There is no one-size-fits all approach to integrating social media into your website: however, a combination of the following strategies are sure fire ways for any eCommerce brand to really start leveraging the power of the social sphere.
Homepage social feeds represent an incredibly powerful means of bringing your product to life on-site. Such feeds can help your site feel more human and less like a sales pitch. If you decide to integrate a social feed into your website, keep in mind that you need to ensure that your feed only contains high-quality images and content worthy of your homepage versus unrelated selfies or advertisements. Feeds are a form of social proof, arguably the most important psychological trigger when it comes to drawing in new customers.
Social buttons are an absolute must do for any brand, this is especially true in today’s world where customers are spending a bulk of their time on Facebook versus on-site, it’s incredibly important that you make following your business via social a one-click process versus forcing followers to try and find you. You can also use social media buttons on your website to increase sales: such buttons can promote your brand’s social media channels as a way for visitors to hear about contests or promotions you may be running. Regardless of where you place your buttons, you should keep the following in mind before rolling them out:
Make sure that your buttons mesh with your site’s layout and colour scheme.
Only highlight the social platforms that you’re active on: if you’re only active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for example, don’t bother linking to your dead Pinterest page.
There’s perhaps no easier way to encourage social sharing than by creating a hashtag. Not unlike social buttons, hashtags can be implemented throughout your brand’s visual content to provide customers with a hub of discussion and sharing for your brand and its products. Beyond coming up with something unique, keep the following in mind as well:
Keep your hashtag short and sweet (the ideal hashtag length is said to be under 11 characters)
Be prepared to curate your hashtag in order to avoid spam or potentially irrelevant images
Pick something that you can use for the long-haul: the more you use your hashtag throughout your marketing, the more likely it is to catch on.
Social media represents the modern word of mouth: buyers want to show off and share to others about their purchases. To feed into your customers’ needs to share, ensure that you have social sharing enabled on your product pages. Be careful however as it’s crucial that the social buttons on your product pages should not interrupt the buying process, but rather provide a way for customers to receive one-click feedback on their next purchase. Keep the following principles in mind as a means of optimizing your products for shares:
Do not use the same social buttons on your homepage and product pages: your product buttons should be smaller and stylized differently.
Only offer sharing to the social networks where it makes sense: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are much better than somewhere such as LinkedIn.
Make sure that your plugin captures your product’s image and description appropriately as it’s shared
Don’t forget about the importance of your customers’ experience once they’ve landed. Give them a chance to share their experience in the buying process: you may be surprised at how many of them are more than happy to sing your praises.
Social Sign Ins
Did you know that 73% of users prefer to log in to a site with social login, as opposed to providing an email address and creating a new account? Improve your website visitors’ experience with social login and increase your website registration conversions and retention. The benefit of social sign-ins are two-fold: visitors can browse your site without the annoyance of creating a new account and they can comment on your blog with ease.
Include Share Buttons
If you sell a product or run a full-fledged eCommerce site and you haven’t added share buttons to your product pages, you are missing out on a whole host of potential social impressions. Share buttons should enable website-goers to seamlessly share or recommend a product. Two broad tools that can help with this are AddThis and ShareThis. Both provide efficient and easy-to-use solutions for social media sharing across eCommerce sites with the added benefit of analytics to see how the content is getting shared.
With 79% of consumers trusting social proof as much as personal recommendations, it’s important you integrate the proper social widgets on your website to increase sales and website conversions. One way to do this is to use one of Facebook’s social widgets, such as the “Like Box”. This feature shows your visitors that you’re a credible source, their friends also like your Facebook page, and that you’re a legitimate product or brand. As an added bonus you’ll also be able to increase your Facebook likes with this social media integration.
Making Social Part of the Retail Experience
There are many other ways to integrate social media to improve conversions, streamline customer services and drive repeat business and referrals.
Improve your post-purchase page with a range of social cues (i.e. Share your purchase) to enhance the customer experience, and to spread the word about your business.
Add a simple sharing section which allows a user to send a tweet or a Facebook status with a link to the product they just bought.
The post-purchase page can also include quick links to your social media channels, email newsletter and links to access customer services too. This is also the place, as well as in order communications, to share any referral discounts you offer for customers who share with their friends.
Reviews and Ratings
Social customer service is just as important as other functions like contact forms, call centers and live chat, so make sure you offer a good service that customers can access. Reviews help reassure customers, improve SEO and encourage repeat business. Linking social sign-in to your reviews set up will more than likely lead to more reviews from customers, as it just makes everything easier and more streamline. Make your social customer service easy and obvious to access by displaying it prominently on your help pages.
This is an excerpt from my book ‘The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses: A Comprehensive, Jargon-Free Guide to Social Media Marketing For Those Who Just Don’t ‘Get it’!’ –Available now on Amazon in Kindle or Paperback!
Want to ensure your social media presence is ultimately going to be a successful addition to your marketing strategy? Take note of these 24 best practices!
Have Goals and Objectives
Like every other marketing and business initiative, you need to have a goal or objective that you what your social media presence to achieve. Whether you want to use it to improve brand awareness or as a new outlet to interact with customers, having clear objectives for your platforms helps to optimise their reach and impact. In addition, having well-defined objectives also makes it clearer for you in what to measure for your return on investment. It is also worth noting that return on investment with social media marketing cannot always be measured in money. Whilst it can drive sales, the real power of social media marketing is in building relationships with customers. Whatever your objectives, make them achievable and relevant for your business and remember as you progress these objectives may change.
Portray Yourself Consistently
It is important that before you engage in social media that you are clear on what kind of image you want to portray of yourself and make sure to keep it consistent across all platforms. This consistency equally applies not just to the ‘voice’ you portray but also to the creative aspects, that is the overall presentation including the colour scheme and typography. If your brand or company uses certain colours then be sure to apply these consistently across the presentation of all your social media platforms. This also extends to a company logo or picture, make sure they are up to date and reflective of the image you want to portray. Having a social media platform is a great way to show a ‘human’ side to your business that customers appreciate and prefer. From this, it is important to have an idea of what voice you want for your page that can be consistently applied across all your posts, especially if your company page is going to be managed by several different contributors. In general, avoid generic corporate speak and replace it with your own unique voice and customers will be more drawn to and engage with you. By setting consistent guidelines over the presentation and integration of your branding into your page it ensures that all these factors support and are in line with your overall branding and help reinforce your message and brand across all social media platforms.
