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!
In this blog post I will be expanding upon my previous analysis of Aki Inomata’s series, Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs? that can be found in this blog post. I have chosen this work as I find not only the process fascinating, but also the subject matter as well as the intention.
The following are my photos taken from the Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital exhibition that was on display at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science in Sydney recently. There were only three examples of the series displayed in front of a video on the work.
Images of ‘White Chapel’ from Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs at the Out of Hand Exhibition (2017)
Inomata goes into great detail for her works. Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs? Is an ongoing series of 3D printed hermit crab shells, each with their own unique structure to them. Each different series of structures represent different contexts. She had already had hermit crabs as pets, and was intrigued by the role their shells played as ‘shelters’ when compared to what a human definition of shelter would be.
In her biography statement on her website, Inomata states that her “art results from working together with living beings” (2015). She sees reflections of humanity within other living beings and vice versa – and interchanges the roles of living beings with humans in her work, offering new perspectives on being human and rediscovering the self. This is evident when looking at her series of hermit crab shells which make commentaries of social and architectural networking; how human sociality reflects the architecture that surrounds her and how the architecture influences the social.
Images from Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? (2010-2016)
The idea for the exchanging of shelters of human-like structure to the hermit crabs came from observing a similar land-exchange between nations in Tokyo:
“My idea for this piece came about when I participated in the “No Man’s Land” exhibition that was held at the French Embassy in Japan in 2009. This work was inspired by the fact that the land of the former French Embassy in Japan had been French until October 2009, and then became Japanese for the following fifty years, after which it will be returned to France. I was surprised to hear this story, and associated this image with the way that hermit crabs exchange shelters. A piece of land is peacefully exchanged between two countries. ” – Aki Inomata (2015)
The hermit crabs, in this sense, seem to take the role of refugees, “crossing over national borders”; changing the appearance of the shelters to represent cities from around the world, and gifting this ‘land’ to the creatures. After exploring this concept, Inomata moved on from exploring the ideas of land exchange from human to living being, and began to explore other social dynamics that humans have placed into architecture, buildings and homes. Having grown up in Tokyo and traveled around the world, she compares the theatrics of structures in her home city to those of Western society, even questioning the mimicry of the architecture and what it means for a social identity. An exemplary work of this would be the one included in the exhibition – White Chapel.
In her travels to Western countries, Inomata tends to observe the world around her – the culture and architecture, noticing the way that Tokyo cultures tend to borrow or appropriate these styles in their own locality.
“I ask myself, “Are we japanese living in a mimicry of western world?” For me, these imitation, or I would say reproduction or rearrangement of Western-style architecture seem to reflect identities of postcolonialism inside of Japanese people.” – Aki Inomata (2015)
She plays with this concept in White Chapel, using the model of a wedding chapel found in Japan built onto the model of the Hermit crab home (or ‘shelter’ as she calls it). She cites the wedding chapel as one such example of the way the Japanese appropriate Western culture. The chapel is mostly a facade; lacking extreme details like those found in the Christian-affiliated churches and chapels of the West. This is chapel is for aesthetics only – no religious affiliation and now worship takes place here: it is a place for weddings only. Most Japanese weddings seem to be held in the ‘Christian’ style – in chapels that mix architectural designs from the Gothic and Romanesque cultures of the past.
The purpose the shelter serves is temporary – before long, the hermit crab will move on from this shelter and move into another one, before becoming populated again with a different hermit crab. It seems that like the superficial facades in Tokyo, the hermit crab shelters are also rather frivolous.
That’s not to say that the process of making these shelters has been easy for Inomata, though. There was quite a lot of trial, error and research that went into being able to convincingly replicate the structure of a hermit crab shell in a way that the crabs would not reject them.
“The first time that I made this piece, I only gave the hermit crabs spherical shapes, but they ignored my “shelters”. Using CT scans, I studied the natural shapes of hermit crab shells, and by printing out the 3DCG data using 3D printers, I was able to create “shelters” that the hermit crabs would move into.” – Aki Inomata (2016)
Hermit crabs can be quite fussy with their shelters – the shells need to be the perfect size for them and the insides of the shells need to be shaped in a way that the hermit crab is able to retreat into if needed. They are quite complex – something which Inomata overlooked in her first iteration of the project.
To overcome this, she did some more research and was able to develop a way to replicate the shells in a way that the hermit crabs would accept. She used a CT scanner to capture the highly detailed 3 dimensional renderings of unoccupied seashells that her own hermit crabs had previously abandoned. She used these scans to then create digital 3D “castings”, which her own designs would then be modelled on to. For her prototype works, she based the designs on apartments in Paris, Home based architecture from Tokyo and city architecture before moving on to specific structures. These structures were then 3D printed with clear 3D printing resin using a technique called stereolithography (or SLA). SLA builds layer-by-layer using liquid resin which is exposed to UV light which solidifies the resin into polymers. It is a very long process, with some smaller prints even taking more than 24 hours to complete.
