This article comes about because I got into a Facebook conversation with a business owner who is exasperated with the lack of feedback and interaction for her current social media efforts. According to her, she needs to find someone who understands all the other social media platforms. She admits to having a business profile on Facebook, on Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+. Other than Facebook, she’s not really sure what the possibilities are on the other platforms, or how to get her profile viewed and followed by actual people who may at some point want to be her client, or would refer people who would want to be her client.
She’s looking for any social media tips, and she’s not able to figure Google+ out for some reason, so needs help.
I must admit, I was intrigued by this plea because I see this conversation playing out for many small business people. They believe that just posting to social media should be enough to create “engagement”, because, let’s face it, that’s what they’ve been told. So because she is plainly fed-up, I thought I’d respond with some what I hoped would be helpful info.
I’ll break it down into these 6 points so I can answer her concerns and share it with everyone here:
I need to be on “all” the social media platforms
For a small business owner, it’s just not possible to be on “all the other social platforms”, plain and simple. New platforms pop up, old ones change or disappear regularly and each one has a learning curve to be mastered in order to get anything out of it. Not only that, from a systems and automation point of view, how would you do your best work on each platform since each one serves a slightly different audience and purpose? It's proven best to focus on just 2-3 platforms and manage those interactions really well. Just because somebody told you that you need to be on these 5-6 specific platforms doesn't mean it will work for you. Sure, big business can have a presence on many social platforms. They often have or hire staff just to manage their social media presence. Most small businesses don’t have that luxury. Even large businesses choose the platforms that are right for their needs after doing their research and getting results from educated trial and error. Perhaps this is a lesson we can learn from the “big boys.” This brings us to the next point.
Where are my clients?
Following on from the last point, it starts to become obvious that we need to know where our clients are and where they hang out online. It’s not hard to hear the frustration from the business owner in this example. Again, we can learn a lot from how big business decides on where they’ll spend their social media time and dollars. They do this by identifying their ideal client and getting to know them. What do you know about your clients?
- Can you describe the person/audience you're interested in connecting with?
- What sex are they?
- How old are they?
- Where do they work?
- What is their income level?
- What kind of work do they do?
- What is their average income?
- What type of car do they drive?
- What is their family structure (do they have kids)?
- What do they like to do for recreation?
- What do they do with their disposable income?
This is not a comprehensive list, and some questions may be more applicable than others. There’ll be other questions like this will help you figure out who they are, what their interests are and where they hang out. This will lead you to where they are active.
You can use the information you gather to create a picture (some call it a client persona or avatar) where you can relate this information to a “real” person who has opinions, likes and dislikes. Once you have that, you'll know how to speak to that person in the way they can relate to. Speaking to a 20-something and a 60-something directly needs different approaches so being clear on this will help you set the tone and language you’ll use to connect with them. During this phase, you’ll find there’re a couple of distinct pictures that come up. Create a persona/avatar for those distinct pictures and learn to speak directly to them.
Not sure where to start? If you have current customers you have a starting point. Make it a point to ask them what type of social media account they might have; ask them if they’re active there. Do you have their email address? If not, start collecting those addresses where possible. You can probably open up another avenue for connection by using email. Creating a short survey you can share with your clients can also help gather the information you need to get to know them better. Need more? Your local library, chamber of commerce or board of trade can also help you get key information about potential clients. These are just a few examples of what you can do to understand your ideal client.
You need to get specific about your ideal client, and that means not trying to be “everything to everyone”, which becomes apparent when you want to say something like: “Either gender, any age, families, or singles. I don't care if they drive a car or take the bus.” If you don’t care, why should they? There’s way too much noise out there for them to hear you unless you speak to them directly. Getting this down will help you spend your social media time effectively. There’s no point posting on Google+ is your audience isn't there. You need to find your audience so you can generate interest...
Why aren’t people interested or engaged?
You may be struggling because you feel you are getting very little if any response, discussion, or whatever. You may feel you’re just shouting in the woods. You really want to generate interest but aren’t sure what to do now because nothing seems to be working.
I’m going to state the obvious; your ideal client has interests and community already. If you don’t take the time to understand who they are and where they hang out online, you’re not talking to them and very possibly talking “passed them”. Why should they listen to and/or share what you decide they should be interested in? If you stated “I don’t care if…” as described in the last point, this may where you need to focus.
You need to earn the right to talk to and interact with these amazing clients you want to serve. Many will only interact with you after they’ve seen/heard you many times – they tend to “lurk” until you’ve established that trust. Are you sure they’re not taking in what you are offering? That means you can expect to gain engagement over time when you’re talking to your ideal client, have built trust and are speaking to them about things they care about. Don’t give up!
I need to learn (fill in the platform name here)
Okay, you’ve decided you need to learn how to use this “next big thing”. As small business owners, there are always really good reasons why we got into business in the first place. Here are a few questions for you: Unless social media is “your thing”, or you have evidence of your clients spending enough time and energy there to make it worth your while, what’s your reason for spending the number of hours you’ll need to in order to learn this “new platform”? This is an issue for both the technically inclined and also those not quite so comfortable with this “internet stuff”. How many hours will you spend learning, setting up, and watching this platform and is it worth it? Are the people you want to interact with even on the platform, ready and willing to talk to you?
You may need to interact with a new platform is you are trying different things, such as: building your influence, considering moving into a different area for your work (needing new/different connections), perhaps. If you’re considering this new platform to chase clients please see point number 2, unless you want to hear crickets after all your hard work learning, setting up and monitoring this new platform.
I’m out of time
How much time are you spending on your social media right now? If you’re not happy with your results, it might mean you end up abandoning a platform, or just leaving it there to languish. Neither of these options is a good choice for your online reputation. It’s best to focus on 2-3 platforms at most in the beginning, making your presence there shine and serving your amazing clients to the best of your ability. Eliminate those you set up but aren’t using.
The next thing to consider is that time is money. How much time is all this costing you and what could you be doing to serve your clients if you reduced the amount of time you spent on platforms that aren’t serving you at this time? If you do the math and reflect on point number 2, you’ll have more time to do what you love, make more money, less stress and build your brand, all at the same time.
What should I be doing?
There’s a lot of stuff out there these days, and it’s only going to get busier! Some things to consider after getting clear on where your clients are would be:
Now you know where they are, pick no more than 2 platforms and make it a point to become skilled at using them, setting your tone to match and interacting with them by asking questions, providing kind and timely information and celebrating their accomplishments along the way. Don’t lose patience! Many people watch and don’t say much unless they feel they have something to contribute or to ask a question. Lurkers are notorious for popping up and letting you know they’ve been following what you’ve been doing for months.
Consider that adding a new platform to your online marketing efforts must have a reason and pay for itself based on the amount of time you’ll have to spend to make your mark there.
You would probably need some sort of social media management platform (such as Buffer or HootSuite, each offer free versions) that will allow you to schedule your posts and help reduce the time you spend in this area.
You should look at putting a system in place and scheduling your social media activities so you can make the most of your time, resources and effort.
While social media is incredibly important, and everyone is talking about it, know that it’s just one piece in your marketing arsenal. Consider adding email marketing (newsletters, regular connection) to the mix. It has been proven hands down to be more effective with a better rate of return than social media.
In conclusion, here are your six points:
- You need to be on “all” social media platforms
- Where are my clients?
- Why aren’t people more interested or engaged?
- I need to learn (fill in the platform here)
- I’m out of time!
- What should I be doing?
Each one of these items can be answered by identifying your ideal client.