Be Where Your Customers Are
It’s important to have a presence where your customers are looking to interact with you. To find out where you should be there are two easy ways; research the demographics of your intended social media platforms and also ask your customers yourself. When you start researching what platforms you think are best for your business, be sure that their main audience are the ones you want to target. The other option is for you to ask your existing customers where they are active online; this will then help guide your platform choices.
Get In The Habit Of Checking The News
If you’re not already doing this at least once a day, you need to start. Get in the habit of checking both industry news and the news in the world. You don’t need to read an entire newspaper and several journals, just look to bookmark a few key sites and blogs and at the very least, skim the headlines. Social media covers all aspects of people’s lives and the more you understand about them in a wider context, the more you can understand where your brand will fit into your followers’ newsfeed. The added benefit of scanning the news daily means it will also help you to find real time opportunities that you can utilise for your social media content.
Learn To Manage Your Time Effectively
On average, 64% of marketers spend at least 6 hours a week on social media. As more social media platforms, tools and features are added into your marketing mix regularly, it can become overwhelming to keep on top of your timing and not to have your social media management impact your other duties. Timekeeping is one of the most vital skills for an efficient social media marketer, so make sure you’re getting everything done by creating checklists for regular tasks and using social media tools that help you work smarter.
Focus on Building a Community Rather Than a Number of Followers
The number of people following you can only take you so far. Having 10,000+ followers is noteworthy, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they’re not interacting and paying attention to your content. So what can be done to build a community and increase engagement with your current and potential followers? Simple, always insert some personality, humor, and life into your brand and always converse directly with your followers: which is as simple as having a conversation with them, retweet them, like and comment on their posts, and directly ask them to interact with your content.
Create a Powerful Presence Across all Social Channels
If you want your audience to stay engaged, you need to be engaging. One of the great ways to do this by creating powerful social campaigns that run consistent across all your social platforms. How do you do this? Start by…
Telling a powerful story: Think of ways you can use your social channels to tell powerful, motivational and therefore compelling stories to your viewers. For example, you can share a story rooted in charity work that you do or support. Alternatively, you could share stories from your happiest clients on your blog and then create a social campaign with a unique slogan and hashtag to promote and create a movement around their stories. Team this strategy with…
Brand your movement with a unique name and hashtags: Branding your movement will make it memorable and stick out in the mind of your followers. Take time to brainstorm actionable ideas that will get followers involved, whether that is done by posting photos and using your hashtag to group them, running a contest, or throwing events run by your business. For example, you could use the inspirational aspect of getting fit, or New Year’s resolutions, or whichever angle you believe your customers would gravitate towards. Test out a few hashtags, find the one that resonates best, and brand your movement by announcing it on your blog and social platforms.
Suck Up to Influencers
The goal is to get these influential people to like you and like your brand. Once you get in with the people that matter, your business will exponentially grow because you are exposed to their audience and authority. Make a thorough list of key industry influencers and actively take the following steps to socially connect with them:
Favorite, like, comment, and re-share their content: Don’t favorite/like everything they post however, that is too obvious. Try to like and favourite a few times per week and comment when you genuinely have something educational and valuable to say.
Tweet at them: Whether it’s asking their feedback on your content or asking industry related questions, this strategy works very well as they will be flattered that you thought of them and consider them to be a valuable resource/influencer.
Use the same hashtags: This way when they’re reviewing their hashtag feeds they’ll see your content, and perhaps spark their interest.
Share Trending Content
Your platforms don’t exist to be solely self-promotional, this strategy will only make you be seen as boring and obnoxious. Rather, you need to strike a balance between sharing promotional content that markets your brand, interacting with your followers and influencers, and sharing other useful and entertaining content and news from other valuable resources. To help you become an industry influencer and produce content that is share-worthy, follow these four tips:
Look for viral videos on YouTube of hilarious children, adorable animals, and inspirational moments and re-share with your own unique spin.
Scan the news for the highest covered media stories and add a unique perspective keeping relevant to your brand.
Follow and use relevant trending hashtags to add your voice to the larger conversations happening on social media. For example on Twitter you can see “Trends.”
Use a popular tool like Buzzsumo to find content that resonates. It’s the easiest way to search related industry news sites and blogs, keywords, influencers, etc. to find the content with the highest number of social shares. Study the headlines that were shared and re-share those articles/headlines with your followers. This will continue the train of sharing, but also show your followers that your social posts are intriguing and follow-worthy.
Focus On Creating Content That People Care About and Inspires Conversation
On social media, you can’t depend on passive followers to convert themselves. You need to create as many opportunities to engage people as possible, and it all begins with your content. As people spend longer on social networks, their community expands and with every person followed, page liked, or friend added, they have a whole new set of posts and stories vying for their attention. Brands who have little respect for what people want in their newsfeed will find themselves further fenced off than before, therefore it is vital that the content you share is what your prospects and former customers generally respond well too. This may be a video about how your products work, interesting insights about the culture of your company or shocking stats about inefficiency in your industry for example. Whatever the case may be, build social content that gets your prospects talking to you.
Utilise Every Opportunity to Make Social Media Content
Every piece of content that you post is part of your story that you share with your audience. Everything from your ups and downs, your proudest achievements, to your charity work and the people behind your business are all prime areas in which you can create content that you can share with your viewers. So whenever you launch a new product, attend a conference or find a new way to use one of your products for example, look at the ways in which you can squeeze content out of it for use on your social media platforms.
Promote your Platforms
Anywhere your customers interact with your brand is an opportunity to encourage them to engage with you online. Once you begin, remember to promote all your social media platforms and that includes mentioning them on your e-newsletter, your email signature, business card, product packaging and anywhere else your customers will see it. Your customers and fans need to be told where they can connect with you through social media, so make it clear where you are.
Make Providing Value a Top Priority
Social media is centred on having conversations and engaging with people. That being said, unless the aim of your platforms is to be akin to a personal journal, the content you post should not be simply an update of what you are thinking or doing no with no real substance or value in what you are writing. To avoid to making this mistake every post and tweet should have a clearly defined topic as well as delivering something valuable to the reader, whether that be entertainment or information. You must also write your content with your target audience in mind so rather than trying to appeal to a generic wider audience, write content that contains specialised information and analysis that those interested in your services or in your sector would read. By openly giving out valued advice and information you will become an online repository of specialist knowledge and this will attract the attention of your target audience. Central to being effective is also realising that conversation is a two-way process so you also need to listen to what people are saying to you and about you and respond to them accordingly.
