In my early days as an entrepreneur, I often struggled with ways to market my photography business on my limited college-student budget. I didn’t have a lot of options then. Newspaper ads weren’t an effective way to advertise for photography clients, television and radio were well out of my budget, and direct mail was a large commitment of time and money. I found my best results through referral marketing or relationship marketing, where my existing clients told their friends and associates how happy they were with my services. The only downside to this in the pre-internet days was that there was no easy way for me to build that relationship until they called me for a booking appointment.
If I were starting my photography business today, it would be a whole different ballgame. I would still focus on the referral or relationship marketing. I’ve learned it’s a great way to build a business—especially a service-based business like photography, mentoring, consulting or any number of other personalized services. But I no longer have to rely on waiting for prospects to call me after they’ve heard about me from my clients.
Today, I can use social media to build those relationships even before they have a need for my services. I no longer am limited to “traditional” advertising, which has never been the ideal marketing vehicle for my business. All of my marketing today is done through various social media platforms, and is custom-tailored to the needs of my different client groups. Social media has revolutionized the way marketing works and has made effective marketing affordable for even the smallest of businesses.
If you own a small business these days, social media is a critical part of your business-building and marketing strategy—or at least it should be. But there’s more to social media marketing than just posting ads for your business. In order to maximize the potential of social media as a tool for building your business, you need to be mindful. Here are nine tips for using social media effectively to build your business.
Make a Plan
One of the biggest problems with Social Media Marketing is that many users have no idea how they plan to use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or other sites before they sign on. Before you hop on the web to promote your business, decide what you want to promote and how you want to promote it. You need a marketing plan for social media, just like you need a marketing plan for any other aspect of your business—maybe more, since it has the potential to steal your time if you aren’t watching it.
The best way to build relationships, whether in the virtual world or the “real” one, is to be interested in other people. Everyone wants to feel important. One of the best ways to make them feel important is to be sincerely interested in them. Read their tweets and Facebook posts and comment on them. You don’t have to respond to every post, but comment appropriately and frequently. Wish them a happy birthday (Facebook makes this really easy) or offer congratulations or condolences, as appropriate. As your clients and potential clients begin to realize you are interested in them, you will begin building trust and they will begin to be interested in you. Remember, people don’t care how much you know until you know how much they care. In this age of relationship marketing, the relationship needs to be authentic, not artificial.
Isn’t this the crux of every business? We exist in business to solve problems for our customers. Think about it. Whether you sell clothing, widgets, real estate or legal advice, your clients come to you because you are offering a solution to a problem they have, from what to wear to Saturday’s party to finding a new home. Find ways on line to answer questions and offer solutions to your followers’ problems and you will be their business hero. Once you’ve established yourself as their go-to, you’ve built the relationship and the authority that will earn you their business.
Share your Expertise
Don’t make us pay for every piece of advice you have to give. One great way to demonstrate your value is your willingness to share what you know so we’ll want to know more and so we’ll know that you really are the expert we need to hire. Whether it’s offering information in your field of expertise through a Facebook page, through your blog or through guest posting on another blog, chiming in authoritatively on topics of current interest to your potential clients will definitely help build your reputation. As for guest posting on another blog, it’s an excellent way to expose yourself to new markets and new people who may not have previously heard of you.
Watch the Clock
Social media can be a time saver or a time waster. Plan a set amount of time to update with social media each day. Using a program such as Hootsuite, which allows you to check messages and schedule posts across several platforms at once, can be an additional time saver. Decide what you’ll do online and set a timer if you need to. Is playing that game on Facebook or getting involved in a Twitter chat when you have a deadline to meet really the best use of your marketing time?
Don’t Be a Spammer
The only thing worse than being completely ignored on the internet is being spammed. Don’t over post. I have hidden or unliked a number of pages and friends on my Facebook accounts because of over posting. And I’ve unfollowed a few Tweeters for the same reason. I don’t care what it is you’re saying. I don’t need to hear it every two minutes all day long. If you try to crowd everyone else out of the conversation, you’re going to be the one shut out. Remember, sometimes less really is more. Tell me the really important things but don’t beat me over the head with them.
Choose your Words Wisely
You can’t unring a bell and you can’t unpost on the internet. Think before you hit the “publish” button. The fewer words you have to apologize for, the higher your trust level will be and the more effective your internet marketing will be. That also applies to photographs. Once something is out there on the internet, it is ALWAYS out there on the internet. Inflammatory political rants or venting about other businesses or clients will make others wonder what you would say about them. When your potential clients search out your name or business on the web, you want what they find to reflect well on you, so make sure what you post does just that.
Numbers aren’t Everything
More followers, more fans and more friends doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more important. There is a point at which you can’t possibly maintain any kind of online relationship with those people. While it’s good to have the numbers—you can’t get your message out to people you don’t connect with. But make sure you don’t get so obsessed with building your numbers that you forget to build relationships at the same time.
Meet People in Person
Get off the computer and get out in your community. Whenever possible, turn your virtual business relationships into face-to-face (or at least telephone) business relationships. If you have the opportunity to meet someone for lunch or for coffee or just a chat, do it. There’s nothing like real, in-person relationships to enrich your life and build your business.
And Bonus #10
Learn How & When to Use Paid Social Media Ads for Even More Impact & Reach
In the early days of social media, it was much easier to reach your target audience organically, or by simply posting and having your posts shared. But social media is a constantly evolving medium and social media marketing is evolving as well. While it is still possible for you to create posts that will go viral on their own, paid social media has become an essential part of a successful marketing strategy. But instead of throwing money, learn how to use ads and which platforms will be most effective for your business. There are many training courses available, and if you’re not up for learning it yourself, you should hire a great social media manager.
Do you want more information about how a social media manager can help you? Let’s talk. I can help you learn the ins and outs of wise social media use and help you find the right social media manager to help you most effectively use social media to market and grow your business. Just click the Talk-to-Me link above to message me.
These are just a few of the many principles we could apply to using social media. I’d love to hear your experience with them and what other words of wisdom you’ve learned from your adventures online. Just add them to the comments below.