The final outcome is a usable and acceptable shell that the hermit can choose to move into (or even be forced into). Hermit crabs are nomadic – once they outgrow their shells they move onto bigger ones, however other crabs may eye off another’s shell and decide they like it more and fight over it. A smaller crab may move into a shell abandoned by a larger crab. This results in a trading of shelters, which Inomata compares to the way humans may treat land ownership – while embedding the land with culture and history.
“Hermit crabs change their shells one after another, in order to accommodate their growth. Sometimes, they are even forced by stronger hermit crabs to swap shells. Inspired at an exhibition at the French Embassy in Japan, in which she participated in 2009, AKI INOMATA started a project in which she had hermit crabs move into shells of her own making. Based on CT scans of real hermit crabs’ shells, she creates artificial 3D-printed shells with the cityscapes of various metropolises around the world, such as Manhattan in NYC. Through examining the transformation of hermit crabs, which change dramatically in appearance through moving from one shell into another, INOMATA questions where our own identity lies.” – KENPOKU ART (2016)
“Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? (Sea)” installation view of KENPOKU ART 2016 Photos: Keizo Kioku and Shizune Shiigi
I was absent during week 13, but the boys used the time to work out some of the technical sides of the work. They managed to get the sound working through the laptop, and get all the footage of the hands aligned together and working properly.
We met up in week 14 on Thursday, so that we could set up the last of the project, look over the artists statement and discuss our presentation.
I must admit that the final work did resonate with me and I was happy with where we got – especially given the difficulties we had throughout the semester of settling on a concept and the technical issues that followed.
While setting up the TO Glen advised us to use a second laptop with a splitter so that we could have 3 larger projectors and do away with the crappy Qumis entirely (yay!). A bit of tinkering with the set up and some re-alignment later, and the work looked fantastic. We added some decent speakers so that we could actually hear the sound playing.
Unfortunately we did have some sound syncing issues which were the result of using two separate laptops without the ability to start all 4 sets of footage at the same time – if we were to change one thing about the work, it would be to figure out a way that this wouldn’t be an issue and that the sound was more effective.
I personally felt that the work stood as a metaphor for our own journey of creation – that we had our differences, so we started again with a blank canvas and worked together to create something fun and interactive by stripping the layers back and working with our skills and what we learned from experimenting. This fuelled our narrative, which I then turned into an artist’s statement.
When discussing, we thought about how our work represented the following:
“We decided to include a variety of symbols to act as the basis of our work. Using hands as a symbol of being able to recognise a person (2nd to a person’s face); the black background acts as a simple and even playground for all the hands; the different forms of tapping representing the diversity of people, each with a different beat and rhythm, but ultimately all playing as one; and the large hand in the middle in the shape of a fist acting as the heart of the entire group constantly beating with everyone around it. The purpose of the blocking of different hands is to show that people come and go, whether it be someone known for a long time, or someone new entering.”
I then went and deduced the main points from our discussion:
- Black background a ‘playground’ blank canvas to build upon from the imagination
- Hands work together to create something together
- Unity through diversity – differentiality creates something unique and wholesome
- Large hand in centre is the ‘heart’; keeps time and direction, the common ground that pulls everything together
- You can block the hands but they are still heard – you cannot stop the noise and you cannot hide all the hands at once by yourself – the hands are not oppressed by your presence or by you trying to silence them
Which we then turned into our final artists statement below. Overall I’m glad I stepped back and gave the group work another chance, while my vision for a final project was vastly different to what we ended up producing, I was still very happy with the final result.
Will, Mackenzie, Robert, Chloe
The world is a connected place, now more than ever; across continents we have the ability to collaborate and create.
We start with a black canvas – a playground where we can build from our imaginations. We can use this canvas to tell stories, to design, to make art. We start from nothing – we put our hands together and produce something tangible to be seen and heard.
UNITY Explores the result of many hands coming together to construct from the bare. It is a story of uniting our own experiences, our skills and our imaginations to forge something new and unique: using our diversity to form something wholesome, and to illustrate this story to a rhythm. It proclaims that creativity cannot be silenced with intervention if we come together.
The centre is the heart – the starting point on our canvas, the guiding structure that keeps time and gives us direction – the motivation. It composes the overall beat – with the surrounding hands cooperating to build multiple layers.
You can try to block the hands but the others are still present – they are still heard; you cannot stop the noise, and they are not oppressed by your presence. You cannot silence them.
People may come and go – but with a blank canvas, diversity, and creativity, you can collaboratively build something unique and different each time you come together.
UNITY uses multiple projections timed to a solid beat to create an immersive and interactive story-telling experience with the audience. The audience member may try to place themselves in the scene, to obstruct or to support in the collaboration.