Be Active and Consistent
In order to get the most out of using social media as a marketing tool, you need to post content often. It is therefore vital that in the very beginning you figure out a comfortable writing routine that works with your editorial calendar, be it posting daily or several times a week, and stick to it in order to maintain consistency and maximise your impact. Although it takes some experimentation to find the best publishing schedule for you, there are two things that should always be considered and will dictate your posting schedule; your business goals and what your audience wants.
The fact that customer service through social media is quickly becoming an expectation of consumers means you’re publicly open to both criticism and praise online. From this, it is vital that you watch for any negative things that are being said about you and respond quickly and accordingly. Rather than simply deleting any negative comments you receive, as even the most universally loved businesses receive negative comments, view them as an opportunity to win over a customer offering help, guidance or even acknowledging where something went wrong. By dealing with negativity in an open and authentic way you can help build rapport and trust with your customers. Also remember that often you will get praise online in the form of a great review or comment, do not forget to say thank you.
Coordinate Your Social Channels
Your success will be limited If you treat each social media platform as a stand-alone effort. Your networks should work together to help you achieve your goals, with your website acting as your brand’s home base. Coordinate and cross-promote your social media efforts to reach new audiences, boost your following and to push people to your website where they can buy your product or service.
Boost Results With Social Advertising
If you want to accelerate your social media performance, it’s worth your time to explore paid advertising options. Facebook offers a number of advertising options to help boost sales, brand exposure, audience engagement and website traffic. Twitter has two advertising solutions: promoted content that helps you cut through the noise and serve your content to tailored audiences and promoted accounts which help increase the size of your Twitter following. Likewise LinkedIn also offers opportunities to reach specific audiences by advertising or by the use of the sponsored updates feature to increase your brand’s visibility. Even if your budget is limited, don’t dismiss social advertising. Used strategically it can produce great results to boost your visibility and success on social media.
Find Leads Using Social Media Monitoring Tools
Tracking and monitoring conversations happening around your brand and products is a time consuming but vital task that can be made manageable using social media monitoring tools. Ensure you actively make the effort to monitor mentions of your name, your business name, your products and any other keywords related to your business to find conversations already happening in your industry. Jump into those conversations and provide answers, guidance or helpful information where needed. Being useful is one way to start to build relationships with your target market.
Participate in Other People’s Communities (OPC’s)
Actively join and engage the discussions in the communities populated by people likely to use your services and share some of your expertise when it’s relevant. Make it your aim to become and trusted member of these communities. You never want to be promotional in social groups, but if you’re consistently helpful and engaged, prospects will likely be interested and click through to your profile where they’ll find your posts and marketing collateral.
Send Regular Emails with Valuable Content, Deals and Promotions
As your social media connections move into your email list, you can and should continue to provide valuable information, notify them of upcoming deals and promotions and provide general interesting business news and updates. At this point in the funnel you have likely already become a trusted source of information, meaning your subscribers are warmed up to buying from you. Social media is all about building connections with your target market, and making yourself the first name that comes to mind when they’re ready to buy. Take this opportunity to craft perfect email campaigns, using segmentation whenever possible to be sure your content and offers are targeted to specific groups of subscribers and by the strategic use of strong calls to action in your emails to make sure your subscribers know what you want them to do, and what to expect when they click on your offer/content. By continuing to cultivate them with engaging, valuable and entertaining information in your emails, you will help to build connections that will result in long-term, profitable relationships.
Create Customer Advocacy Opportunities
Customer advocacy is where your marketing ROI can take off. You’ll be putting in less effort to reach your marketing goals because your customers will effectively sell for you.
Continue to engage qualified leads and customers
There’s no reason why people should stop learning from you after they become customers. If they’re on an email list or subscribed to your blog, actively send out informational reminders for them to connect with your company on social networks.
Offer occasional incentives for customers to review your services or share certain posts
Depending on your business and market, offering vouchers or bargains such as free consultations can work well. The benefits for you are twofold: You’ll increase brand exposure and subtly help customers become your advocates.
Engage customers specifically about your products and services
If your company offers a complex product, it might be a good idea to create a forum on your website or an entirely hub that’s purely for continued customer support, just for you and your customers to interact around your products. Externally, LinkedIn showcase pages and Facebook groups might be possible hubs for product-based conversations that build increased trust for your brand and position your company as worth advocating for.
Provide substantial advocacy opportunities for repeat customers
Over time, you might form mutually beneficial partnerships with repeat customers. Consider rewarding these relationships with more substantial opportunities such as inviting them to networking events.
Monitor Social for Un-Tagged Brand Mentions
Not every person who mentions your brand or products on social media will tag you in the post. In fact, many social posters may assume that you’ll never even see the posts they create mentioning you. Actively scan your social media networks for these types of mentions and join the conversation by provide pleasantly surprising customer engagement. You should look to actively monitor;
Your Own Brand Terms—make sure to monitor for all variations of your company’s name, including nicknames and common misspellings.
Your Own Product Terms—A less frequently used strategy involves monitoring social for some of your popular products, as well as the common nicknames and misspellings.
Create an Internal FAQ Document
Consult with everyone who manages your social pages and build a document that houses all of these questions and some solid answers. Whilst you should never simply copy-paste those responses over to your customers, you can use this document to quickly guide your response.
Do What Is Right for You
As you become a regular participant on social media platforms, you will find unique ways in which they can be used to the best advantage for your business. Nobody knows your customers and what they expect from you better than you yourself so delivering the content they want and engaging with them is the most important thing and will dictate your decisions surrounding your social media marketing efforts. As with any other marketing efforts, you will learn in time what works and what don’t, the important thing is to learn by doing.
This is an excerpt from my new book “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses” out now in Paperback on Amazon! Head over there now for more of a Free preview! http://amzn.eu/2uuslrD
From winning new projects, a diary full of promising meetings, to even decorating your new office and picking out all your fresh new folders and stationary… those first few development years of business ownership are exhilarating and full of adventure! No two days are ever the same and with every day comes a new experience and learning curve… and you loved every minute of it. But now? All of a sudden, those long hours you love to put in, are now a chore. Your focus is gone. Maybe your personal and home life are suffering as a result of the constant stress. Like everyone else unhappy with their job, you sit there with a sense of despair on Sunday night at the thought of another Monday back at your desk. Ultimately, everything about your business has become a burden. A burden that you undertake with zero passion.
