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Stop. Right this minute! I can see you, fingers hovering over your keyboard about to try and light up Facebook with a post about you new super-duper offer. But don’t. Not yet. Not until you’ve read this post.
Because I want to stop you wasting five to 10 hours of your time every week.
Yes, that right. According to The Daily Telegraph that’s how much time small businesses spend on social media marketing. Five to 10 hours that two thirds of business owners say are having very little impact on their bottom line.
And I’m not surprised.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard business owners complaining that Facebook doesn’t work for them, or that social media hasn’t landed them any sales.
But here’s the thing. Pretty much every time I take a close look at the social media platforms of one of those businesses I can see why.
Businesses big and small simply aren’t doing it right.
Take John Fretwell of Dorset based online retailer Deliamo who the Daily Telegraph quotes as saying he’s seen no new business from social media.
John, I’ve taken a quick look at each of your pages and, with the best will in the world, you can do better.
A quick critque: You’re spreading yourself extremely thinly across five channels; you only post about your own products; at the time of writing you’ve posted just 23 times on Twitter since the beginning of November and your most recent post on LinkedIn was four months ago.
If you’re can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.
I’m not trying to pick on you John, I’m sure you’re doing your best with limited resources, but expecting social media to work for you if you don’t use it properly is like expecting to get a killer tan after spending five hours lying in on the beach covered in baby oil on a winter’s day in Skegness. It ain’t gonna happen.
Is social media marketing your super-power?
Whether you’re an expert in accounting, recruitment or selling delicious gourmet food like John, chances are you’re not also a social media expert.
And why should you be? I can fit on my little finger nail what I know about accounting, recruitment or gourmet food.
It’s a big strength in business to be able to admit your weaknesses – or simply to realise you can’t do it all. Believe me, I’ll be running to the safe harbour of a qualified accountant when I need to do my tax return. I know that my time is better spent elsewhere.
Social media is a specialist subject. It’s takes time, strategic thinking and constant tweaking and testing to get it right. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not simple and it’s massively time consuming for the average small business owner.
Get a social media strategy!
This is the fundamental step that most businesses, big and small, skip over. And in so doing they’ve already doomed themselves to pages full of content that has no voice, no direction, with no way of measuring whether they’re helping the business get where it wants to go.
Here’s what happens. You jump on every shiny new social media channel because that’s where the cool kids are, but with no idea if it’s right for you, no idea what you’re going to say and no idea of what you want to achieve.
For social media to see results you need:
- a clear idea of who your target audience is, where they are and how to reach them.
- an understanding of what your overall marketing objectives are and a realistic idea of how social media can contribute to to that.
- to focus your efforts on the channels that your audience uses within the limitations of your resources.
So if you’ve only got a few hours a week for social media, don’t try and juggle three, four or even five channels. First focus on the one that will most effectively reach your objectives, and do it REALLY well.
Are you being helpful and engaging?
Social media isn’t like traditional marketing or advertising. It’s a conversation. Would you walk up to a group of new people at an event and start bellowing sales messages at them without first asking them about themselves, or establishing some kind of rapport?
Apply the same principles of you would use when networking face-to-face to social media and the medium comes to life.
That means sharing, liking and commenting on other people’s content, offering helpful tips and advice with no strings attached, asking questions, replying to comments and questions from others and doing all that BEFORE you even attempt to sell a thing.
Do you have realistic expectations?
A successful social media strategy takes time, testing and tweaking as you go. It’s not an overnight success story – and it’s just part of your wider content marketing strategy.
If your website sucks you can send all the traffic you like there from Facebook but you still ain’t gonna seal the deal.
Besides, I’m willing to bet that social media is having more of an impact on your most business than you realise. It’s not always possible to pinpoint the exact journey someone takes to becoming a customer.
When business owners tell me, “I’ve haven’t got any new business through my Facebook page.” I always reply by saying, ‘Are you sure about that?’
The impact of social media on sales is rarely direct. Social media is part of establishing your expertise, building your brand and getting people to know, like and trust you.
Even if customer feedback suggests their initial point of contact is via traditional ads, or word of mouth – I’m willing to bet that as well as looking at your website potential customers will also check out one of your social media pages to get a better feel for who you are.
The other reality check is that not everything shows up in the data. In her article, Small businesses are wasting their time on social media – the article that inspired this one – Louise Goulden of Blonde Digital recalls how she recently saw a stunning pink top in her newsfeed. She immediately went out and bought it without ever interacting with the post. None of the fashion brand’s data would indicate that social media was a factor in making that that sale. But it was the only factor.
So social media can be an essential part of building your brand, your reputation and your credibility – and yes, ultimately sales. But, I’m being frank with you, if you’re not doing it right, it’s none of that, it’s a waste of your time.
So how do you create a successful social media strategy? I’ll tell you in my next post.
Here’s to social media success!
ps. a note to John Fretwell of Deliamo – I’m sorry to have picked on you in this post. If you’d like any advice about how to build a social media presence that does impact sales, then please do give me a shout.