and engagement on email than I ever did on social media. Plus, I’m happier.

Sources for infographics

Websites vs. social media

Emails vs. social media

Search vs. social media

Video vs. social media

In-person events vs. social media