You’re not sure how or when you started to feel this way. You just know something doesn’t feel right anymore. You’ve suddenly become one of those people who dreams of escaping your mundane unhappy work life in the quest for something more exciting. Starting your own small business is a bit like falling in love: it’s exciting, exhilarating, and new. You don’t mind putting in the hours and effort during the beginning because you feel like your building something good. But just like in the affairs of the heart, when it comes to business it’s all too easy to let the passion slide. Take off the rose-tinted glasses and after the adrenaline rush subsides the reality sets in and you may discover that not everything about running a business is so wonderful. There are tasks you absolutely hate to do, activities you find stale, technical difficulties to test your patience and clients and vendors who you may not get on with at all.
Before you make the huge decision to dump something you’ve worked so hard to make a success, consider how you can rekindle that lost spark. All people from all walks of life have those moments and periods of wanting to pack it all in, its completely natural. However, you owe it to yourself and your business to decide whether this is just a wobbly period (99% of the time is!) or your mind is made and that’s it you’re done!
Does this all sound familiar to you? Let’s highlight some of the danger signs and if you find yourself nodding along and saying ‘yep, that’s me’ then read on for top tips to get you feeling the love!
You’ve taken on too much, you’re wearing so many ‘job hats’ that it’s overwhelming
You no longer have the time to ensure you are keeping your clients/customers happy.
Business plan? Haha what is that… I haven’t looked at in ages/ever!
Your cash flow is a serious problem
You’re working long hours and hate every second of it
You’re putting things off and finding everything else to do but solve your problems.
Thankfully, you can rekindle the flames of passion for your business by making a few subtle (tried and tested!) changes in how you work and think. Here are seven tips to help you love your business again!
Take a holiday! Most business owners rarely take a break, and if they do, they are still not fully switched off… they still answer emails, have the laptop available etc. Repeat after me … ‘YOUR CLIENTS CAN LIVE WITHOUT YOU FOR TWO WEEKS, THE WORLD IS NOT GOING TO END!’ Get a holiday booked that’s purely for you, designed for lots of rest and relaxation. No worrying about answering emails, listening to answerphone messages and dare I say it… no social media! You might find a holiday to escape from it all, and one that gives you (and your brain!) a chance to relax and slow down, is just what you needed to fall back in love with your business. Don’t feel guilty either – everyone needs a break and your clients will understand. Just give them plenty of notice and away you go.
With your newly refreshed state of mind… start again! After a holiday you always feel relaxed, rested and re-motivated. Before you go back straight into work and catching up – take a day to spring clean your business. Use this new-found positivity to clear out the garbage (ineffective procedures, bad clients and maybe even literally clear out the garbage if you have a messy office!). Simply ask yourself questions such as; what can I get rid of that’s not working/making me unhappy? What’s something that’s costing me lots of money? Can I get rid completely or find a cheaper alternative? What can I do to make my business more efficient? What ideas can I implement to make my clients happier? What skills can I learn that will benefit my business? By examining your life and reviewing your typical work day/week/month you can work out all the areas that are good/bad and act on that to help you solve many of your business issues and set yourself up for success!
Streamline processes to relive overwhelm! If the main problem within your business is that you feel overwhelmed, running around doing 1001 jobs, then you will really benefit from looking objectively at your business to identify the areas in which your time is being taken up unnecessarily. You can majorly improve your productivity and free up a lot of your time by implementing software, delegating tasks, hiring a freelancer and other tactics designed to be utilized by business owners like yourself to improve workflow and yield better results! Constantly chasing up invoices? Implement a software to do it for you. Absolutely hate answering the business calls? Hire a company who’s job it is to do that. You can easily free up your time by streamlining your current processes and delegating the ones you hate to someone else, leaving you happier, less overwhelmed and of course your business becomes more productive and professional as a result.
Remind yourself why you started your business! If you’re unhappy with your life and business, it’s easy to forget why you launched your own venture in the first place and the huge benefits you receive from it. When it comes down to it, you‘re the boss. You can take time off when you want, work the hours that suit you, pick and choose your clients and have control over your future. Ok so you are thinking of quitting self-employment, for what? To go back to the ratrace working for someone else, 9-5, a condescending boss, traffic and working all the hours under the sun to make someone else rich! That’s crazy to want to go back into! If you need to fall back in love with your business, take a few minutes to be humble and grateful. You are living the life that most people only dream they had to guts to do! Yes it may be stressful at times, but surely all the massive positives outweigh the negatives you experience sometimes.
Have good support around you! Running your own business can be a very lonely affair, especially if no one in your inner circle runs their own business so can’t relate to how you are feeling. It needn’t be, however as there are so many business support networks around in the form of monthly groups, networking opportunities, online communities etc. where you can meet up, get out the office and talk to like-minded people who can offer advice, support and a new way of thinking about things. Don’t underestimate a simple coffee with a friend or family member too! A nice chat to whinge and whine to get things off your chest can do the world of good – as they say a problem shared is a problem halved! – so make sure you have a lot of people around you who you can talk you when things are getting too much as this support can make the difference to help you succeed.
Work out your plan! If you are on a weight loss plan, for example, how great does it feel when you hit your weekly/monthly target and keep knocking those targets out the park! How motivating it is to see yourself working hard to achieve this positive life changing goal. The same logic can be applied to building and making a success of your own business. Take the time to work “on” your business by setting time aside to plan your goals and create a bigger picture of what you want to achieve. Identify realistic goals and objectives and create a roadmap that guides you towards that success! Make sure you regularly review your master plan and check your progress toward achieving your goals. When you see yourself hitting those goals you will feel a sense of motivation and fulfilment knowing you are one step towards where you want to be. Importantly, don’t feel sad if you don’t hit your goal, simply assess what you missed and learn what you need to do to make sure you hit it next month… you’re only human remember!
Book your next holiday! The logic here is that you will always have something to look forward to. Taking a break, even if its just a few days away is so important for a business owner. A holiday refreshes you, gets you a change of scenery, reminds you how good you really have it (after all, you didn’t have to ask anyone else’s permission to go on holiday – you just did it because you could as you’re the boss!) and that time away even gives you a chance to miss your business! All of which gear you up for an ultra-positive stint for when you get back to your desk!
