Interviews Newsletter

Interview: Johanna Renoth, founder of Bye, Social Media! 

“Say Bye to Elon and Mark!”

Johanna Renoth is the founder of Bye, Social Media!, an agency for marketing without social media. She helps small businesses, creators, and solopreneurs thrive away from the algorithms.

In this interview, she shares her insights into moving her marketing off all social media, how her PhD on social media inspired her to make the move, and what she’s learnt in the past year of pursuing this avenue. 

Food for thought here – enjoying what you do with your marketing is so important. 

I have mixed feelings about this. I agree with a lot of what Johanna says, but social media is a gift and we’re very lucky to have it.

I don’t take it for granted – it is a great time to be a creator. We can share ideas and connect with others for free.

If I stop enjoying it, I’ll stop doing it.

Tell us about yourself and why you started Bye, Social Media! 

I’ve always been an ideas person. I live in the realm of “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” Curiosity and enthusiasm led me to many career paths, including journalism, startups, VC, art, and photography.

Ultimately, I’m a creative at heart. The best occupation for me is at the intersection of business and creativity. 

The story of Bye, Social Media! starts with my frustration about social media. I hated promoting myself on socials and found no success in it. My curiosity led me down a path of trial and error in figuring out off-socials marketing for myself. 

When I realised others were also struggling with their disdain for socials, starting Bye, Social Media! was an organic next step. It’s been very fun so far. 

Who are you serving? Target audience and niche?

I currently serve solopreneurs, creatives, creators, and small businesses. I offer consulting on marketing and create off-socials marketing strategies. I also offer to write my clients’ newsletters and grow their audience. 

This niche is interesting because it’s not defined by an age bracket or industry. The common denominator is business owners’ frustration with social media marketing. They come to me because they want to get off the hamster wheel of creating content for socials and feel more free as entrepreneurs. 

For many, socials feel disingenuous, as if they had to fake a persona to make it on there. I recently received a message from an exasperated designer who said they only wanted to do their work, not pose as a content creator. I empathise with that very much. It’s challenging for social business owners or CEOs of small companies when much marketing hinges on them. 

Marketing always takes time and effort. It shouldn’t consume vast amounts of energy or emotion because you are on a platform that doesn’t work for you. 

You’ve done a PhD in Social Media – did this inspire you to move off socials? What have you learnt?

Yes, it 100% inspired me to move off socials. I never enjoyed using social media for work. I signed up because people at various stages of my career recommended I use socials. I got Twitter as a journalist, Instagram for photography, and LinkedIn as a founder. 

The PhD highlighted that not only did I not enjoy social media for work, but it was also at odds with my values. I didn’t want to build my business using the services of companies whose business models I found unacceptable. I don’t think you can find success that way. And if you did, it would always raise the question of the price tag of your values. 

Did you sell them for 1K followers? 10K? 500K in revenue? It’s a question I didn’t want to have to ask myself. 

Fundamentally, technology should serve humanity and not the other way around. This is especially relevant now, as we’re entering the age of AI.

With social media, that is not the case. Its purported benefits (connection, economic opportunity, self-expression) come at the expense of mental health, the robustness of democratic systems, widespread data collection & analysis, and manipulation through algorithmic feeds and nudges that undermine the autonomy of our minds. 

We’ve been using social media for almost two decades now. Its long-term effects are tangibly becoming visible. We’re atomised, disconnected, and distracted. How we’ve been using social media has incentivised people to turn themselves into or present as these singular, branded nodes. Yet, the fabric of humanity is interwoven and complex. 

How we perceive ourselves and our role in the world has changed since the advent of social media. This is especially noticeable in the conversation around personal branding. There’s a social expectation to build a personal brand on social media. The discourse surrounding it positions it as the best track to clout, fame, and success.

Yet, what happens when you distil the many faces of personhood into branding? 

Being human is complex and messy. Meeting other people requires nuance, understanding, and grace. Social media and branding culture flatten that. We’re incentivised to show bland versions of ourselves in a professional setting – and overshare even the most minute details of our lives in a personal context.

The algorithm magnifies both effects when it rewards certain sharing and posting behaviours with views and engagement – all in a battle for attention on the internet. 

