This episode is all about social media – the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to utilizing it as a business owner.

I’m speaking with Bonnie Bakhtiari, a brand strategist and designer for creative entrepreneurs, as well as a coach for fellow graphic, brand, and web designers. 

She specializes in crafting high-converting, strategic brands for her custom design clients. And she currently teaches fellow designers how to generate consistent income and connect with their ideal clients on repeat through the Brand Strategy School, her signature program for designers.

In this episode, we cover:

  • How Bonnie made the decision to move away from a relatively large Instagram/Facebook audience in favor of more relationship-based lead generation that better supports her time, energy, and creativity
  • Social media as an extension of capitalism
  • Managing burnout and low energy as a business owner

Read the full transcript

Bonnie Bakhtiari  0:01  
This is gonna kill us. This is going to kill us if we just keep doing this. And to me social media is an extension of capitalism. And if we look at social media and how it is trying to commodify our attention and our minds and our energy, we are we are this commodity.

Meg Casebolt  0:21  
You’re listening to social slowdown, a podcast for entrepreneurs and micro businesses looking for sustainable marketing strategies without being dependent on social media. Social media is a double edged sword. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected. But it also can feel like an addictive obligation. And it’s even more complex for businesses, your audience might be right there, but you’ve got to fight with algorithms to maybe be seen by them. So whether you want to abandon social media altogether, or you just want to take a month off, it’s possible to have a thriving business without being dependent on social media. This podcast is all about finding creative, sustainable ways to engage with your audience without needing to lipsync send to cold DMS, run ads or be available 24/7. Let’s get started. Hello, we are here on the social slowdown podcast. I am Meg Casebolt, your host and I’m here today with Bonnie Bach tre from B is for Bonnie design, and also the brand strategy podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. Bonnie.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  1:22  
Thanks so much for having me, Meg, I am so excited to get to chat with you today.

Meg Casebolt  1:27  
We actually connected on your podcast, probably like two weeks ago and had so much to say that I was like, Okay, let’s just take this conversation and roll it into a part two on my podcast because our values are so aligned. And we chatted about so many things that felt like they belonged both in the branding conversation and in the space of this kind of digital marketing ecosystem. Place where we are right now. So Bonnie, before we leave, right, and just if you want to introduce yourself very briefly and say who you are, what you do, who you serve, I would love to start there.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  2:00  
Yeah, well, I mean, like you said, I’m Bonnie Bakhtiari. I am a brand designer and strategist for women lead service based businesses. I work primarily with creative entrepreneurs. And I’ve been doing this since 2012. It’s my absolute, like, just honored to be able to craft elevated high converting visual brands and websites for my clients. And I’ve actually just fallen in love with it so much that since 2015, I’ve been educating and coaching fellow graphic brand and web designers on how to build a life giving profitable design business as well. So that’s a little bit about what I do. I’m based in beautiful Waco, Texas, and I am a absolute nerd when it comes to all things strategy. And so like you said, Meg, when we were chatting on my podcast recently, the way that the conversation even after we stopped recording, just the way that it continued to blow. This just feels like such a fantastic way for us to keep chatting.