What are your top tips for staying motivated as a business owner?
For most businesses, having a social media presence is now an essential element of a marketing strategy. Today’s online audiences are online to be informed, engaged and entertained by their favourite brands whilst ultimately expecting their voice to be heard and their needs listened to and met. It is up to you therefore to utilise this social media phenomenon and start reaping the rewards for your business from having a personable, valuable and engaging social media presence.
Whether you are a new business just starting out on social media or have already implemented your social media marketing plan, there is so much value to be gained in seeing examples of what other people and businesses are doing on social media and modelling their best practices. This article showcases three small businesses, that whilst all being in different industries and having different strategies, all display outstanding social media marketing efforts. So without further ado here are my top three small businesses successfully using social media and what you can learn from them.
Kim Garst is a social media expert, successfully informing, influencing and engaging her audience through her small business social media firm, Boom Social. Kim is very active amongst several social media platforms and is a perfect example of someone who has developed a powerful social presence through providing excellent customer service, strong branding and regular, engaging, varied and tailored content that businesses and those looking to start on the entrepreneurial path are drawn to. This approach has established Kim as an renowned thought leader, with her impressive influence within the industry testimony to that.
Kim’s approach to communicating with her audience is definitely one to admire. She really puts the social in social media and takes the time to respond to every social media interaction on her Facebook and Twitter. Whether it is thanking someone for sharing her article, sharing good advice or sharing the many business and social media tips, quotes and motivational pieces she has, she is always active and always listening to her audience, resulting in a presence that not only demonstrates her successful approach to becoming a well trusted, well informed and personable industry influencer but also by providing real-time, socially connected customer service, she is able to create more trust and credibility with her audience.
Another area in which Kim excels is her impressive visual branding, successfully creating a consistent look and feel across her website and all of her social media profiles. Kim makes sure that her advice, quotes, tips and other motivational sayings are delivered on good, high quality branded photos and by combing this approach with another one of her triumphs, that is her impressive use of relevant hashtags on Twitter, such as #socialmedia, #BizTip and #SocialMediaMarketing she is able to ensure that her branded messages target and reach others beyond her immediate circle, making it easy for people searching certain kinds of content to find her.
Ultimately it’s no surprise Kim is a social media expert, she demonstrates her expertise, personality and outstanding customer service skills to businesses worldwide by simply sharing engaging resources and advice through her website and social media platforms and ultimately listening to and engaging with her fans. It’s such a simple strategy but is the very foundation of a successful social media presence.
Ensure you humanise your brand by being genuine, honest and authentic in order to create truly personal and meaningful connections.
Aim to become a thought leader in your industry through actively sharing useful resources and tips with your fans.
Maintain a consistent strong branding throughout all of your online presence.
Utilise Hashtags to reach new audiences.
Dedicate time and resources to listening to and engaging with your fans and make demonstrating your excellent customer service skills a priority.
BrewDog is a brewery in Scotland using social media to ‘Push limits and challenge conventions with award winning craft beer’. Along the way they are gaining a reputation for courting controversy but at the same time offering a bold, provocative, irreverent and most of all highly impactful and successful approach to social media marketing.
Whilst causing controversy or offence is not for the average content marketer, BrewDog not only gets away with it, but revels in it, due to their complete self-confidence in their philosophy and a no qualms attitude towards telling everyone about it. At the very basic level this shows a great case study of a business with a strong brand ethic, something which should be admired.
Having a strong philosophy (that is, their love of beer and challenging the conventional big breweries) instantly makes every post and status update crafted in a purposeful way and directed towards a goal and BrewDog is testament to this end. With cleverly produced and humorous videos, stunts such as driving a tank through the streets of London, projections onto the British House of Parliament and serving beer out of dead animals, they court controversy, divide opinion and importantly attract publicity and attention for themselves whilst perfectly demonstrating with their edgy, out there image that earns them a very targeted and loyal following.
In the midst of the controversy, BrewDog however is testament of a brand with an excellent social and collaborate strategy, in that they strive to involve their customers is every aspect of their journey. From asking for suggestions for wording on their new labelling, engaging their audience through regular questions on Facebook and Twitter, right through to their brilliantly successful crowd funding venture, they genuinely show they care about their audience and are interested in involving them in the business and listening to their thought and opinions.
Another area in which BrewDog excel is through their ability to successfully capitalise on up-coming events and trends, cleverly ensuring they secure coverage and attention for themselves while continuing to show their personality and appease their loyal following who are expecting these bold, clever and out there antics. Their ‘Hello, my name is Vladimir’, a ‘not for gays’ beer in protest at Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws, launched to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, is a great example of their excellent use of capitalising on a worldwide event. Whilst this controversial approach divides opinion, it ultimately garners them a lot attention which is crucial for small businesses in terms of brand awareness and keeping their brand in front and centre of their target audience’s minds. After all, without this provocative marketing approach BrewDog may not have had such a large impact in a crowded marketplace.
Ultimately, BrewDog have remained true to their philosophy, personality and attitude and this has simply been transferred to their marketing efforts. Through varied, regular and interesting blog posts, to clever and humorous videos to boost viral reach, right through to the two founders being active throughout their social media profiles which helps humanise the brand and show personality, it’s hard to find fault with a brand that is confident, consistent and clever in their approach no matter who it might offend.
Be provocative, but only where it suits your brand.
Make strategic use of relevant national or world trends and events to attract attention and grow your fan base.
Be true to your strong brand ethic and recognise the importance of continuing conversation whether or not your brand or your approach is particularly liked.
Put your customers at the forefront of your marketing, always listen to, learn from and encourage and engage your audience.
Daylesford Farm is an organic farm in Gloucestershire with farmshops and cafes in London. Daylesford Farm is excelling in their social media efforts as they clearly understand the importance of sharing quality content and engaging with their audience and as such have brought the social and collaborative experience to the forefront of their marketing efforts.
