Since starting my little business I have become completely immersed in the glorious world of social media. Of course my life before business involved daily Facebook stalking and the occasional instagram post but never to this degree.
Social media really is a wonderful thing for a small business. Not only does it give us a voice and a free platform to showcase our wares, it also helps us to be part of the conversation. When you're sat in your studio, whether it be a beautiful barn conversion, cosy shed or even loft with ladder access; it can get a bit lonely. To have an outlet and an easy way of chatting to people is a godsend.
I post on Facebook approximately 5/6 times a week (business page not personal) Instagram almost daily and I dabble in twitter about once a week (I should do more on twitter but you can't win them all!) Each time I am so grateful for the likes and the comments I get in return because all of a sudden you have wonderful company and 'stuff' in common. I find it a great way to chat to people, share updates and show new products to anyone who is interested as well as discovering other businesses. It's much more informal than a website which I love, as i'm not a particularly formal person. It's like sharing the behind the scenes gossip and the website is the professional front of house.
Now that it plays a more prominent role in my day to day life people have started asking me a lot more questions about social media and the one I hear most often is 'but what should I be posting'? as though they have nothing to say, or if they do have something to say, then they are afraid they will either say the wrong thing or that no one will care. Trouble is, you'll never know until you try it and I think you'll be surprised!
I have compiled a little list on the 7 Do's and Don'ts of Social Media nothing too fancy or technical just simple rules I live by when considering what to share -
Don't use it as a diary
Please, please, please don't tell your followers that you are putting out your washing or cleaning the car. Facebook is not your diary, nor is Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+. If you start a Facebook page for your business is it to promote your products not your personal whinging platform… rest assured I don't actually think any of you would make this mistake but I have seen it done and it makes me cringe - I head straight to the 'unlike' button as i'm sure you do.
Don't ask all your Facebook friends to follow
This one is more of a grey area, it is very tempting to invite everyone you know to like your page, its instant likes for free (apart from your time sitting there ticking all the boxes and hitting the 'invite' button a few hundred times). As lovely as your FB acquaintances may be, if they aren't your target audience they probably don't need the daily updates on what you're up to. Of course if you think that your Facebook friends could be your audience then go for it but if not, try not to succumb to the 'easy like'. Its far more important that your lovely followers build up over time and genuinely enjoy what you do, customers or not; they have to want to be there. If you invite hundreds of people who are unlikely to care they will only 'hide all posts' or unfollow at a later date and whats the point in that!? You want people who care and who will take part in the conversation.
Don't get obsessed
It's so easily done. I will be amazed if you don't get a little bit obsessed. Checking you insights daily and fretting about your 'reach' and who clicked on what and how long they stayed. I'm sure there is valuable information to learn from them all but if you are just looking at it all day long, how will you get anything done?! which leads me to my next point ….
Don't mistake like for sales
Although it seems a bit uncouth to say so, we all know that the sole aim of a business is to make money, and we do that through sales. We run businesses for many more reasons but a lot of the time without the money coming in, it's pointless. Sales are what its all about and although social media is a lifeline when it comes to getting involved and conversing with people, one thing you must remember is that 'Likes don't always mean sales'. They can lead to sales - the argument of course being that the more people who see you on social media, the more potential customers and that really is brilliant but maybe don't fret too much about taking the perfect picture just for instagram or how many repin's your image got on pinterest or that your reach isn't over 500 on Facebook. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that you're out there, your communicating and your promoting yourself and your business.
Don't focus too much on what everyone else is doing
We've all sat there and Facebook stalked. It's so easy to feel envious of people and businesses we admire. We wish we had their studio, or their cute dog or their amazing hair but lets not loose sight of the fact that practically everything on social media is shown through rose tinted glasses (or nowadays incredibly kind filters). Remember that what you put up will also be rose tinted and other people will be admiring your work just as much as you do others. It's all about YOU and what you are doing, so enjoy it!
