I’m notorious for not following the business advice I give my clients. I do very little self-promotion, except in the way of business networking, and I rarely implement the email and other outreach campaigns that I tell my clients to do.

It’s probably because I spend a lot of energy implementing the tasks that I tell my clients they need. But I digress.

I can say that in the last year a lot of the energy that I’ve put into my clients’ campaigns has been about finding particular customers, about building community, about tailoring services to their particular needs, and about offering them a great product or service that they will want to use and reuse.

As it turns out, this has also led me down a path of doing more of the type of work I like to do. Sure, my staff is still implementing social media campaigns and a lot of Google-based advertising, but I am concentrating on discovering what makes my clients tick, and building around those activities so that they can do the work they enjoy and be really good at it while also supplying the best results to meet their customers desires.

As a result, my clients are busy. Their passion and skills show, and they are discovering their own interests and quirks about themselves. They are working on building quality relationships they need with their customers and delivering at a higher level. They are also realizing what their own end goals are and they are more targeted toward achieving the goals they set out to achieve when they first decided to go into business.

This makes me very happy not only because my clients are flourishing, but also because it has validated a belief that I’ve held for a while that social media posting and advertising have a very limited purpose, and it’s important not to waste money when there are so many opportunities to spend it on activities that will offer a greater return.

Don’t get me wrong, social media and advertising can help people discover a brand, and those avenues are good for reminding people of the value proposition and culture of a company. But I find that for my clients, who are mostly in professional industries, this early stage is not where customers are conducting business. It’s an introduction and a reminder that the company is out there, but “look at me” posts are not the thing that makes customers purchase or want to stay involved with a professional service provider.

Instead, they need trust and quality. The peak customer experience for professional businesses lies in being able to offer a variety of personalized services through a variety of delivery methods, on the customers’ timetable with very tailored attention toward customers’ very specific needs. Serve the customers’ in the manner they wish and they will pay for it.

As I’ve been saying this, lo and behold, it turns out that social media advertising has probably seen its peak. Am I a soothsayer, a trend watcher, empathic, or just common-sensical? I don’t know, but who doesn’t love being right?

This latest validation comes from one of the largest digital media companies out there, Hootsuite, whose CEO, Ryan Holmes, posted an article on LinkedIn this week noting how sick to death Americans are of advertising, and how they’ve learned to insulate themselves from it.

Ad blocking software is more popular than ever, with 86 million users blocking $20 billion worth of ads each year in the U.S. alone. Retargeting has grown so invasive it’s drawn comparisons to online stalking. Research shows that we’re sick of ads and we’ve also grown increasingly adept at tuning them out.

For those in the social media space, this raises a critical question: Does the future of social media still rest in selling ads? Not long ago, I would have said yes. … But now may be time to take those questions more seriously.

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite

Finally the big-time guys have caught up to me! More surprisingly, however, Holmes notes that businesses in China are way ahead of the U.S. in terms of using methods that I strongly endorse.

As a growing number of platforms in China illustrate, diversifying revenue streams — finding a hybrid of advertising, subscription and transaction-based revenue — may be the surest path to long time viability and financial success. …

For Western social networks, Chinese platforms can offer a more nuanced model. Ads remain important, but users can pay to opt out. On-site transactions are seamless. Value-added services, from VIP access to customizable skins, are relevant and plentiful. Above all, the lesson that Chinese platforms offer is that people — across the socioeconomic spectrum — are willing and able to pay for a better experience. 

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite

You don’t have to be an Amazon with a campaign that sends messages saying, “We thought you might like these products based on past purchases.” Many customers find the “thought hunt” to be a creepy exercise in AI. And even though it may feel personalized, tagging similar products to items that have already been purchased is pretty rote.

What companies have to do is remind people that they can mix and match their services to the customers’ needs, anticipate the time frame for when they will need them, then offer a way to purchase them that makes it affordable and procedurally pain-free with a follow-up option to confirm that all is well. Very little of this requires an ad budget, just some good old-fashioned attention to detail.