Where Daylesford Farm truly excels is within their use of content and engagement strategies. Throughout all their social media channels Daylesford Farm place emphasis on providing valuable, targeted and engaging content fine-tuned to appeal to and capture their audience’s interest and attention. Every tweet, retweet, post and status update is shared with a purpose in mind, so whether it’s offering seasonal recipes to try, great tips, facts, competitions, testimonials, articles promoting sustainability in food and farming, humanising the business through showing the faces behind the brand or news and updates relating to their cookery school, farm shop, cafe and other activities, they ensure that each post is purposeful, informative and useful to their audience. In doing so, Daylesford Farm has given their social media followers lots of reasons to engage with and revisit their profiles and this is reflected in the high engagement and sharing levels of their updates.Importantly amongst their efforts they also cross promote each piece of content across their social media platforms and demonstrate well their impressive understanding of the need to tailor the content for each different platform. The result of which means that they attract and form a relevant, captive audience that regularly comes to their social media platforms to interact and be informed and entertained.
Daylesford Farm have also cleverly integrated social media into almost every aspect of their website. From the often overlooked but crucial clear placement of social media icons across all pages of their website, to utilising social media widgets on their website and the online shop where social media icons are clearly displayed for you to share the product, it is clear that Daylesford Farm is projecting themselves as a social brand. The key benefit here is that in doing so they have created this very social experience for the visitor, making it easy to connect socially and for the most part, you don’t have to leave the website to do so, which encourages viewers to stay on the website for longer, allowing Daylesford Farm to effectively increase their fan/follower base from their website.
Ultimately Daylesford farm clearly understand and demonstrate well how to get the best out of each social media platform. They tailor content well, provide excellent customer service and importantly provide varied, consistent and engaging content that regularly keeps their audience coming back for more.
Ensure every post you create is designed with a purpose and your target audience in mind. Whether it’s to inform, entertain, educate or engage, make everything that goes into your post (tone, pictures, links etc.) work towards and compliment your overall purpose for the post.
Make sure that on your website you provide the visitor with lots of opportunities to connect with you socially. You can do this by clearly displaying your social media icons on your website pages and utilising any website social widgets that can enhance your marketing efforts.
Provide fans with reasons to keep returning to your social media profiles by offering valuable content, competitions, industry insights, informative resources and anything else your target audience will find interesting.
Differentiate and tailor your social media strategy to match the platform you are using.
What are your thoughts? Who are your favourite brands successfully using social media?
Running a small business can be an incredibly rewarding journey. Nothing beats the feeling when you’re a new start-up with a great idea and a fire in your belly that makes you feel you are all set to conquer the world! Whilst there are many hurdles you will face initially from getting a solid business plan in place to working out how to reach the market on a boot-strapped budget, there are some things you only find out once you’re on the go.
I didn’t choose entrepreneurship. I never had a sudden flash of Alan Sugar esk inspiration with big dreams of being very important with many leather-bound books and an apartment that smells of rich mahogany. In actual-fact, I was mid-way through a University Course, well on my way to chasing dreams of being a University Lecturer, when, in the midst of a quiet patch, I helped get the family business on board the relatively new social media sphere and developed quite a fondness for networking and connecting online! I finished the University course to have a degree under my belt and on the day I left University I founded my social media marketing business. And the rest they say, is history.
I never went to business school, never got an experienced business mentor to take me under his wing, not even a quick look through one of those Guides for Dummies Books – no, my stubborn nature gave me the mindset that I will learn about building and marketing a business while building and marketing a business. And that’s exactly what I did, learning each of these following things the hard way.
Your Family and Friends Won’t Get it
If I had a pound for everyone who has told me to quit what I’m doing or go and get a real job… I wouldn’t have spent today training, crafting content and chasing invoices. Rather, I would have spent it on a Yacht in Barbados having my sun tan cream massaged in by Tom Hardy.
When you have your own business it’s more than likely some if not all of the following have happened; Your dad will think you made a mistake and constantly remind you of it, your best friend will not stop bringing up statistics of failing UK businesses they’ve seen on “Can’t Pay We’ll Take it Away” on Channel 5. And quite frankly the rest your family will never actually understand what you do and/or even care, in fact, they will all still be sulking at the fact that they can no longer put you in a ‘box’ when people ask what you do for a living. But listen, so what at the end of the day. You should be proud of yourself as most people daydream that they had the guts to go out into the unknown and start their own business, but you actually did it. Whether your business succeeds or fails, you should be so pleased with yourself as most people don’t have the stomach to ride the roller coaster that is running your own business!
Everyone Will Have an Opinion, but You Don’t Have to Take it.
I have my own way of doing things and I’m sure many others will have their opinions about it and prefer to do things a different way. But I have specific ways of doing things for a reason, because I want to do it that way. Whilst I am open to advice and modifying my routine should a better opportunity present itself, I never take someone’s advice that I don’t agree with just to be nice or because they think they know better. No one knows you better than yourself, so if you have a way of doing things that means you do the best job you can for your clients then stick to it. Everyone will have some advice for you just like when you decide to buy your first car, or when you buy a house or have a baby, you’ll find that when you start a business that everyone’s suddenly an expert. Take all of this ‘advice’ with a pinch of salt. Advice from anyone other than someone who does in fact run a successful business is just that: advice.
Not Everyone Will Want to Work With You… But That’s Fine
You will always get someone who no matter how much time, energy and evidence you present, they will just not ‘get’ what you’re offering or simply want to go with another person that’s cheaper, a different gender or less/more [Insert your own adjective here]. But that’s fine, because there will always be those who do want your help. You can waste a lot of your own time trying to convince someone or you can instead learn when is the time to stop and instead direct your time into connecting with people who are serious about using your services. It’s also important to note that being your own boss also grants you the benefit of being able to choose who YOU work with. Gut instinct say no when you meet? Then don’t work with them. Just don’t fancy the job? Then don’t take it. I’ve had many a time where I’ve turned down work because I don’t like the MD, don’t like the business ethos or simply don’t have the time to do the work well. And you know what, that’s fine. Because I said it is!
You Need to Get Over Being Modest (Well, When You Are First Starting up!)
Owning your own business means it is up to you to be proactive to get the money coming in. Therefore, you need to really market yourself in the beginning to get the initial interest of prospective clients in your business. This means getting over your fears of talking about yourself in front of people, sending sales emails and – dare I say it! – picking up the phone and calling folk! Without fail, if you believe you are the best thing since sliced bread for the business you are pitching too, then you need to speak confidently about yourself and your business and really try to sell yourself to give them a compelling reason to choose you over your competitors. I personally hate talking on the phone, and wouldn’t even dream to cold call, but when I see that phone ringing and know it may be a potential customer, you can bet your bottom dollar I answer because if I don’t then they will just hang up and call a competitor instead.