Meg Casebolt  3:05  
Yes. And one of the things that I loved that we talked about on your podcast is how when we first started our businesses, you know, you were 1011 years ago, I was about eight or nine years ago. So the marketplace was very different than where it was like you could throw up a post and be like, Look at this pretty thing that I did. We won’t be like, cool, we’re How do I find out? How do I give you money. But you with the online space having evolved so much. And more and more people coming online and more people just hanging up shingles and going well, I can do that. without necessarily having the the experience or the skill set. It’s gotten to be a very loud, saturated place. And so one of the things I love about your approach to branding is, you know, trying to make sure that everyone has this unique way of coming up with our strategy of explaining what it is that they do, so that we don’t get lost in this very busy marketplace.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  3:59  
Absolutely. And for me, you know, when I look at social media, when I look at the way that brands are utilizing social media, especially to show up and to get out in front of their ideal clients. You’re right, it can get so noisy, because just the sheer volume of people that are doing this same exact thing. It’s bonkers. And so from a brand standpoint as as the entity, the person, the team who’s creating that content, that can feel really exhausting over time, that can be something that like absolutely leads us to this path of burnout. And you know, for me, that’s not sustainable. So when I look at marketing and showing up on social media, it’s not a shouting match. It’s not it’s loud out there. So how can I be louder? Instead, it’s how do I say something that’s honest, that’s true to what I believe that Allah is with my brand’s values, and enables me to connect with the handful of ideal clients that I know are out there for me, how can I connect with those people? Right. And I think that the way that social media is designed, there’s this pressure that we might feel to be creating content that’s, that’s gonna go viral that’s applicable to the masses, like we want to, you know, put something out there, or we see other people putting this content out there that’s performing well, and it’s not necessarily heavily niched down. And it’s instead it’s, you know, kind of pulling on, on, you know, social media trends or trending audio, or, you know, something like that. And I’m not knocking that, like, if that works for you. That’s amazing. And I love that for you. But what I find, just in my own experience, and with the majority of my clients, they would much rather focus on creating a message whether whether they’re sharing this on social media, or they’re sharing it in, you know, on a blog, or podcast, or YouTube channel, an email list something a little bit different. They’re focusing more on how can I connect with the real living breathing humans who are for me and for my brand, and who I know that I am so well equipped to serve through my services. And so it’s, it’s more about having a conversation, it’s less about creating this content that’s like sensational and incendiary, and it’s designed to be viral. And it’s more about creating this content that is relational. And that is conversational, and that is built from that place of values. Because we’ve seen over and over again, I mean, there are entire books written to this about how values based branding is so transformative, not only for the brands, but for the clients and customers because as humans, we can connect with people and with businesses that share our values. It’s just such a great like, man, it’s just it’s Jelen. It’s so good, we love it.

Meg Casebolt  7:03  
Totally. And I think one of the things you said here was like you using your messaging and using your outreach strategies to connect with use the term handful of ideal clients. And I think that a lot of the approach to social media and to marketing is not, there’s a handful of ideal clients out there is what you were saying about? Well, if you go viral in your, if you follow the trends, and you create something that people are talking about, then you build your brand awareness. And you have this, you know, people are if people are talking about you all press is good press right. But that’s much more of a mass marketing strategy of you know, someone’s all had a Superbowl ad, I don’t know, I didn’t watch the Superbowl. But that’s how people were getting found 20 years ago and getting their names out there. But now in this new digital marketing space, it doesn’t have to be huge. And I love to do as the term incendiary. Like, it doesn’t have to be some big controversial thing. It can just be I can do what you need me to do for you. How can I help you? How can I support you? How can we be humans together? Now what I really want to kind of dig into here with you is how this works for you, when you are both creating your own messaging that will get you clients, and helping your students to create messaging that may have a different goal. You know, I struggle a lot with this with our business where it’s like, we’re teaching one thing, and we’re sometimes practicing another we’re teaching Search Engine Optimization. But that is such a competitive market that actually most of our clients come from word of mouth, but we feel like we have to show up on these platforms to prove that we know how to do it, even if it’s not necessarily the place that we’re getting, you know, like, there’s this kind of weird disconnect of walking your walk, but also giving people advice that will help them get similar results to you. I don’t really know what my question is your body. So Tom told me

