Seven ways to kick-start social media
Social media is very here, very now, and very relevant to most businesses. Still, many small business owners choose not to get involved. It’s a young person’s thing. It’s full of nonsense anyway, and I don’t understand the technology. Pah.
As for the title, it’s what many Generation-X and Baby Boomers believe.
In reality, we’re never too old. It’s often simply a lack of knowledge that makes us scared or believe we can’t do something.
When it’s too much of a challenge
After two years of cajoling, a client contacted me to discuss his brief foray into social media. He said:
“I set-up a Twitter account and followed a bunch of people I don’t know. I now have about 40 followers, none of whom are potential clients, so it’s a complete waste of time.”
I sat back and thought about his frustration and how his experience had set him back farther. Understanding the concept and the benefits of social media is difficult for business.
It’s also something people do, or don’t understand, or do, or don’t want to get involved in. Sadly, many still choose the latter because they’re stuck.
It’s all about perspective
Moving from can’t-do to can-do is quite easy as online resources are abundant. Changing your perspective on social media just requires a little effort to learn about it.
The real challenge is for the ‘don’t want to get involved’ crowd as fear of the unknown creates scepticism and an unwillingness to get involved. It’s a very human response to shut down when you don’t understand something. And, the older you get, the quicker you respond this way.
Many believe there is a disconnection between social media and traditional advertising and marketing.
In reality, social media is simply a marketing channel with another set of guidelines that anyone can follow.
Jargon Alert: Inbound. Outbound. Engagement.
Social media is very much in its infancy. Especially when compared to magazines, newspapers, directories, TV and radio. Yet with it comes an exciting twist — something the traditional marketing channels would give their right arm for: engagement.
Marketing jargon for ‘engagement’ is ‘inbound marketing’, but let’s compare it to outbound marketing, as that’s what everyone already understands.
Outbound marketing is impersonal and disconnected. It’s almost always non-face-to-face.
Imagine you want to do some marketing for your business. You could place an advert; put up a bill-board; add customised livery to your vehicles; brand some mugs and pens, and so on. You must wait for someone to see it and contact you. If you’re lucky. These things take time. We’ve all seen [non-digital] billboards or tube station posters remaining unchanged for months.
Your response time frame expectation is already low. You know it might be days, weeks or months before you get a response, depending on the medium chosen.
Inbound marketing is not like this at all.
It’s a way of informing, educating and engaging people in conversation. It’s designed to invoke a reaction. It’s about attracting people to enquire. It’s not selling at them.
Social media platforms provide the perfect mechanism to start your inbound marketing journey.
I know, you have some burning questions
There are some hurdles to navigate once you’ve decided you’re going to dive in and get started.
Remember what I said earlier? It’s the lack of knowledge that often results in fear.
“I don’t understand social media” / “I’m too old”
Social media is not owned by the yoof. It’s for grown-ups too. And yes, old dogs can learn new tricks.
It’s a challenge, yes, and more so for those who don’t have digital-native staff or willing off-spring, so will be flying solo. However, you wouldn’t believe how much free, high-quality how-to content is online. Everything you need to know about social media is there, and it’s free to everyone.
You could ask a digital marketing consultant (or a teenager) to show you the ropes and guide you along the way.
“How will I know which channels to use?”
In the UK, the channels business owners should engage with will depend on various factors:
- The products or services you provide
- The demographic of your ideal customer
- Your budget if you intend to use paid advertising
- Whether you sell products online (eCommerce)
If your business is product-based, choose Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. You may also look at TikTok if you’re into making videos. These will work well because they’re true ‘social’ channels.
For service-based businesses, LinkedIn is a better match because it’s more business-oriented.
“Do I need a profile?”
You can’t join a social media channel without creating a profile.
Your profile is likely to be the first thing people see when you post a comment, article or photo. The more informative and interesting your profile is, the easier it is for people to understand who you are and who they’ll be dealing with.
Your profile is not your private and personal details laid bare for all to see. It’s an expression of your personality.
If you’re shy and can’t bear the thought of having a photo of yourself made public, this will be more of a challenge. Ultimately, it’s your choice.
“I’m not sure I can afford it”
You’re in good company as there’s no charge for setting up a social media account and creating a profile. Most standard features are free to use.
If you decide to invest in paid advertising on social media, there are costs involved, and yes, you need to be careful not to let it run away.
A social media or digital marketing consultant will also have a fee structure.
“I have nothing to talk about”
I’ve heard this so often and it’s so not true.
I’m guessing you talk to prospective customers/clients (we’ll call them customers). Why wouldn’t you? You’re in business. Do you train staff? Do you go to networking events? Do you provide customer support or a helpline?