You Will be Surprised by the People Who are Willing to Help you…or Not Help You
Forming and developing a business is a daunting, disheartening, stressful task but there can be on hand lots of helpful advice in the form of friends, family, online forums or other personal networks, so you don’t have to go it alone. Work on the philosophy that someone can’t help if they don’t know what the problem is, so always ask if you need help. Especially when it comes to financial help, pride soon goes way out the window if you are a cash strapped business… yes it’s embarrassing, yes you will feel like crap for asking, but you have to think what the alternative is if you don’t. Asking your parents/friend or other family remember for a loan suddenly doesn’t seem as bad as being out on your arse on the streets if you couldn’t make the rent! Trust me, everyone has to have help some time or another whether you are 20 years in business or 2 minutes. I’ve had to beg, borrow (never stole of course!) to keep my business going at times. You may well find however that those you wanted to help you won’t or those you never thought of asking do help, either way learn from those surprises and use those lessons to guide your future requests for assistance.
You Really Need to Follow up With Everyone you Meet
This one is a valuable lesson! It is one thing to meet a person and ask for their card but it’s another thing to actually follow-up with that person. Always, and I mean always, make it a point to follow-up with everyone you meet and drive new connections and networks, if you take someone’s card and do not take the time to follow-up with them then your networking effort is completely lost. Networking is so important for new businesses to drive growth, so make sure you are taking advantage of all the connections you meet. I’m not saying ring them up straight-away and unleash your sales spiel. After a day or so, say something as simple as “Hi [Insert Name], it was really lovely to meet you at [Insert venue/function you met at] the other day. I’d love to speak to you over coffee about some of the things we spoke about [Insert more detail as needed]. Let me know when is best for you. Kind regards have a lovely week, [Insert Name]. The benefits of this are three-fold – 1. It shows you are a professional that is serious about connecting, 2. It sets you apart from competitors and 3. It just may lead to some business for you.
No Matter What They Say, Always Lower Your Offering and Not Your Rates.
When you’re starting out you’re probably going to have to do some work that is below your pay grade to get experience and initial testimonials. However after you’ve established yourself and understand your rate within the industry, stick to it. If you have a client that questions your proposal, don’t lower your rates, simply lower your offering. If they don’t want to pay what you charge then simply ask, “OK, what don’t you want to do?” which just lowers the number of services you’ll provide and not your rate.
To be hypocritical for a second here, I’m the biggest softy when it comes to businesses I want to work with and will always accommodate budgets and go the extra mile if I genuinely love the people in the business. It’s not uncommon for me to work to a lower budget for a genuine business. However ‘genuine’ is the key factor here as there are many and I mean loads of people out there who are ruthless and just after paying peanuts for work, it is through time and experience that you will learn to tell these types from a mile away. Stay strong and don’t be bullied by their tactics. Remember it’s up to you to take on the work or not and if you don’t feel comfortable then give it a miss. Chances are if they are after the moon on a stick for next to nothing, they are not going to be a particularly nice client to work with anyway. So save yourself the hassle and just say no thank you!
You Don’t Have to Take on Every Job
You might feel, especially at the beginning, that you have to take on anything and everything that comes your way to establish yourself and get some much-needed income. Don’t be tempted to do this as this way of working will only come round and bite you on the bum later – whether that be in the form of an angry spouse asking why you are never home as you’ve taken on so much work or a company chasing bills that you haven’t paid as you have taken on too much work for so little money. The best advice here is to be clear that as you are building a brand, you need to make sure that you only take on work that aligns with your brand values and the image you want to create for your business. For instance, in my case I love start-ups and small/micro business and can’t stand large faceless corporations. As such, I only take on work from those smaller ones. I will never be rich as they don’t have huge budgets, but I will be happy with the work I’m doing and that is ultimately what it’s all about. Yes, I could double my income by working with large businesses but I would be unhappy, and in that instance I’ve always said I would be better off going being unhappy in a ‘regular’ job somewhere – where it’s 9-5 and I’m guaranteed a regular income!
The main point here is that you are allowed to turn jobs down. There’s no doubt that along the way it will be tough and sometimes an opportunity may present itself that may not be what you want to do, and as tempting as it might be to grab the opportunity, be it through someone’s suggestion or your own financial worry, this is when you need to be balanced in your focus. Being too scattered and grabbing whatever work comes your way can compromise your reputation, focus and your passion. Ultimately, your work has to sit well with your core values, not significantly infringe on other work enough to interfere with quality, and it must never negatively impact on your personal life. Easier said than done I know!
Don’t be disheartened by turning down work or thinking you will be suddenly blacklisted from that client. Instead turn yourself into a helpful pillar of the business community by recommending one of your peers or a trusted source who you know can do the work. Everyone’s a winner in that scenario!
The Incredible Highs and Lows
This was the biggest surprise for me. You expect tough times and you expect happier times too, but no one ever tells you exactly how intense the emotional roller coaster of owning a business can be. You can often find yourself at the extreme ends of the emotional scale, from being so happy you are fit to burst, to feeling so miserable that you can’t possibly see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We’ve all been there unfortunately, my worst times have seen me hooked up to a heart monitor in hospital with stress, my whole life savings dwindled as not one client paid their invoices on time for many months, right through to happier times such as when I published my book, to landing an amazing client that I love, to having all aforementioned clients suddenly pay their overdue invoices on the same day. I had that much money go in my bank that day, I actually had a call from Barclays asking what the fuck was going on and if I would like to see my investment opportunities!
The key thing here is having a strong support network behind you who you can turn to during these emotional extremes. Be it your partner, another business owner you talk to or your friend group. Just please don’t keep it bottled up when you are going through the bad times as that can lead to mental illness issues that are difficult to get out of. So if you have no one to turn to or talk to then talk to me, my inbox is always open and I will ALWAYS get back to you email@example.com.
You Will Have to Work. Hard.
Showing up to work is not enough. There really are no shortcuts, no one-size fits all master plan for world domination. You will need to put in the hard graft yourself to see results. Unpredictable hours, unforeseen circumstances, nightmare clients, chasing invoices and no sales for months, these are all contributing factors that make running your own business a very hard job indeed. You will have to be the owner of many ‘hats’ – HR Hat, Accountant Hat, Problem Solver Hat, not to mention your actual Job Title Hat! You will have to be everyone and everything to get your business running smoothly.