Bonnie Bakhtiari  9:11  
I think I kind of got a question in there, I feel like I’m gonna go with it and see where in my experience, I can I can really relate to what you’re saying. It’s kind of this, you know, there’s this, like, you know, I’m over here, marketing to my ideal clients. These are my one on one branding clients. But then and so that’s one audience. And then over here, I have this second audience, which is fellow graphic brand and web designers who are looking for that, that education that’s going to help them kind of, you know, take things to that next level. And so, you could if you’re one of my students, you could look at the way that I am marketing my services as a brand designer, and you could follow it step by step. but I don’t actually recommend that my students do that. What I focus on is is Yes, I do share the templates, the strategies, the roadmaps, the kind of there are some plug and play resources inside the brand strategy School, which is my program for designers. But I like to focus more on how are we making decisions? How are we thinking, how are we problem solving. And so I focus more on teaching you how to think like the business owner that you want to be in order to be this incredibly powerful brand builder for your clients. And so with that being said, I really focus on encouraging my students to develop the sense of self trust, where you don’t need my permission to create your messaging, you don’t need me sitting there holding your hand, I mean, I’m here for it, and I am holding that space for you. And this container is that kind of support, but you know, your ideal client better than I do. And I want you to feel that sense of empowerment of you don’t need me to be some like, you know, almighty coach who’s like telling you, this is the way like, know, if what I share, if parts of it resonate, take that and use it and make it your own. But if some of what I shared doesn’t resonate, leave it for later, or leave it for never, and that’s your prerogative and I, you know, really wholeheartedly support that for, for everybody. But with that being said, it’s about kind of knowing who your ideal clients are. So even in that situation of I’m, you know, I have my service side of my business, and then I have the education side of my business. My ideal branding clients might not be my students, ideal branding clients. So if they are following my, if they’re looking at what I’m doing, and they’re, you know, copying it step by step, it probably won’t give them the same results that I’m seeing, because our businesses are different, our ideal clients are different. And that’s something that I really like to remind people about is, it’s easy for us to see what other people are doing online, because just the way that the internet is set up, everything that we’re doing is so is deeply visible to an extent. And so it’s easy for us to look at that and consume that and tell ourselves a story about oh, they’re doing XY and Z. So probably they’re seeing these kinds of results, or they’re making probably this kind of money, or, you know, whatever we tell ourselves these stories, but it’s so easy online to paint a picture that is really rosy and beautiful. And you know, like everything is sunshine and rainbows. But it might not actually be what’s going on behind the scenes like you don’t know, the overhead of someone else’s business. That’s something that I remind myself all the time, I don’t know what the back end of your business looks like. So you could be showing up on social media or sending me you know, your weekly emails on from your list. And you’re telling me that you just had the six figure launch. But how much of that was ad spent? How much of that was, you know, you’re helping launch what what actually have that is profit. So anyway, what I’m saying is, it’s easy to get that kind of email or to see that kind of post and be like, So and so had the six figure launch. And I’m over here like feeling like I’m scrambling to book a five figure client, and I don’t know what they’re doing that I’m not. But the thing is, if you actually had all the information about what the back end of that launch actually looked like, you might find that they’re not, as all together is they look like? I mean,

Meg Casebolt  13:52  
I have been underneath the hood of enough businesses to know that they probably aren’t. Yeah,

Bonnie Bakhtiari  13:58  
exactly. You can have really great

Meg Casebolt  14:01  
oil. Yeah, there are some great well oiled machines out there that are, you know, Evergreen sales, and they’re constant, you know, like, but it’s there are also a lot of people who are talking a big game and who are making a lot of money, but also spending a lot of money or they’re reinventing things every time. And so like, it’s a lot of work for the time investment that they’re doing. And that’s not something that they’re gonna come out and say, I had a million dollar launch, but I also like, didn’t see my family for the whole month.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  14:31  
Yeah. Yeah, well, I’m broke because I, I, you know, didn’t manage that incoming revenue the way that I really wanted to, and it got away from me, or, you know, we can see like, there’s just so much that we can’t see of like, oh, you know, I had a million dollar launch or a six figure launch. But maybe you know, your business is in debt. Like there’s so many things that were going on behind the scenes, but it’s like you Social media, I know we’re talking about that kind of like, specifically, the way that it’s kind of designed is it’s it’s making us as business owners show up and put all of these accomplishments on parade for our followers. So if you don’t feel like you have those those big wins to put out, makes you feel like you’re not, you’re falling behind. Successful, you’re not one of the cool kids. And that just doesn’t work for me. I mean, it’s like this. It’s just this, this flow to it, that doesn’t feel life giving, it doesn’t feel supportive, it doesn’t make me happy, it’s not a good use of my time or my energy. And so for me personally, and that’s another thing of like, you know, my, my students who are designers, maybe social media is their jam. And that’s where their ideal clients are, and they love showing up there, and if so, that’s great. But if that’s the case, definitely don’t copy what I’m doing, because I am. I am like, not consistent with my social media.

