Even today, a large portion of businesses avoid creating a website and social media profiles. The Internet as we know it did not come into the public mindset until the mid-1990s. Even then, many shirked it as a new innovative fad. We never thought it would fundamentally replace the way we communicate with each other. Even fewer thought it would become the primary tool we use to do so. As a result, small business owners, most likely in their middle age, may dislike using the Internet to conduct business.
As previously stated, only approximately half of small business owners have a website. A website has become the basic requirement for businesses to promote themselves; at least it was five years ago. With the invention and popularization of social media sites and apps, from Facebook to WhatsApp?, even fewer business owners are participating in a way that is lucrative to their business.
There are many reasons why a small business owner does not use social media effectively, which can lead to anxiety. They may not promote themselves well. They may spread themselves and their presence too thin among many sites and platforms. They may attempt to control comments on their Yelp page, or engage in flame wars with individuals who disagree with them online. There are many reasons, but these are some of the common ones.
How Should I Begin Without Being Overwhelmed?
Take is slowly. Your online strategy will not pay off right away. The Internet truly is a global community. However, the most important thing you can do early on is develop a content strategy. Having a viable strategy will give you a massive advantage over businesses that blindly post on social media praying for that next viral story or comment.
Any product or service you have, unless you truly offer something original, is already being offered around the world. Other companies are not only competing against you, but they are also offering similar products, quicker and cheaper. Your one true asset, and the one true asset of any company, is your loyal customer base and your ability to engage them. Without loyalty, you will not stay in business long. Take care of your customer base first before reaching out online.
The first thing you need to offer in order to woo your customers is a website. In the digital age, companies without websites are the dinosaurs of the business world – Picture that old man with the cassette Walkman in the age of iPods – it may be cool, but it not efficient. Websites are easier than ever to set up, and you can do it in an afternoon (if you’re tech-saavy). You do not need to know how to code and you do not need to worry about your website remaining functional, at least for the time being. Early on, it is important to get a website up with enough content to advertise your business.
First, go to a domain registration site like GoDaddy, Siteground, or Name Cheap. Purchase a domain name for your website. Then, go to WordPress.com. You can purchase a professional website theme there, and you can also purchase hosting if you would like. However, practically every domain registration sells web hosting. Other well-known hosting options are Hostgator and BlueHost. The key here is to separate the websites you use to purchase your domain name and hosting server in case one of them experiences technical difficulties. The last thing you want is for your website to go down.
After you have set up your website, you should fill it with important details for your customer base like your operation hours, location, and pictures of you and your business. Although your online presence may seem detached and disconnected, it is anything but. Think of using the Internet like word-of-mouth, except it is exponentially more beneficial and reaching. The next step is to start setting up your social media accounts.
Which Social Media Accounts Should I Use? There Are So Many!
Think about your customer base. You should be able to find common links between significant portions of your base. Then, determine which social media platforms are most appropriate for your business.
The majority of profiles on Pinterest are dominated by and target women. Practically everyone has a Facebook account now, although its popularity among youth is decreasing. If you have videos of your business that you want to publish and promote, some great sites to use are YouTube, Vimeo, and Vine.
If you are struggling to determine which social media to use, here are a few tidbits about each of the major ones:
- Facebook: Great for targeting specific interests and a general go-to for social media advertising. New updates heavily favor paid advertisement over traditional organic growth.
- Twitter: A fast tool for having conversations in the moment. Twitter provides a business with real time snapshots of their customers and their conversations
- LinkedIn: A great tool for B2B communications, networking, and everything that is related to the professional business crowd.
- Google +: The black sheep of the social media family, it provides value through its connection to the Google platform, but it is often forgotten when compared to the other popular platforms.
- Instagram: Great for sharing pictures and media. Some of the best ROI for paid advertisement and provides huge opportunities to promote your products and services through influencers.
- Pinterest: A social media platform that is heavily dominated by women and consists of topical boards for various topics. Great for brand awareness.
- YouTube: The classic video sharing website that doubles as a search engine is still the king of video promotion and a great way to advertise your business through videos.
