Make social media work for you by learning how to do it right, first time and every time.
By Gina Bianchini (Founder & CEO, Mightybell)
I have a confession to make. I don't believe in social media.
Specifically, I don't believe social media is either the fastest or easiest way to generate new customers for small business owners and the self-employed.
In fact, I believe "doing social media" is a waste of time created by an army of aspiring social media gurus, marketing consultants and the advertising power of Facebook and LinkedIn to take advantage of the little guy. No offense to these fine folks, I am just skeptical.
So we asked. We surveyed over 16,000 self-employed professionals to get a pulse on how they are actually using social media for their businesses. We were overwhelmed with the number of responses, providing us with results worth sharing.
There were no surprises as to why small business owners were using social media. The top two reasons they're using social media is to identify new customers and build stronger relationships with existing customers.
The surprises were in the details.
Small business owners like you are spending six times more time on Facebook and LinkedIn than Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.
The majority of respondents invest more than two hours each day building their social reputations, yet almost 40 percent of these professionals aren't sure whether or not their efforts are working. That's 10 hours a week dedicated to the same imprecise science and guesswork of traditional advertising.
3 Reasons to Use Social Media that Don't Waste Your Time
As we followed up our survey with interviews, three things emerged as the most effective reasons for self-employed professionals to use social media:
1. Strengthen Relationships with Existing Clients
Focusing on existing customers is fast and measurable because it is well-defined. There is no guesswork in connecting with people you already know, so investing a half hour a day in this can pack a punch.
2. Look Legitimate to New and Potential Customers
It's clear to us that an active social media presence creates legitimacy when potential customers check you out. The great news is that focusing on existing customers can also help you build your legitimacy with new prospects.
3. Rise in Natural Search Results
We found 35% of respondents recognize and take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) dynamics by using social media. In this way, social media can be very valuable, and it suggests those same 30 minutes a day can accomplish a lot.
Stories from the Front Lines
Nancy Rothstein, Photographer
“At first I used Facebook as a portfolio to showcase my work. I added galleries of my photos and made sure it represented my brand.
Now I focus on building relationships with my existing clients. They are the best source of new clients, especially as I post their photos and celebrate their stories, and they share these out to their networks.
I approach each client to connect on Facebook and LinkedIn with an attitude of 'I am here to promote YOU’ and use social media to celebrate what each client has accomplished.”
Sandra Harris, Founder & President, ECOlunchbox
"Many of us use social media as a way to ‘check out’ companies and make sure they're ‘for real’ and ‘legit’ before proceeding to buy or otherwise engage.
We've cultivated a 10,000-strong fan base on Facebook for ECOlunchbox. While our daily posts on Facebook may only reach a few hundred people (unless it's shared and goes viral), our likes and page ‘vouch’ for ECOlunchbox.
If someone passing by our Facebook page takes a moment to read comments, they'll see that ECOlunchbox is a ‘lovemark’ among our eco-friendly community.”
Freda Gore, Owner, Caribbean Culinary Tours & Vacations
“I use both Facebook and Twitter as a great way to build relationships with my current customers. This has the secondary result of getting the word out about my business. Because I have a niche service business, I have to keep my name in front of prospects and social media is one way of doing that.”
Jackie Reisenauer, Owner, Munster Rose Floral Design
"Most of our incoming prospects first saw us on Instagram. Our secret isn't really a secret at all: we have great photos and consistently post.
I got advice early on to post photos of the kind of work that excites me. At Munster Rose, we only do weddings and large events and often we do designs that aren't my personal style. However, I make a practice of not posting event photos to social media that aren't in line with where I want to take our brand."
3 Ways to Make Social Media Work for You
At the end of this project, I remain skeptical of social media as a magical source of new clients. It just isn't. But I was surprised by the concrete reasons the best small business owners invest their time, energy and creativity in social media.
What can you do differently today to take full advantage of the power of social media? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Borrow these tips and get started:
1. Know Your Goals
What do you want to accomplish in your business in the next three months? Will your time spent in social media, strengthening existing client relationships, looking legitimate and increasing search traffic help you meet those goals? If not, look to invest the time elsewhere.
2. Set a Timer
Stay disciplined. Social media can be addictive and what starts off as "I'll only spend 30-minutes a day on Facebook" turns into two hours before you know it. Refer to your plan (what is it, again, you wanted to achieve?) and stick to it. When it comes to social media, more time spent doesn't equal better results.
3. Measure Your Results
Reallocating 15 minutes of your social media time to analysing your results against your goals everyday is more than worth it. It will keep you focused and you'll achieve more faster. I don't know why this works, but it does.
Does social media work for you? Join us in building the largest knowledge base of specific, practical information for successful self-employment and business ownership at How to Be Self-Employed and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Which social media platforms do you use and why?
Photo credit: Quka via Shutterstock.
About the guest blogger: Gina Bianchini is the CEO and founder of Mightybell, a modern community platform for specialized professional networks. Prior to Mightybell, she was the co-founder and CEO of Ning, the largest platform for niche social networks, founded in 2004. Reach her at @ginab.