Meg Casebolt  16:06  
And I think there’s a really interesting thing that happens in the design space specifically, which is that because our social feeds Instagram, in particular, Pinterest, to an extent like, it needs to feel curated in order to prove to people that the design chops are there that you do have the skills to be a hireable designer. So even if you are getting your clients through, and I mean, we can talk about this in a moment, but I think you’ve told me that most of your clients come from word of mouth or from repeat referrals, like you don’t have to spend a lot of time on social, but because you have this education component where designers are coming to find you and they’re coming to vet you to prove that you know what you’re talking about. Even if you’re not going to be teaching them social media strategies, they may be walking in and going well, she needs to have a curated feed in order for me to trust that she knows what she’s doing. So that even if that’s not what you’re teaching, it’s almost like it’s a portfolio. It’s a it’s a proof of concept. versus you know, that’s necessarily the place where you are connecting with people, it might just be a validation tool for you for one of your two audiences. But you don’t have to be on it all the time either.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  17:20  
Right, exactly. And I’ve tried to be strategic about the content that I have created on Instagram, where that’s stuff that I repurpose on Pinterest, so reels that I’ve done with the intent of, of being discoverable to fellow designers and pointing them towards this evergreen free training that I use as a lead generation tool is part of that funnel, right? That is something that you know, I’ll you know, I’ll create these really fun reels, I’ll play with it, I’ll you know, do it when the energy feels like it’s there. And then I’ll post them and we’ll see, you know, the new registrations come in, we’ll see the signups we’ll see the likes the follows all the things. And then in a couple of weeks, I’ll just take that video and pin it to my Pinterest and let that live somewhere else or in you know, emails to my list. If let’s say in that reel, I was making a good point, or I was sharing something that I know is genuinely a value to my audience. I’ll link to that in it and an email that I’m sending out to folks like, just because it lives on social media, I don’t feel like it only has to be on social media, like I feel like I can take that URL, and I can sprinkle it across these other platforms, these other marketing tools that I have at my disposal, so I can make that go further for me and just in all honesty, I’m I am chronically ill. And so my energy is not consistent. And so there are times when I need to be really pulling back and really kind of harmony in my life for my and then there are times when I you know, I’m feeling 100% I’m feeling like you know, it would be fun for me to show up and, and you know, talk about some stuff on on Instagram or something like that. But repurposing has been a big part of my strategy with all of my content with blog posts with my own podcast with social media content, you know, all of this is I have designed it in a way where it honors my energy, it honors my capacity. And I you know, I feel good about that it works for me.

Meg Casebolt  19:40  
And I think that’s something that most people are talking about in the content creation world is the energetic needs that go into constantly needing to be on and performing and I love how you said sometimes I need to be able to pull back and then when I’m good, you know, especially if you’re on a visual platform like reels podcasting, you can sort of get away with it, you can be like, Okay, I’m gonna pull up the energy, but at least I don’t have to do my hair today. You know, blogging, you can certainly you can lay in bed and write a blog post, which I have absolutely done. My friend Bella Geisler wrote, she’s taken it down since but she wrote a manifesto called the we write, we write blog posts from our phones, about being a working mom, who is also trying to create content, like your kids at the playground, and you’re like, Okay, I just got to get this idea out of my head. And. But it can be very, something where you can create the content when you feel good. And then let that be a safety net or support network, when you do need to step away when things aren’t feeling as good. Or maybe just like not even bad, you just like tired, low energy or spoons or low, like, boom, days happen. And if you if you set yourself up that you have to go live every day, that’s exhausting.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  20:56  
It is. And if your leads are dependent on that kind of that kind of frequency of showing up of going live of creating reels of, you know, posting on Tik Tok, and you are demanding that your energy always be at this level. You know, I also I need to acknowledge I’m an introvert. And so for me, that like my husband, he’s an extrovert. And so he could literally talk to strangers all day long, every single day, that’s actually a big part of his job. And he loves it, he like comes home at the end of the day, and he’s like, just amped up and he’s like, I just had the best day. And for me, I would I would be like dragging on my like hands and knees, like pulling myself through the door, like exhausted if that were something I needed to do as part of my job. And so social media, it’s something that, you know, if you have created your lead generation system, in a way where it is so dependent on you showing up and being visible through a video or live or something like that, that’s just, and this is just my personal opinion. But that’s a lot of expectation to put on your energy and your capacity. And it might work for you for a while. But what I’ve seen is that over time, the more that we do this, the more that we’re expecting ourselves to perform at this level of the and the more that life happens, the more that other responsibilities in our businesses come up, you know, your clients need more, maybe it’s a, you know, it’s kind of like a higher support project that’s happening within your business that requires more of your time and energy, there’s not enough to go to all these things, and still show up on social media in that way. And if your leads are dipping, because that’s how you’re primarily generating leads, that can feel scary, because you know, that’s how you’re generating leads, and then sales and then revenue for your

