This month I had the pleasure of getting some social media tips from the wonderful Mary Thomas. Mary is a Social Media and Digital Marketing Trainer / Consultant at Concise Training. I have completed many of Mary’s courses and I can honestly say that they have taken me from being a relative novice to a keen social media enthusiast and the number one listed Assistant on social media. If you are a budding entrepreneur, read on for some wise words!
Starting a new business? How to make social media marketing work.
Over 600,000 new businesses were registered with Companies House in 2015 and there are expected to be even more during 2016. Of course this number doesn’t include the thousands of people who set up and run successful businesses but don’t formally register them. I ran Concise Training for 3 years before taking the step to register the business as a limited company.
The start of a new business is an exciting time and you will probably have loads of people offering advice in all sorts of ways. From a digital marketing / social media perspective, I would offer these few words of advice:
Understand what your business is all about and what your aims are for the first year. You will need to allocate money for marketing – whether that be face to face networking or digital marketing – you need to let people know you exist.
Consider who will buy your products / services and who can be a brand ambassador for you. Your brand ambassadors may be friends or family who will tell others about your business and help to create the initial buzz. Even if they only like and share your social media posts, it will give an outsider the impression that you are running a business that others are engaging with. You need to have a clear understanding of your potential customers so you know how they will engage with your products and services and how best to talk to them.
There are loads of ways of promoting your business. You need to choose the channels that will work for you based on your personality and circumstances, your type of business and the needs of your audience. Personally, I found face to face networking useful as a way of getting started in conjunction with a number of digital channels. However, I haven’t found exhibiting at events particularly successful. You need to try a number of different options and measure which work best for you.
From a digital perspective, I would consider:
A website is an investment which it is often hard to justify at the start of a new business. I have seen several people use a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile in lieu of a website. Personally, I think it is important to develop a website as soon as possible. It gives the business credibility (assuming it is a professional looking website), could help with search engine optimisation, allows you to expand on the products and services available and gives your audience a place to go that you are in control of.
I believe that you should use a few channels really well, rather than loads of channels not so well. You need to take the time to identify the best channels for your business based on your audience, your products and services and to some extent your personal preferences. I would recommend the following:
- LinkedIn– most business owners should have a good individual profile on LinkedIn. This will allow people to find out more about the person behind the business and will allow you to build relationships with suppliers and other business people.
- Twitter– Twitter takes time to use, but can be a great way of building a community with other local or related businesses, get feedback on your products and build brand awareness.
- Facebook– If you are a consumer based business, Facebook could work really well for you – though you will have to be prepared to pay for advertising to get your brand in front of an audience you do not already know. We have recently been running a campaign for Page Likes for a business at a cost of around £0.45 per click. This has created a whole new set of fans for the business to engage with.
- Instagram– This can work really well for a business with loads of images. With the right use of hashtags and the right images you can reach a vast number of people under 35. (90% of people using Instagram are under 35).
- Images– Whichever channel or channels you are using and whatever your business, images are an essential part of your online marketing. This is the time to either develop design skills yourself or find a good value and trustworthy graphics designer and / or photographer to create you a bank of branded, relevant images. Try to avoid stock photos – not only do these have copyright restrictions, but they can also give off the wrong impression. There are plenty of free sites around or invest in getting your own created.
- Videos– Videos come in all lengths and can be created for a number of reasons including educational, promotional, aspirational, humorous and informative. Longer length videos should be loaded to YouTube, shorter videos can be distributed via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- Newsletter– At the end of the day, it is important for you to own your contacts rather than relying on Facebook or Twitter. The best way of doing this is to build an email list and I would suggest that most businesses should start gathering email addresses at an early stage. Mailchimp is free to use for less than 2000 subscribers – so what have you got to lose?
- Blogging– Writing blog posts is a great way of showing your knowledge of the products / services you offer and related subjects. It should help with search and bring people to the website – but only if you use other channels to distribute your blog posts.
- Other Channels– Depending on your business, you might also want to explore Pinterest, SnapChat and Google+.
Take the time to think about what content you can create to distribute using the channels. At all times, your content should be added value and give the audience something they didn’t know or think of before. Think about:
- The questions you are asked by your audience
- The questions your audience should ask before buying
- What else is relevant to your products / services
- Why you got involved in the business
- What others have said
Each of these ideas can be written in short, interesting tips or, perhaps better, formed as a question to encourage engagement.
Every month, measure your progress on digital channels. Identify what content on what channels has led to enquiries and what has led to sales. Identify which channels and which content got the most engagement in terms of likes, shares and comments. Do more of what has worked and change what hasn’t worked – but remember this is a long term marketing plan. Don’t give up after a month!
Enjoy your first year of your new business. It will be full of ups and downs – highs and lows, but most of all it should be a fantastic experience and give you the freedom to spend time on other aspects of your life.