When you’re just starting your business, a lot of the job is building your brand. There’s a lot of pressure to start building your audience STAT, and nowadays the fastest way to do that is through social media. If done properly, your brand can spread like wildfire. And maybe it’s just me, but the general feeling around building your social media presence is “the sooner the better,” even if you don’t have your website or product fully fleshed out yet. But is building your following really more essential and pressing than building your product or service?

In my case for example, as a freelance copywriter and enthusiastic (read: stubborn) DIYer (aka Solo Scout), THE number one thing I need to do is build a website to showcase my writing portfolio. That alone takes a ton of work – pick a hosting site, choose a template, customize the site, design your logo, THEN after you’ve learned the basics of 10 disciplines that are not your own, it’s finally time to populate it with the one thing you set out to showcase in the first place. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have prior experience in some aspect of creating a website or the resources to hire people who are actually qualified to do the work, but if you don’t, this can be both daunting and super time consuming. But keep your chin up, because once it’s finished, your work is out there in the world ready to be found by some unsuspecting future superfan. Plus without it, you have no product to show potential clients. It’s absolutely essential.

Launching a website? Read Website Launch Planning: How to conquer your overwhelming to-do list.

BUT while you’re navigating the world of copywriting, freelancing, graphic design, AND web design, maybe (like me) you feel this pressure to devote a huge chunk of your already limited time to your new BFF, marketing. You’re putting all this hard work into building the most beautiful website you’ve ever dreamed of, now you have to get people to see it. Cue, social media.

It’d be one thing if you could just throw a quick lil’ post on Instagram or Facebook (or both if you’re feeling extra zesty!) letting your community know you have a super-cool new website you’ve been slaving over and for the sake of your friendship and out of the kindness of their hearts they should all go check it out. Ah, wouldn’t it be delightful if life were that simple? NOT SO FAST CHIQUITA BANANA! Don’t even THINK about posting something all willy-nilly, thinking you can just let people know all casual-like. NO. Before the thought of posting even breezes through your subconscious, you need a plan. Time to put your very sexy marketing hat on (which is definitely a beret, widely accepted as the sexiest of hats. Only second to maybe that oversized felt 10-gallon hat Pharell wears that looks like you could shield an entire family of mole rats under the brim during a downpour.)

Now, wearing your très chic Marketing Beret, you’ve mentally prepared yourself to once again pry yourself away from your chosen, beloved profession to begin tackling your biggest marketing project to date – your social media plan. You’ve got to consider which platforms to use, how frequently to post on each of them, different content or approach for each, AND an overarching strategy for the whole shebang. You end up spending an entire afternoon reading the pros and cons of various Instagram grid themes and googling how long you can stare at a computer screen before you go blind.

At one point in my descent into the deep, dark rabbit hole of social media marketing, just as I was slumping over in my chair and pulling my stupid beret over my eyes, I decided to call in back-up. I have a friend who actually understands Instagram. And even better – she enjoys it. She is a beautiful unicorn who, for our purposes, we shall call Teresa (also because her name is Teresa). After I relayed my frustration, confusion, and desperation with trying to build a website from scratch with zero prior experience while developing a complete, flawless social media strategy, she looked me straight in my glassy, blood-shot eyes and said, “Gab, is your website done? No? So where exactly do you plan to direct these potential followers/clients, in the 10 seconds you might have them on your profile? Finish your F-ing website.”

I should mention that quote was largely paraphrased because my memories of my days in the rabbit-hole are… fuzzy at best. But the message was clear. Why was I spending SO much time up front focusing on something that will eventually be useful for growing my business, but is completely useless to me now if I don’t have a product to show.

Think about the process of gaining a follower. Someone hears about or stumbles upon you, then hopefully they go to your profile to see what you’re all about. In those few seconds, they’re actually on your profile and actually might click on your website. After that, they may or may not see your posts, updates, and stories depending on the almighty algorithm’s mood that day. I would imagine it would be a hell of a lot more beneficial to capitalize on that initial profile view and HAVE a website to direct them to, rather than putting all your energy into gaining a follower with the promise of a website “coming soon to a profile near you,” then trying to get your post to show up in their feed once you actually launch your website, then trying to get them to click on your post, and THEN go to your profile to click your hard-earned link. That’s so many extra steps!

(Oh, and keep in mind should you choose to focus on building your followers first, you have to maintain your social media strategy, posting schedule, and audience engagement the entire time you’re building your website…)

So for those of you who, like me, feel this constant pressure to get your brand out there and build your following even before you have your website ready, call forth the voice of Teresa and ask yourself: where should my time, energy, and focus really be? If your work is social media and digital marketing, then yeah it makes sense for you to devote your time to building a killer social brand and following. It’s your job. But for the rest of us, it doesn’t serve us OR our brands to lead a horse to an empty well. Then you just have a thirsty, irritated horse.

And to that, I say neigh.


gabi defosse

Copy Director

Bali, Indonesia

After several years working in film packaging and comedy talent management in Los Angeles, then somehow transitioning into a role as a Client Executive at IBM, Gabi took over a year off, met the love of her life, traveled the world, and moved to Bali. There she met a woman who liked her extensive vocabulary and bizarre sense of humor. Now she’s a writer. Building Wildernest has given her a platform to help other women who may have taken a similarly circuitous route to figure out their true callings.

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