Meg Casebolt  23:02  
business. And you have this scarcity fear thing. And if you’re, if you don’t have an evergreen system, if you don’t have content repurposing, if you don’t have a way to constantly be bringing new people into your world, and you have to rely on your energy, and then your energy dips, and your revenue dips, or your lead gen dips, then the panic leads you to push harder, instead of, you know, finding ways to make things simpler, or to automate or to delegate, which can be a very vicious cycle.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  23:31  
Exactly. And what happens is like, in our bodies, when we’re experiencing that kind of stress, we are getting flooded, our bodies are getting flooded with cortisol and cortisol studies show that that is a stress hormone that actually makes it difficult, it basically shuts down parts of your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that is focused on decision making and problem solving. And that’s the part of your brain that you want to be like 100% and doing the most for you. But the stress is actually hampering your cognitive ability. And so when you’re, you’re feeling that stress, it’s very real. But your brain isn’t operating at its full capacity and allowing you to shine and do this the problem solving that you do as the creative entrepreneur that you are. And so then that gets frustrating because you’re like, Oh, this is a problem, but I can’t fix it. And I, you know, I like need the energy to create these videos, but I don’t have the energy, and then you’re stressed and frustrated. And that then creates more cortisol which is flooding your brain with that and then it’s just this like self fulfilling cycle. That is the absolute pits and so when I see people who are in that kind of like that loop, I say I know that this does not feel doable. I know that this does not feel like realistic, but I need for you to step away from the problem even if it’s just for like three 30 minutes like I need for you to give your brain a break. Because if we can get your nervous system, like more like less activated, if we can get it more calm, if we can get, you know that cortisol those levels going down, then all of a sudden, we’re opening up, we’re returning your cognitive ability and at that function to, to more of its optimum regular levels. And then you can go back literally with kind of like a fresh, fresh mind, and figure out a solution.

Meg Casebolt  25:32  
And what’s amazing to me is how revolutionary that feels for something that is so important, and like really good self care. But we, I mean, as a society, we’ve been told, here’s capitalism, you have to work, you have to work all the time, you cannot take a break. If you take a break, then you’re failing, you’re not being productive, what’s your output? And I think sometimes we have this, I think you and I talked about this a little bit on your podcast. And then after we finished recording, I was like, Oh, this is the fun part of the conversation for me, which is like, you know, if you are not having some sort of productive output that is measurable than what is your value, if you are not being seen in these spaces, where somebody can give you feedback and reward you, then are you even? Are you even lifting bra, like, it’s just, there’s such a careful if I was overweight, but like, you know, there’s a feeling that you need to perform, versus being able to take care of yourself. And the hustle of productivity is so hard for those of us that have chronic illness that have families, we’ve all we’ve all burned out at some point and had to think of how to do it smarter. And that’s where the strategy comes into place. That’s where we have to think, you know, slow down on the production, get out of that technician mode, and move into more of a managerial or long term planning mindset, which is not an easy transition. And it sounds like there’s also something that you’re you’re teaching in your program and in your your school is like, you don’t have to always just be creating something new, let’s figure out what your ideal client needs and create something that’s smarter. Even if, like, we’re also scared, we all respond to these Facebook ads that are like make your life easier, work less, but then when it works, we’re like, Well, I’m not working enough, what the hell? What am I going to do to fill that?