I explore what happens when people as brands come together for communication in the public sphere, among other things. Doing so chips away at the open, messy, and sometimes challenging nature of public discourse that is so important for democracies. Personal brands don’t find compromise. They don’t need to. People do. Consider that representation is a central tenet of democratic systems. 

What happens when social media shifts the cultural paradigm to presentation, for example, an idealised version of the self on social media? 

Meta has almost 4bn monthly users. It’s important that we reflect on whether we feel comfortable with a company controlling communication and information streams for half of humanity with their algorithms and in their data centres. The companies who own these algorithms have tremendous amounts of power. The scale of their influence is mind-blowing. This is neither desirable nor healthy for democracies. 

Much marketing in the creator/online business world focuses on social media. There’s a gap in information and inspiration for alternative systems. 

What channels and strategies do you suggest for people who are fed up with socials? How can we do things differently?

I’m very frustrated by the groupthink in marketing and entrepreneurship. 

I understand there are people who enjoy making content for social media. The mono-focus on socials helps nobody, though. This is also a function of the algorithms. We see more of the same type of advice about social media marketing on social media. It pays off to produce more of the same kind of content. 

LinkedIn, for example, recently changed its algorithm. It now prioritises posts that share knowledge and advice – whatever that means. You can expect a deluge of repetitive content in your feed now. Yay. How boring is that? As unengaging as it is to consume that kind of content – it’s also not fun to make it.

What are you even doing if you’re not having fun with your business, at least occasionally? 

I’m even more frustrated by the standard advice around social media marketing: Get over it and just do it. It implies that if you don’t like to perform this type of marketing, you’re the problem and need to work on your attitude.

I wish business owners would spend less time figuring out how to game the algorithm and more time on how they can serve and delight their target audience with their marketing. 

From a strategic point of view, marketing without social media requires a mindset shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’. Business is a collaborative endeavour. We buy and sell from people; we’re connected to others through our products and services.

Marketing without social media reverts to the communal and social aspects of business. At its core, off-social marketing is an investment in people rather than algorithms and platforms. 

Here are four things to consider if you want to leave or cut back on your social media.

Find your strengths and build your marketing around them. That’s the prerequisite. Social media marketing has stuffed everyone into the same box. If the algorithm wants videos, videos you must make. 

Any sustainable marketing strategy for solopreneurs and small business owners leverages a person’s strengths and likes. If you like to write, write. If you enjoy speaking, explore podcasts. If you cringe at the thought of networking events, give yourself permission to stay at home. 

Please do yourself a favour and stop forcing something that’s not yours because that’s the trend or sounds smart. That’s a recipe for burnout and failure. Nobody connects to marketing that’s borne from misery. We’ve all seen a deluge of mediocre content that somebody made because they felt they had to. 

Joy, fun, authenticity, and candour are much more engaging and refreshing. Good marketing comes from the heart, not the head. 

Secondly, be creative with your marketing channels. If you hate writing, why not send a video newsletter? If you have no time to do an original podcast, why not record your newsletter to make the experience more personal and intimate?

Thirdly, explore collaborations. Offer cross-promos on your blog or newsletter, be a guest on other podcasts, and connect with people who are synergistic with you. Weave a net of people around you and support each other. 

And lastly, social media is fleeting with constant algorithm changes. If your business is going through an earthquake because the algorithm sneezes, you must make changes. Whether you want to be off socials entirely or partially, guide people towards a channel you own. This could be your website or a newsletter.

I like to imagine a marketing strategy like an octopus. Where does all activity point to? Whether you collaborate, have a podcast, network, or speak at a conference – it should direct people to what you define as your octopus’ head. 

What have you learned over the past year of your business? You ran a solo podcast for two seasons.

I went through a steep learning curve over the past year or so of my business. I learned two things in that period: that business is an inner game and to have a bias towards action. 

I was a freelancer for a long time before I started brands and businesses. As soon as I began to sell my own ideas, services & products, a lot of conflicting beliefs, protective inner parts, and resistance revealed themselves.

I felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back for a long time. I needed to work through and release much of that before I began seeing traction in my work. 