The key is to be prepared for this stress and hardship by having a realistic plan in mind to make sure you’re ready to deal with any eventuality. But just like the old boxing quote “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face,” after the first year into your business I bet you a tenner you will feel like you’ve gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson. Leaving you asking “what the bloody hell happened?” The answer to this my friend is, nothing happened, it’s called owning your own business.
Don’t be disheartened If things don’t go to plan for you, every business operates under different circumstances. The plan that made your competitor a roaring success might not work for you, you just have to find your own path to success. The only worthwhile advice here is to say live in your potential customers’ heads as this is the key to success. Learn their wants, needs and tailor your marketing and indeed business ethos around making them believe your product/service is simply one they can’t live without it! Keep it in your mind that just because you have started out a business with what you think is a brilliant product/service, no one owes you their money or attention. It’s up to you to show them why you are worth it!
It’s Completely Normal to Change Direction
The business you start with might not necessarily be the one you end up with and that’s perfectly acceptable, common even. You are allowed to change your mind. It may sound like something from a David Attenborough series, but you need to see your business as a living entity that molds and adapts to the environment to ensure its own survival. In the beginning if you’re smart you will have done a business plan, the wonderful, reassuring bit of paper that shows the journey your business will take. But lets face it, it’s hard to know what it’s really like to work in the industry until you’re slap bang in the middle of it and running a business. It’s right there and then when you soon learn what you need to change. Sometimes the answer is not much and sometimes the answer is almost everything. But at least you know then and you can act on the information in front of you to make your business better. So don’t spend too much time worrying about that first logo or holding off a launch until the stationary is just right, you can change these things at any point and it really is no biggie.
Everything is Your Problem
Fairly obvious but it still doesn’t make it any less important to know that when shit hits the fan in any aspect of your business, it is up to you to deal with. Whether it’s something you never saw coming or something you had an incline towards happening but just hoped for the best that it didn’t. There’s no preparing you for this added stress, especially if you have come straight from paid employment where any big problem that’s arisen in the work place was met with you slyly backing away muttering “not my problem, not paid enough to deal with that.”
Even if you don’t have a document with written specifications on what to do, make sure you have a rough idea of where to go for help and advice if something does go a bit wrong. Better safe than sorry as they say.
It Will Take Longer Than You Think
We’ve all seen the documentaries highlighting the overnight success stories and most of us convince ourselves that’s going to be us. But the truth is being an ‘overnight success’ is one of two things;
Luck – yes the stars aligned and it actually was an overnight success.
99% of the time an overnight success is actually made from “over ‘many’ night” success! Where for months or years they wanted to quit, doubted themselves but kept going and going until one day everything clicked and someone says wow you’re an overnight success!
Sometimes you may think that there is just never going to be an end to the countless things on your business to do list before you make it, the important thing is to keep at it, stay consistent and continue to do your best work on every job and you will be rewarded. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not a resounding success after two weeks, two months or even two years… you will get there, but you have to be patient. (That is such a clique and always gets a roll of the eyes … but its true!)
My God it’s Unpredictable
Being in business is an unpredictable thing, there will be times where you have no clue whether you’re coming or going… never knowing what’s going to happen next. A bit like when all those people are on that boat in Willy Wonka (Yes, as the business owner you are the slightly weird captain of this crazy boat). But listen, channel your inner Buddha and realize that there are just some things that are out of your control. You can have a plan for every little thing but sometimes things happen that you never saw coming. Deal with it by learning to grow a thick skin and take a “roll with the punches” kind of attitude. Being a cool, laid back and adaptable individual means that when a problem happens instead of screaming and thinking it’s the end of the world, you will instead take a deep breath and say right shit happens, how can I fix it.
You Will Constantly Doubt Yourself
Ask any business owner “how’s business?” and you’ll usually get the same answer, “it’s great thanks!” Pre-business ownership, I simply thought oh great that’s wonderful for you! But now I’m more wise and a business owner myself, I hear this answer and I take it to mean anything from “things are actually pretty good”, “They are not great but I’m ashamed to really say that”, right through to “I don’t really know if I’ll be open next month.”
Whether you want to avoid a conversation about it, are ashamed by what you think are your failures or you are in a mental rut, it’s much easier to tell your friends and family that “things are going well” rather than tell the truth that you just barely made enough money last month to pay your bills.
Externally to people, they will see you have the fancy phone and the snazzy suit and an aura of super confidence about you, but what they don’t know is that on the inside you are constantly shitting a brick and always having the nagging doubt in your mind that’s asking “do I really know what I’m doing?” It always hits me when I see a post on social media that’s really clever and I think damn why didn’t I think of that. That small niggle is then enough to open the floodgates to doubting anything and everything else in my business.
I’m getting better with it now though as I’ve convinced myself that doubting yourself is healthy in business as it keeps you on your toes and ensures that you never get too complacent about yourself or your business… nagging doubt forces you to up your game as it where, which is a great thing for your business!
It has been a bit of a warts ‘n’ all list, but lets face it, despite all of the above, all you small business owners know you wouldn’t give this up for the world!
Seriously, despite all the realities of small business ownership, the pay-offs of working for yourself are incredible!
When you are self-employed I swear it’s like magic. Yes there’s no boss to blame when shit hits the fan, but there’s also no boss to hold you back from creating this wonderful business on your own terms. That feeling when someone loves something you have created that much they are willing to part with their hard-earned cash to own it, gives you a validation like no other.
You get to do every part of the business how you want to and it’s a giddy feeling to comprehend the idea that you make up your own rules. You get to be YOU every day! Want to take a day off mid-week to go to the lakes to avoid the weekend queues, you can do it! Can’t be arsed to work today – do it and catch up later! Want to have a garish bright orange chicken as your business logo -do it! No one is going to say no to you… because you make the rules in your business!
If you can take the plunge into small business ownership, then I say do it. Life’s too short so grab the opportunity with both hands!
My top tip would just be to have a nice bit of cash to fall back on in your first year, as nothing stifles creativity and decision-making when you are worried about the bills! But other than that, you go do your thing.
Are you are small business owner? Tell me what you think and share your tips and experiences!