Don't treat them all the same
All social media platforms are different. So if the platforms are different, why try to fit all the content into the same format? Programs like Hootsuit where you tick all the boxes and send one thing out to each platform may be time efficient but they aren't helping you in the long run. Each platform is wonderfully different so make the most of it! Pinterest and Instagram are purely picture based which is wonderful for creative businesses, it means you can spend time concentrating on beautiful imagery to show off your wares to a visual market. Pinterest is then perfect for linking back to an online shop so pinners can easily purchase and Instagram is brilliant for creating a lifestyle indicative of your product. For me, Facebook is all about the conversation, getting to chat and involving your audience. Twitter is brilliant for communicating with other businesses and joining the 'parties', all within your 140 characters of course… All so individual so why would you merge it into one?! Sure, use the same content but take a little time to change it accordingly.
It's easy to feel like all eyes are on you and every one will be judging every word you type but actually, when you delve into this social world, you come across some wonderful people and can make great friends and helpful contacts. It may sound scary to begin with but its easy to pick up and get into the swing of things. Remember it's like chatting to a person, when you introduce yourself in real life you don't say "check out my page" (I hope!) you say 'Hello', so go for it, get involved and don't worry too much!
Try them all and see what suits you best
Each platform is different, you may love some and dislike others and thats OK! I found it best to investigate all of them fully by giving myself a month fully immersed into each one and seeing what happened and how I liked using each. I started on Facebook first because it was familiar to me, then I tried Twitter, Instagram and finally Pinterst. Once I figured out what worked best for me I was able to scale back the amount of time I put into each one and only post content I feel will work for that platform.
Keep it regular but not too much
The tricky question that new users ALWAYS want to know is 'how often to post?' It's a tricky one as it depends on your users. The important thing is to keep it regular. Do you want to follow someone on Facebook who posts 5 times one day then nothing for 2 months? Probably not, because its not consistent. Likewise no one wants to be inundated with status updates or have their Instagram feed filled with 20 pictures in one go. Think about the things that interest you and how often your favourite accounts post. It may well be more for some platforms than others and thats OK just keep it consistent.
Ask questions and opinions
It's great to get other people involved. Why not ask your customers and followers what they think about a new product you're considering? Or when you can't decide which picture to use for your promotional images put it to the Facebook or Twitter world for a vote, like I did recently. It's wonderful for both parties; If you ask a question you will more than likely get an answer and your kind contributors will know that they helped you make a decision or give you feedback. Other peoples opinions are important, especially when you're trying to sell something it's not always your opinion that matters (you can't buy them all!) the people that are happy to help will comment and hey presto! there's your answer and you've probably chatted to someone new.
Share behind the scenes pictures
I LOVE seeing pictures of peoples studios and their work before its finished, it gives such great insight into how they create their amazing work, or even just the funny things that happen in their office. It's great when people share and it makes me feel more involved and welcome. I love to post the new colours I get for orders and send people pics of their footstool before its been made into a footstool - It's something I love as a customer and so try to do as a business.
Comment and like as your business page
When it comes to chatting with other businesses it's just good sense to be more active from your business page rather than your personal one. I know its easier to just pick up your phone or iPad and do it on there (on Facebook you can't comment or like on someone else's pages and updates as your business page from a device) but it will make a difference coming from a business rather than a person, so do it on the computer! (...that was more me telling myself off than anything else!)
Keep it upbeat and positive
It's never fun hearing about all the problems someone is having, of course we all have bad days and I'm not suggesting you don't share that sometimes, but before you hit 'post' just consider - Is the tone of this in keeping with my brand image? So often its simply a matter of wording - instead of saying "what a rubbish day, I got nothing done" you could say "Today wasn't as brilliant as i'd hoped so i'm going to give up, get a cup of tea and put my feet up. Tomorrow's a new day." Do the positivity test with each post and make sure you're not just having a whinge; thats what we have friends for.
Go picture heavy
A picture tells a thousand words - especially if you have a creative business. It's always interesting to see pictures, as previously mentioned giving an insight to 'behind the scenes' is great as is the finished product and a new range. It's great to SEE it, and to see it first - before it's on a website or in stores it's fab to get a sneak peek. 99% of my posts involve a picture, because my work is so visual I think its great to share it and get feedback. Skipping ahead slightly to one of the 'Don't' of social media, its best to treat all platforms differently but your can use the same content, a picture is wonderful content on nearly every platform. You can take it for Instagram but then also post it on pinterest, Facebook and twitter. On a vaguely techy point it also takes up more room in a newsfeed and people are more likely to click that little thumbs up if it's an image over plain text.
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