We've all heard the quote, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." It's another way of saying that you don't get something for nothing. As someone trying to grow my business I'm well aware of this, as I'm sure you are too. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to assist with the huge challenge of running a business.
Things are moving fast and the digital age is well and truly upon us. Social media, for example, has completely revolutionized the way people communicate. Just over a decade ago Facebook was unheard of outside of college campuses, while Twitter was something birds did!
You can now buy practically anything online and social media has a big part to play in how businesses interact with their customers. Some do it really well. Some, not so much. For me, it looked a tricky and terrifying place to navigate, but I set up a Twitter account so I too could talk to my customers. After all, if everyone else was doing it, then I should, too, right?
The right tool
It's likely that you've set up at least one social media account and you've spent time writing the perfect profile, uploading a great image along with your business logo. You've even made sure to include a link to your website. It looks perfect! You've joined planet social media. You're part of the future.
Then, if you're anything like me, you closed your laptop and went back to running your business.
Because you don't have time to start tweeting or posting. There are only 24 hours in the day and at some point you also need to eat; to pick up the kids from school; to get some sleep!
I didn't revisit my first social media page for several weeks after I set it up. Then I realized I had to make a decision. As a business owner I needed to be using all the available tools to help my business grow, so I searched for a guide to help get me on the right track. There's a ton of useful resources out there, which I found to be a real help.
Why social media?
Well, for starters it's free. It doesn't cost a cent to set up a profile on any of the biggest social media channels. Second, if you want to reach the most people you have to go where they are. Nowadays, it's as much online as it is the shopping mall. I did a little research and discovered that 78% of the US population have a social media account in 20161. Wow! This means your customers are already on Twitter and Facebook just waiting for you to reach out to them.
In theory it's simple. Set up a social media account like Twitter, start posting tweets, and reap the rewards. Of course, there's no such thing as a free lunch! You're going to have to put some time into turning your account(s) into a hub of activity, with highly engaged customers and advocates of your business.
I know that time is precious when it comes to running a business. I find it a challenge too and I'm still learning to manage my day to incorporate my social media activities. But following some basic rules and utilising all the tools (many of which are free) at my disposal, I'm beginning to see a difference.
I know I have to be consistent. I've discovered a sure-fire way to lose the followers I've worked hard to gain is to not post or interact with them for days on end. If I don't make myself available on a consistent basis, they'll go elsewhere. It's the online equivalent of never opening the store you own. Pretty soon you'll be out-of-business as your customers will find somewhere else to buy their goods.
The point I'm making is that, if you're going to use social media for your business, then use it to your advantage - whether you want to generate leads or simply ask your customers questions. I'm discovering new things about social media and my customers every time I fire up my Twitter account. I can then take these learnings and use them to improve my business and build my brand.
Here's an example. Recently, I wanted to know how my followers viewed voluntary benefits. So I ran a poll on Twitter (very easy to do!)and used the results to help me prepare and ask the right questions, both online and when meeting prospective clients. I found it a great way to discover a little more about the things that are important to my followers and I'll definitely continue to run polls on Twitter.
I still make plenty of mistakes. I've discovered there's an 80/20 social media rule. This means spending 80 percent of the time trying to keep your audience interested and engaged and the other 20 percent talking about, and hopefully selling, your products. I hadn't realized this and couldn't figure out why I wasn't growing my Twitter page. Only when I started researching what my followers were interested in and posting relevant tweets did I begin to see a change. I had to earn the right to talk about myself. It's not an exact science but definitely a good rule of thumb.
So, here are a few things I've discovered so far, that might help if you're just getting started:
- Be consistent. Try and find some time to post or interact every day. Even if you're only sharing content someone else created, you're still being seen as active.
- It's definitely worth spending some time following people and businesses that interest you. They'll probably be posting content that you can share with your followers. It's well worth listening to conversations online before jumping in.
- Whichever social media channel you use, make sure the link to your website (if you have one) and contact information is up-to-date. If you're adding images and banners this image size guide is a great help.
- Don't be scared. It's a daunting moment the first time you click and send a Tweet out into the world, but as long as you've followed the basic rules (called best-practice) then you'll be fine and, if you're like me, wondering why it took you so long!
Social media marketing has become a vital part of my daily routine and an increasingly important part of my business. I've still a lot to learn in order to get the best out of social, but I'm looking forward to the journey. I hope you'll join me.
So, first things first. How can you make time for social media?
1 Statista - the statistics portal: Share of US population with a social network profile 2008-2016 - http://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/