Trust me, you have plenty to talk about with the products and services you offer.
“I have no interest in social media”
Social media can inject fresh blood into your business. See it as a fascinating, interesting and new way (to you) to engage with customers. A lack of interest on your part is likely founded on a lack of knowledge (see above). Once you understand more and get a feel for how social media works for you, you’ll want to do more.
“I don’t have enough time”
It’s real. Time is precious. I get it. We’re all busy people, but we also have the same number of hours at our disposal. Some people seem to achieve so much in this time, whilst others struggle to fit everything in.
Social media is marketing. Marketing drives your sales. Sales drive your revenue. Revenue drives your profit. Ergo: you need to make time.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now.
It’s an old Chinese proverb that means “just get on with it.”
Here are seven points that will help focus your thinking on the best way to approach using social media for your business.
1. Create an internal persona (inward-facing)
How do you and your staff ‘see’ your business?
This is not about design, it’s about personality and values. It’s about how you and your staff portray your business and themselves.
- What are your company values?
- How do you explain what you do?
- Can every member of staff pitch your business?
If you have been through this process. Hone it. Refine It. Know it and understand it. You’re about to convey this through social media.
2. Create an external persona (outward-facing)
Can you describe your ideal client?
Does everything about your business ‘talk to them’?
Social media allows you to be quite selective over your audience. Imagine how old they are; their gender; where they work; what their hobbies are; the car they drive, and anything else that identifies them as a perfect customer.
If you’re a B2B company, run through the same process in relation to their location; turnover; the number of staff; position in the market; culture, and even who their ideal customers are.
3. Be both interesting and interested
Being interest-ing is often mistaken for telling people what you do and/or what you sell. Customers want to know what you can do FOR them, not only what you do.
It’s far more interesting (to customers) to read creative descriptions of how they will benefit from the products or services you offer. Tell them how the products have helped others and the results they’ve experienced. Testimonials are a good way to do this.
Being interest-ed is both powerful and guaranteed to increase engagement. We all like to talk about ourselves to someone who’s interested. If your potential customers are creating quality content about their own products and services, and how they’ve helped their customers: show interest in that. Comment positively and share what they create, as you would if a friend told you a fascinating story or fact (or gossip!). Be genuinely interested in others, and not just for personal gain.
4) Educate and inform
People like information. We like to know how to do things.
Among the most successful accounts on social media are those providing knowledge, help and advice. The explosion in food and cooking-related posts, with easy-to-follow ‘how-to’ videos, is nothing short of phenomenal.
If you have sound knowledge that could be useful to others, share it and allow it to help others.
Don’t be afraid to give away some of your intellectual property as it will pay dividends in the end. Think: what do I know that could be useful to others? How can I guide them or help improve what they know and what they do? You’re reading one such example.
5) Ask good questions
Asking questions of your followers may get a response. If you want to create a reaction, then step it up a little by being more creative, or even controversial.
Weetabix posted a photo of baked beans on Weetabix instead of toast, on Twitter on Feb 9th 2021. The reaction was spectacular and included a long stream of hilarious comments. Marketing professionals dream about creating things like this.
If you’re involved in business networking events, there’s plenty you could ask about.
It would probably be a little dull to ask: “Is networking an effective way to generate new business?” because it’s unlikely to evoke much of a response. Try a more active approach, such as: “How do you deal with networking bores who only talk about themselves?” or, “Do paid-for networking events attract a better class of potential client?”
An approach like that is likely to create a reaction that might start a conversation thread, and that would definitely raise your profile.
6) Organise regular question & answer sessions
Q&A sessions are a great way to engage both existing and potential clients. An event like this should interest your peers and your competition. It shows you’re being proactive and not afraid to put yourself out there, willing to engage and help others.
Even NASA streams live content directly from the International Space Station. They run live Q&A events that are open to anyone interested in space.
7) Post other people’s events
Yes, other people’s events. Stay in touch with what’s going on in your community and in your area of business. When others are putting on events, e.g. networking, share the details with your followers. Ask nothing in return.
It’s a great way to win brownie points within your business and local community and you’ll get a warm, fuzzy feeling.
None of the above is rocket science (apart from NASA streaming their events, of course).With a little effort, creative forethought, planning, it’s all easily within your grasp and you shouldn’t be afraid to get stuck in.
Social media is not the devil’s work, despite the minority of those who spout offensive and hateful comments. This is unlikely to affect you, especially in business. Just ignore it. It’s no different to people spouting their opinions ranting on a soapbox at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, which dates back almost 150 years, so it’s nothing new.
The overarching positive benefit is that being actively involved in social media for your business will help create a positive culture that people will come to value. Use this to strengthen your brand and increase your exposure to an otherwise invisible audience.