Bonnie Bakhtiari  27:36  
It’s what has been revolutionary for me is in recent years, examining where this where all this, like internal stress was coming, like, and when I sat with it, and this is over the course of, you know, many weeks, many months, I realized this is this is just internalized capitalism, this is why I’m feeling so anxious, so agitated, so stressed, I’m feeling like, you know, even though by all, you know, all counts, I’m incredibly productive. It’s not enough, you know, it’s, it’s wild. And so years ago, I really sat down. And I looked at just the amount of internalized capitalism that I was carrying around. And I had this this realization, and this is not new, this is not revolutionary, but to me, because no one had sat, no one had sat me down and ever had this conversation with me before. And it absolutely was this realization of capitalism was not designed to care for you, as a human capitalism was designed to make you a productive worker, to make companies more profitable, and to keep the economy going. So capitalism does not care that you’re burned out, capitalism does not care that you have little kids at home that need you. Capitalism does not care that you are chronically ill. Capitalism does not care. It is not a compassionate system. And so there’s this there was this like dichotomy that I was experiencing where I am a very compassionate person, and I care deeply about people, the quality of life they’re experiencing, I care about my quality of life, and I want for, right, to be safe, and to have an equitable existence and to, you know, like, have all our basic needs met, and I don’t want them to have to toil and labor and sacrifice their bodies on the altar of capitalism to make it happen. I’m weird. And this dichotomy that I was experiencing of like, this doesn’t feel good, and I can’t figure out what it is. And then I looked at it and I was like, Well, that’s because the system that I’m operating under doesn’t care and it never cared and I’m asking it to care, but that’s not how it works. And so I have to do something different. And I have to kind of break out into this, this third space, this other space. And that’s so incredibly scary. Like, that’s terrifying, because it’s not what you see a lot of people doing. It’s not when I look at my parents, when I look at the people around me, when I look at the communities that I’m plugged into, a lot of them are still, you know, they’re not happy to be participating in this way. But they don’t feel like they have any other choice. And I just kind of came to this conclusion with it, where I was like, this is this is gonna kill us, this is going to kill us if we just keep doing this. And to me, social media is an extension of capitalism. And if we look at social media, and how it is trying to commodify our attention, and our minds and our energy, we are we are this commodity. And I went, I signed up a million years ago to start using Instagram. Back when it was like all horribly, like filtered photos of our lunch. And, you know, I’m back when it was like, actually, like chronological and fun. When I signed up to use Instagram, I didn’t, I didn’t say, I didn’t opt into knowingly, hey, absolutely, I will trade my time and my mind and my energy for the ability to use this app. I didn’t know that. And then, you know, years later, I look at it. And I’m like, This is what it is. I am whenever I’m on this app, and I’m scrolling and I’m getting served. ads. And it’s ads in my feed it’s ad in reels, it’s ads in stories, it’s like literally everywhere. And you look at it and you’re like I’m I’m what’s being sold to these advertisers. And I never signed on for that. And I don’t feel good about that. And if I am trying to find ways to break away from the harmful effects of capitalism in my life, why would I daily opt into it on my phone, it just doesn’t feel it doesn’t feel good, and it doesn’t feel supportive? And it’s not, you know, kind of divorcing it from a business standpoint, just looking at it from a personal user, like, as an individual, I have to look at how does my use of this align with my values. And it doesn’t, and I’m not saying that, like, Instagram is, is the devil. But if we’re honest about these social media platforms, like Facebook, and Instagram, they are little little tech babies that were born out of this capitalism, capitalistic system. And so they are by default extensions of capitalism, but we our time, our attention, our minds were the commodity that’s getting served to their advertisers. And that’s how these companies are making money. And it is just a matter of, you know, I don’t love that for humanity. And I don’t love that for me.

