A crash Course in Social Media for the time-poor small business!
Video #1: INTRODUCTION
So you’ve decided to start a small business. Congratulations! But… You need customers. Word of mouth is great, but you can’t sustain your business on word-of-mouth alone.
We live in a constantly connected world, and in order to be noticed you need to make sure you stand out. We can do this by starting with the trinity of social media:
>Identity; Market; Content.
In that order!
To keep yourself from being overwhelmed we need to follow one simple guideline: #FIST. #FIST is a way to keep things simple and ensure you don’t throw your money down the drain. So what does #FIST mean?
FAST – INEXPENSIVE – SIMPLE – TINY
In the world of small business, the work never ends; no matter how tired you are. So you need to find a strategy that works for you!A note before we begin though – this is just a starting point with general advice. There won’t be any in depth guides on specific platforms… for now. These are all simple tricks that I have picked up over the past few years!
The first step to starting your businesses online profile is to find the business’s IDENTITY.
If you have no clear idea of who you are and what you do, your customers won’t, either – and you’ll be forgotten. Stay tuned for the next video for us to really dive into these tips.
Video #2: IDENTITY
So let’s say you’re starting a small business – you need to find your target market, and brand yourself. You need a solid identity for the business – not only will you be noticed, but it will also stop you from constantly changing direction in the future, leaving your clients confused.
Here are some tips to help you with this:
- Sum up what you do in a few words; preferably 5 or less.
Of course you can expand on this, but being able to really narrow down your field will help when prospective customers search for your business. For example, instead of “market analyst who specialises in social media and advertising on websites”, you could refine that to “Online Market Analyst” – and then expand on this in your ‘about me’ sections. Think of this short summary as the core of your business – something to stay true to.
- Have consistent branding!
You’ll also want to figure out your personal branding and style – and then keep that consistent. While it may be tempting to change your identity every time growth feels slow, try to avoid this and instead ensure you are staying true to your brand’s identity. It is important to consider your future tarket market when approaching your branding: if you are workind in a formal field with professional clients, you’ll want to avoid using comic sans. Conversely, if you want to market towards the average family, you’ll want to avoid looking too luxurious.You need to look at what it is you do, why you do it, and who you’re doing it for. Then you’ll need to make yourself a logo that is simple and easy to reproduce, that identifies your brand immediately (but doesn’t infringe on any copyrights for other business logos) and that will work cross-platform and through print media, too. Pick one or two fonts to work with too, so that when you produce your content, that looks consistent as well.
- Stay true to your values.
Set some goals and guidelines for your business. A great way to do this is to have two lists: one for “I will strive to”, and “I will avoid” – and stick to these principles. These are in addition to standard business practices and laws, and will be ideologies behind your business and will set you apart from others that do the same thing. For example – “I will strive to involve my customer with the process every step of the way” and “I will avoid making excuses for why a job is taking longer than expected” are a couple of great ones for those who freelance in creative industries.
So now you know who you are. You’ve made yourself some guidelines. But you need people to sell to. It’s time to find your MARKET.
Video #3: MARKET
This can be a tricky situation for some small businesses, particularly those in very populated areas, or those exclusively online. It is very easy to be swamped by other businesses who offer the same thing yours does, so finding your target market and being able to market to them effectively will ensure that you have direction for growth. A common misconception is that you should try to broaden your market as much as you can so that you can be inclusive of all people – however for small businesses this is usually impractical and can leave you feeling very overwhelmed very quickly. Remember #FIST: we want to keep this simple! Here are some ways to help with that.
- Streamline your products and be flexible.
When we look at huge businesses, like in the telecommunications industry, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of products and services they offer. You may begin to wonder how you can compete, and the answer is simple: you don’t! If you try to offer the same amount of range that they do, you’ll find yourself overworked and offering more than you can potentially fulfill. For example – a photographer might look at larger media companies with set packages and prices and feel like that would be the way to go. As a small business, freelancer or sole trader however, you have the advantage of flexibility and it’s one you should take. Avoid setting rigid packages and prices, and always be approachable by your customers. They will appreciate service taylored to their needs and their budget. People like being treated like more than a number – so if you extend that respect towards them, it will be very appreciated.
- Observe your local market and stand out.
Have you already started a businesses and found that you’re struggling to really grow and kick off? There may be an oversaturated market in your area. A great way to evaluate your competitors is to just jump onto Google and do some research. Remember those keywords you created to describe your own business? Use them! Search for those and similar keywords, and then add the area to the end. Let’s say you just bought an awesome top-of-the-line drone and you want to do get some paid work for it. You’ve got all your permits, you’ve practiced and you’re ready to go. You jump on to google and search for “Drone Videography Sydney” and you get 12 returns – and those are just the ones on google maps! So you’re now facing a saturated market. You need to now find a point of difference – something you can offer that everyone else may not be able to. Something that makes you unique and may even fill a gap in that market. This can be a long and boring process of clicking through all these websites, researching their offers, and then brainstorming a way to stand out: but it is a very important one in order to avoid being overshadowed.
