This article is based on a talk that I gave to a networking group on 8/21/2013.
I was thinking about this talk while power washing the steps leading into our basement. I thought to myself that I could have someone else do this. (As an aside - I also wondered how a star baseball player would handle dirty steps leading into their basement? I couldn’t imagine Chris Davis of the Orioles power washing his basement steps. But, who knows?) If I had someone else do it, I would be out the money it cost, and I would have been a little bit cleaner, but I also would have missed out on the dopamine rush, the reward or good feeling for doing a good job.
That made me think about small businesses and how most people that own small businesses or are self employed, probably got into their business by finding something that they enjoyed and were good at. Something that gave them a shot of Dopamine when they were done.
I believe it’s that sense of accomplishment and entrepreneurial spirit that leads most small business owners to feel like they can handle everything on their own, including their marketing and, for the basis of this talk / article, their social media. And, they’re right. Most of social media is about being authentic and it’s hard to hand authenticity off to someone else. (Image Right: Consistent tweeting, 3 per day on average, has led to a follower per day being added to my @InThePanhandle Twitter account.)
In this article, I’m going to give you five ways that you can make sure that you’re social media / online marketing is on the right track and you keep getting those hits of Dopamine.
1 - Make it easy for fans to share and connect
Social media often - especially when you are just starting out and don’t have a lot of followers - feels like you are talking to yourself. Don’t exacerbate the problem of too few followers by not promoting your online efforts. I always check out the online efforts - website, Twitter and Facebook pages - of local businesses. The problem is, most small businesses don’t make it very easy to find their accounts.
I often see signs that say “Check Us Out on Facebook” or “Become a Fan on Facebook” but with no other information. This means that I have to search to find the business, often having to review multiple accounts to figure out which is the official page versus the un-official or abandoned page. A perfect example of this is the Captain Jack Pirate Tours in Virginia Beach. We took our kids on a tour (which was great) and during the tour they asked that folks post pictures and videos to their Facebook page. Unfortunately, they did tell us what the address of their Facebook page was, and it wasn’t listed anywhere on the materials that we received so it was very difficult to find the official account. There were a number of other similar pages, even a page the Facebook created itself and it was hard to find the official page. I even started posting pictures on an un-official page before I finally found the correct page.
How could they have handled this better? Simply tell us and/or post the Facebook Page Address (http://firebrand-media.com/blog/article/getting_a_facebook_page_address). Getting a Facebook page address is very easy and it’s as easy to share as sharing your business website.
Additionally, post your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (or whatever other social network is important) on you business cards and materials that you hand out. Again, it’s not enough to simply put a Twitter or Facebook logo on the card. Make it easy. Put the actual address on there.
Finally, add them to your email signature. Instead of a pithy statement or inspirational quote, tell me how I can connect with you. If / when you do this, I would recommend that you put the full URL (for example, http://twitter.com/firebrandmedia) as opposed to leaving off the http://. This guarantees that the URL will show up as a link that I can click on without having to copy or paste.
2 - Keep a Skinny Playbook
This is a reference to the movie, Remember the Titans. There is a line in the movie where the old coach questions the new coach about the breadth of his playbook.
- 00:14:33 Just wanted to let you know what the offense is doing.
- 00:14:35 Awful skinny play book, ain’t it?
- 00:14:37 I run 6 plays, split veer. It’s like novocaine.
- 00:14:41 Just give it time, always works.
Just give it time, it always works. One of the problems that small businesses and, really anyone that is doing any online marketing, is that there are a lot of options and often, we jump from one to the other without really allowing the solution to work.
The best way to build a follower base is the consistently share relevant or engaging content. Over the past year, I have used a service called Buffer to help spread out my social media posts throughout the day. This allows me to schedule all of my posts in the morning or at the beginning of the week and then all I have to do is monitor the accounts for any responses.
Since I’ve been using Buffer, I’ve averaged about three posts per day (on my InThePanhandle Twitter account) and have added, on average, one new follower per day. That’s one new potential customer / client added every day.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem that I see is that businesses think of Social Media as a one-way communication tool, like a sales flyer. I believe one reason for this is that to be responsive, you have to be attentive and we all have work that we need to get done so we may post our content and then leave it at that, not responding to any follow ups from followers.
I’m not suggesting that we sit on Facebook or Twitter all day, waiting for responses. Instead, we need to use the tools that we have available to stay focused. This means enabling notifications on your phone, desktop, browser or email to make us aware when someone sends you a message, favorites a post or shares something on your page.
Successful social media accounts are much like successful networking groups. They only work when everyone is benefiting. If either side is out of balance, long term sustainability is difficult.
3 - Personable vs Personal
You have to understand the difference between being personable (or showing personality) and being too personal.
- Being Authentic
- Sharing the inner workings of your business
- Sharing things that inspire or drive you
- Sharing information for your followers (retweeting)
- Showing empathy for clients
- Trying to make things right instead of trying to sweep them under the rug
Too Personal is:
- Venting about your favorite team losing
- Venting about a bad customer service experience
- Venting about a customer
- Tearing down a rival business
- Sharing personal information that reflects poorly on your business
- Using your personal account for your business. Can showing pictures of your kids be a good strategy? Yes. Do customers want to see a stream of pictures of of your kids? Probably not.
4 - What to share? Creating a persona.
Now the hard stuff. Everything up to this point is easy. You need to give your account a voice or tone. What will you share on your account? I would recommend creating a persona, mascot or theme for your account. This will help define not only what is said, but how it is said.
Example: After I let my office go, I was working at different public places. I decided to base my Facebook account on the theme “Where’s the Fire?” and I would post a picture or some small piece of information about my location and then ask users to guess where I was working from. The winner would get a small prize, generally from the place that I was working from (ie. A $5 Starbucks gift card).
In creating this persona or theme, think about your target audience and create something that will appeal to them.
Spoof accounts are great examples of accounts that are focused in their tone and what they share. They focus on a particular aspect (flaw) of an individual and everything the post is based on that - often with a bit of humor. Use the same type of focus to keep your Social Media efforts on track.
Funny vs Making Fun
Humor is always great. Inspirational is good, but humor is great. But, you need to know what will resonate with your audience without going over the line and alienating members of your audience. A great example of this is the Eastern Panhandle Working Fires Facebook account which makes people aware of emergencies that are taking place around the area. They have developed a substantial following (21,000 Facebook Fans) and have become a trusted source of information. Unfortunately, they were recently reprimanded in an editorial in The Journal because moderators on the Facebook account were making jokes about domestic violence when posting information to their Facebook page. The key here is that you need to know where the line is and not cross it. And if you have multiple people maintaining your social media, you need to have guidelines in place.
5 - Knowing the difference between DIY and WTF
So, that brings us back to our old friend Dopamine. Often we get strung out, searching for that next chemical reaction, wasting a lot of time and energy when we should know when to say when and call a professional for help.
If you find yourself struggling to create a persona, having difficulty using the tools to keep you on track, or need help in picking the best tools for the job, that’s when you should stop and call someone experienced to help guide you with your online marketing / social media efforts. This doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor, in fact it could be another person in your group that knows what they are doing and can help give you a little guidance or at least take a look at what you are doing to see if anything sticks out.
The key is to know when to ask for help.