Meg Casebolt  33:14  
One of the things that’s coming up for me is you’re talking about social media as an extension of capitalism is, you know, I think about Henry Ford and the industrial revolution and turning people into parts of a machine that create something together, but but because of the way that the machines are built, like you try to take people’s brains out of the equation, so that you can just put an operator in plunk, and they can move the pieces, right, there is a part of capitalism that tries to bring our brains down to a tomtom level that it doesn’t want us to think. And if we’re not thinking, Who benefits from that? If we are Mindlessly scrolling, who benefits from that? And I think about all of the conversations that are happening on these platforms around systems of oppression, you know,

Bonnie Bakhtiari  34:10  
really going to hear about what it is, yeah, you know,

Meg Casebolt  34:13  
think about what happened with George Floyd, where like that video would not have been seen if it weren’t for social media. So it spread wide and viral and people were upset. And yes, there were protests in the street. But there were also a lot of people going well, that sucks and then just kept flipping through. Because not to connect with things that are deeply problematic. Because while I was on a social media platform, this is an entertainment tool, not an education tool, not an advocacy tool. And it’s just such a difficult space to navigate because, like we are this commodity, we are being served things and we’re not seeing some things that are out there because that’s not part of our algorithm that doesn’t pay their bills, right like who is benefiting from that? what our expectations are on these platforms?

Bonnie Bakhtiari  35:03  
Right, right. And it’s tough. And I mean, honestly, this is such a nuanced and complex issue. And I certainly don’t have certainly don’t have solutions. But like, if we what’s tough is like, you look at social media platforms like this, and you look at the amount of good that they do like the way that they’re connecting, like, oh my gosh, the way that social media connects people, connects, you know, communities, like their activist queer communities, like so many trans people, there are so many incredible humans that are finding the support and connection they need, from relationships that are, you know, on social media, and I think that’s beautiful. But what’s really tough is and where I kind of right now, I’m kind of stuck with it is like, we keep asking social media to be social, we ask it to be community care, we ask it to be a business marketing tool, we ask it to be a new source, we ask it to be a way to keep up with our friends and family and the people that we went to high school with. We’re asking social media to be a lot of things. And the companies that own these platforms are happy to pretend to offer that support and to do that, but what is the exchange? What’s kind of like the the the trade off here? Like, it’s not like these.

Meg Casebolt  36:25  
You’re giving them your time? And your eyes and you’re giving them your attention? So yes, you’re absolutely right, there is a space for community connection, there’s some space for a marketplace, there’s a space for keeping in touch with people and for developing communities where we can get together in person, we can develop these relationships and connections. But the trade off is our time, our energy, our attention, our focus. And sometimes there’s some negative shit that comes, if not all positive all the time. So

Bonnie Bakhtiari  36:55  
absolutely. It’s so hard to navigate.

Yeah. And that’s why like, I will never judge someone’s decision to use or not use social media, as a person as a business like you have to it is, it is wild out there in this world existing as a person. And so you, you just do what works for you, and what serves you and what protects your time and your energy. And you’re really what what helps you care for your nervous system, and the best way, but I’m personally, and this is, I say this as someone who for years, the bulk of my leads came from Instagram, like the bulk of my business came from this platform for literally years, I say, you know, there came a point where I was like, this is just this is not it. And at that point, I had noticed that because my business in the early days relied on social media to generate leads. Over time, as I worked with more and more and more clients, I was able to build relationships with those people. And those relationships then turned into the foundation for what is now a referral network, like an internal referral network. So the bulk of my leads come from people like actual humans, and I really do believe that

Unknown Speaker  38:21  
one connections that they can say, I’ve worked with you and I want this person to have that experience why?

Bonnie Bakhtiari  38:27  
Yes, it’s it’s such an honestly, it’s an honor, whenever one of my former clients, mentions my name, in a space where I am not. And their industry friend reaches out to me and says, Hey, I heard about you from so and so. And I’d love to chat with you. And that’s such a, that’s such a great way to like get back to really why I started my business, I started my business to help people to serve entrepreneurs build profitable, powerful brands that help them connect with their ideal clients and do what they love and have an impact and generate the revenue that supports the life they want to live.