- Market towards a specific few crowds.
Marketing towards a few specific crowds is a great way to keep things cheap and targeted. As your business expands you will be able to expand your target market as well – but when starting out try to keep things small! Look at the products that you offer, and the skills that you have, and see who they may benefit most or appeal to at this point in time. If you’ve just started a trendy cafe and milkshake bar with loud music and want to do most of your advertising through Instagram for that viral fame, your target market will be younger people who love expressing themselves instead of older people who don’t even know what a hashtag is. So narrow down a field that you specialise in; catering business? Perhaps you could start out small, targeting corporate clients for their lunch meetings, or weddings and formal events with some gourmet meals. Narrowing your target market will make it so much easier to target ads through Google and Facebook, and will also help with content creation as well!
Once you’ve streamlined your offers, filled the gaps in your local market, and you’ve found your target market, you’ll want to start attracting some interest with your brand by generating appropriate CONTENT.
Video #4: CONTENT
The home stretch. The content you produce will be THE way that you can spread the word about your small business, so you need to curate it carefully. If you’ve followed the steps so far, though, generating effective content will be so much easier! You have your targeted audience already through finding your targeted market, you have your own identity as a guideline to follow. Now you just need to figure out what is appropriate. The following steps will help guide you with this.
- Choose your social media platforms.
This can be overwhelming. There are so many social media platforms out there, how do you know which ares are for you? Thankfully if you’ve followed along so far, we have an easy way to find out! The best starting point would be to find out what platforms your target market use the most. Facebook is the largest social media platform across all age groups. The quickest way to find out is to simply search for the key terms “Demographics of Social Media Users” – you can further refine this by country, as well. You’ll also want to consider the type of business you are and choose a few platforms that complement your business. If you are in a creative industry, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are great for sharing images and videos of the work you have been producing and are quick ways to engage with your customers. A more formal and professional industry, such as IT support, would benefit from Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn in addition to Facebook as a way to market to other business or to share industry relevant news. Have a look at the benefits that each unique platform is able to offer and if you see a way to take advantage of that, go for it. But you want to avoid trying to be on all of them at once; that will get expensive and tiring very fast.
- Don’t neglect your website.
Your website is where people should find most of the information about your business. It should link to all of your social media, and your social media should all link back to your website. Update the content regularly and be very thorough about what you put on there. Keep the layout simple and easy to follow – if you find your website is covered in links and has more than two menus, your customers will get lost. Don’t forget to include very clear contact information and have a contact form that will reach you directly – and create a professional email address just for your business. Do not use your personal email – it looks very unprofessional and many people will end up thinking you’re cheap or inexperienced. In order for your site to be visible on search engines, you can also look into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but that is a very complicated process. There are people out there who can help you with this, however!
- Curate your content appropriately.
The final and most important point to content generation – curation. This is why we took great care in selecting appropriate platforms that match our target market, and why we don’t limit ourselves to just one social media platform. The reason why it’s recommended to choose a few different platforms is because each one has its own advantage in terms of formatting and content presentation. Instagram is great for photos and short videos. Facebook is an awesome way to interact with your audience and not only share your own content, but to share other content that you find relevant to your business and your target market! Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which is also great for customer interactivity, to share quick information, and other industry relevant news.
When I say we need to curate our content to each platform, what I mean is that we need to consider the strengths of each platform that we have chosen and create content with those platforms in mind. For example, if you’re a florist, you can use Instagram for sharing beautiful custom bouquets that you’ve created throughout the day as well as ‘behind the scenes’ photos of orders of flowers that you’ve gotten in before you arrange them. On Facebook you can share a video of a fellow staff member arranging something for a large event that you are providing flowers for, or share inspirational images and quotes (making sure to give credit, of course). Be careful to avoid trying too hard to go viral, though – and go easy on the personal opinions. Keep controversial memes and thoughts off your business page as these can and often do backfire.
Stagger your content across your platforms, though. Avoid sharing the exact same content across all your platforms at once – if you do, then there will be no reason for having different platforms in the first place. Don’t be afraid to occasionally plug your other social media platforms and do cross-platform promotions – just don’t be so overwhelming.
Make sure that before you create your content that you are taking into account the technical aspects of these platforms as well – filesize limitations as well as recommended dimensions are very important to keep in mind. YouTube is great for horizontal video, but keep your vertical and square format videos to Facebook and Instagram. And for any original content you produce, don’t forget to add your watermark or credit in there somewhere so that the content can be traced back to your business. There’s nothing worse than having another business share your content without credit and gaining all the profit from it!
Lastly, never stop interacting, researching and producing. If you go quiet, even for a few days, or completely ignore any interaction your audience and customers attempt to have with you – they will stop trying too, and you’ll be forgotten. Keep learning and stay up to date with platform changes, and be on the lookout for upcoming new features or platforms that may benefit you. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to simplify your processes: remember #FIST. There are programs that you can use to schedule your content releases so if you find yourself too busy to constantly update your pages, it doesn’t go dead, and your business continues to boom!