The inner aspects of doing business deserve attention.

Bias towards action doesn’t mean hustling or forcing things. It means cultivating a willingness to start imperfectly. I still question my instincts and have perfectionist tendencies. Yet, I know now that I’ll be the most content with myself when I act on my ideas.

The solo podcast is a great example of that. I didn’t have perfect equipment and decided to record it, anyways. It feels imperfect, and I want to cringe at my insights from a year ago; I’ve learned so much. I’m still glad I recorded it with my phone. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten on creativity and entrepreneurship?

Two things helped me find my own path in business: Human Design, a holistic tool, and the book The Slight Edge. The former helped me meet myself at my essence and free myself from thinking I had to do things in a certain way, THE WAY™. The latter is a very grounded approach to getting things done calmly and collectedly. 

If I may share two words of advice: Speed and growth have their own rhythms. The entrepreneurship and creator space places a great emphasis on speed and growth. Instead of chasing six figures in six months, ensure that what you’re doing is enjoyable in the first place. Your goals will unfold more easily from that sentiment than from forcing growth because that’s the cool thing to do. 

The other thing is to be clear on whether you’re more creative or an entrepreneur. It helps to know which side of the continuum you’re on. Some people are more entrepreneurial with a glaze of creativity; others are the other way around. When I understood that I’m more of a creative than the entrepreneur I thought I had to pose as things shifted immediately. It was such a relief! 

It’s very cool to be an entrepreneur right now. You’re still cool and successful if you don’t chase that title. You do you! 

Any recommended tools and resources?

The person worth knowing is you. I’m aware this sounds very cheesy. Outside advice and input can, of course, be a catalyst for growth and success. If you don’t know yourself, your work as a creative entrepreneur will stall. 

Business gurus on the internet can make it sound like they have the perfect formula to solve your problems. Those external inputs are only band-aids until you embark on the quest to know yourself and your values. 

You may read this interview and think it’s the best idea to leave social media for your marketing. Until you ask yourself why you want to go and how you would like things to be, there’s only so much my work and I can do for you. 

Other people’s newsletters, podcasts, and books can be excellent sources of inspiration and intrigue. If you hope they will deliver that one thing that will fix your life or business, examine that desire for input first. 

Also: input can feel like you’re doing something. But knowledge is only as great as it gets you to do what you want. The magic is in doing, even if it’s messy and imperfect.

There is no one magic book you need to read and no guru to follow. There are so many paths that can lead you towards your goals. In the bigger picture, it doesn’t matter which you choose. 

What does ‘success’ mean to you? And what will change when you get there?

The momentum I’ve built around Bye, Social Media! feels very exciting. It’s like I’ve hoisted a pirate flag in the land of marketing and business. Doing so feels deliciously mischievous. 

Lately, I’ve also been thinking about how fun it would be to grow this business into an agency – the only one of its kind in the world.

I’d love to see a big company or start-up lean into off-social marketing as a bold, visionary, and counter-cultural move. I’d be thrilled to help them through it – especially with a team that shares the light-hearted, disruptive spirit behind Bye, Social Media! 

Success to me is feeling spaciousness personally, emotionally and financially. I used to think I wanted to work only a few hours a week, Tim Ferris style. Then I realised that wanting your work hours to be gone fast is like wishing away time in your life.

Recently, I’ve become aware that I crave a sense of spaciousness in my days and a work schedule that accommodates my fluctuating energy levels. 

I like to feel that I’m playing, exploring, learning, and connecting daily and have ample time for rest and flow. I want to feel vibrant and inspired as much as possible in my days. I’m happy when what I do has an impact. 

Also, I’m determined to have a fantastic time with whatever I do.

All that to me is success, and I can have that at any moment, not only when I get there. 

What question do you wish I’d asked you?

What my favourite dish is, and why it will always be Schnitzel. Just kidding! Not.  

Visit to learn more about Johanna’s work. You can sign up for her newsletter here

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By Nika Talbot

I help badass biz owners get their big ideas noticed and make money through strategic storytelling and compelling content so they can shine online, grow their tribe, and get outside and LIVE LIFE 🌟🚀

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