Meg Casebolt  39:05  
And so first clients also came from word of mouth and referrals. And this is where I am at a point in my business where it’s like, the my first clients came from personal connections. And then I grew out this sort of audience of, you know, grow the email list, build the podcast, do the YouTube channel, build the social, like have a leverage platform to reach more people. And then the more people got to know me, the less I needed the leverage platform. And the more I just still get personal word of mouth referrals. And sometimes I’m like, I wonder if I would have been farther ahead if I didn’t bother with all that stuff. And I just like leaned on word of mouth and leaned on people I already knew like, would I have made more money and a lot less stress if I didn’t have to do all this circus performance?

Bonnie Bakhtiari  39:52  
These maybes are the questions. I actually recently on my podcast did two separate episodes. One about how I stepped away from social media. And to be fair, I still, you know, I’m like, I show up there occasionally, like I still, there are some people in my life that like that is the only way that we keep up with each other. So I’m not ready to like delete all my accounts just yet. But, um, I recorded two episodes recently where one was talking about, you know, why I, how I’ve kind of swapped out my social media usage as a lead generation tool for my business. And I’m using people lead marketing instead. And then I did another episode, honestly, talking about lead generation for new designers. Spoiler, I don’t even recommend that new designers focus on on all this time and energy and creating social media accounts, I think that really the gold, your best opportunities right now in this season, as a startup, as a freelancer, as a new business owner, are the relationships you already have. So friends, family, and people that you went to school with people, you know, friends of friends, someone that you met, I don’t know, if summer camp, you know, like decades ago, you never know the humans that you already have access to what kinds of opportunities they could bring to you and your business. And that I find is more worth the time and the energy than setting up these platforms, they are going to, in the long run, if you’re not careful, they’re going to suck up more of your time and energy because that’s what they do. That’s how they’re designed to operate. And it’s pretty tough to resist that.

Meg Casebolt  41:28  
And when I think about like, where my money has come from, there are two or three relationships, business coaches, copywriters, designers, were probably, I can, I could name three people right now that they have brought in a third of my revenue over the last eight years, because they just are really good collaborators, and partners. It’s not even like this is my next door neighbor, and she needs a website. I’ve never met any of them in person. But they’re just, they’re so values aligned. And they have people who who need my services, and I’m constantly we’re sending these, you know, I get one of them is my friend Megan flat, and we just like we’re just throwing the same money back and forth between our businesses all the time. But that’s sort of like that’s what referrals do. And at the end of the day, it’s this, like, everyone is rising because we have these networks, and these rolodexes of people that know how valuable we are. And we don’t have to go out and find new people and interrupt their scrolling. Sometimes it’s just who do you already know that knows how good you are? Tap into that? Absolutely. Right. So Bonnie, if people want to come listen to your podcasts, find out more about you hear about your training, maybe work with you, what’s the best way for people to connect with you.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  42:48  
So my website is going to have all of those handy dandy resources. So if you go to B is for Bonnie You can learn more about working with me through my branding services. If you’re a designer, you can check out a free training that I have for you. And if you I assume since you’re here, you also like podcasts, you can check out my podcast, the brand strategy podcast or you can find it on Apple podcast, Spotify, really wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Meg Casebolt  43:18  
And we will make sure to include links to those two episodes you just mentioned about your marketing strategies and what you recommend for new designer so we’ll make sure to put those specific episodes right there in the show notes as well. So go check those out everyone and Bonnie, thank you so much for this amazing conversation.

Bonnie Bakhtiari  43:35  
Thanks for having me, Meg.

Meg Casebolt  43:38  
Thank you so much for listening to the social slowdown podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe or come on over to social and sign up for our email list so you never miss an episode. We’d also love if you could write a review to help other small business owners find the show you can head over to social Or grab that link in our show notes for easy access. We’ll be back soon with more tips to help you market your business without being beholden to social media. Talk to you then

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