- Snap Chat: The new kid on the block, Snap Chat allows businesses to engage customers in quick conversations. It doesn’t work for every company, but for some it can lead to some memorable and viral moments.
Choose one or two social media platforms and fully fill out your profiles. For the other ones, simply register your name so that you have it for future use. The important thing to do at this step is to be able to handle your profiles and integrate them successfully on your website. You can add links to your platform profiles on any blog entries you post, your contact page, and your landing page (your homepage) as well.
While you should start with two accounts until you are used to social media, register accounts with as many relevant social media platforms as you can, or that you project will be useful to you and your business in the future. Otherwise, other individuals and businesses may take them.
How to Schedule Your Social Media Posts
When you look at the most popular social media profiles, usually of celebrities and other high-profile figures, it may seem they have no pattern or strategy when posting. They may randomly post social commentary when it certain event occur, or post updates to their fans. However, they do employ a strategy for at least some of their posts to ensure their followers receive regular updates.
Plan and schedule your posts in advance. While you may want to post at certain hours, ensure you post updates during the morning and evening rush. You want to reach your followers while they are commuting to and from work at 9-9:30AM and 4-5:30PM. Even if you decide to schedule posts at other times during the day, like at 12PM to reach followers during their lunch break, you should strongly consider scheduling posts at the beginning and end of every workday.
If you have a large enough customer base, you might want to consider sending out a poll, asking for their best times to receive updates. However, the key here is to ensure that social media updates arrive to your customers and social media following at regular intervals. Consistency is key.
The Importance of Social Media
Social media is important for any new or growing business. However, as stated previously in this article, many businesses either do not, or cannot, manage their online reputations well. If you believe in word-of-mouth advertising, you should take an interest in social media. It follows a similar pattern, although it is exponentially more effective at spreading awareness of your business.
Every second counts when you are active on social media. Recent research from Lithium Technologies states that 53% of consumers who tweet to a company expect a response from the company within an hour. If this seems rushed, it gets worse if a customer has a complaint to report, with 72% expecting a response within an hour.
The Internet is a new space that small business owners need to occupy, and be present it. According to Nielen’s 3Q 2011 Media Report, as stated by SocialMediaExaminer.com, “[o]ver 80% of all Americans use a social network…[and n]early 23% of online time is spent on social networks.” If you are not active on social media, you are not reaching a significant portion of your customer base. Young people are active online. Most middle-aged people are there too. If you are not attempting to reach these customers, you are missing out.
If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of managing your social media profiles, this is normal. After all, you just want to focus on your business, not spend hours talking to customers on the Internet. If you feel this way, there are several client-centered marketing and advertising agencies that can help manage your website and social media profiles to ensure you use them to maximum effectiveness.
Why Is Social Media Anxiety an Issue?
You may be thinking, “I can handle it. I’ll be fine.” but the reality is a bit more complex. It is rather difficult to keep your personal and professional accounts separate all the time, and even one slip up can negatively affect your business. In addition, without keeping up your learning and knowledge of website management or social media trends, it may be difficult, in the future, for you to manage your accounts successfully. The technology and learning curve is always moving. Let an expert handle it for you to avoid the effects of social media anxiety.
According to a report by the Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, “Use of digital tech is tied to higher levels of awareness of stressful events in others’ lives.” As a small business owner who is becoming increasingly invested in others’ lives online, you will be fielding messages from your customers when online all day long. The tone of these messages will shift depending on the subject matter. They may be happy about the goods and services you have provided them.
However, they may be stressed out if they accidentally received a defective product. Over time, having to deal with these messages and becoming more aware of “events in others’ lives”) may add further unnecessary stress to your life, in addition to all the stresses of regular life and running your small business.
The last thing you need in your life is additional stress and, if you can reduce it in any way, you should. Trusting a reputable advertising and marketing agency that takes great effort to ensure their clients are satisfied is probably the best option when considering the retention of peace of mind knowing that your online presence is being carefully managed by marketing and advertising professionals. They can take the anxiety out of the social media experience and do all the “heavy lifting” online, allowing you to remain stress-free as you focus on building and growing your business, instead of conversing with trolls online.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed by social media and have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below or contact us. Don’t be scared of little blue birds and heavily edited pictures of food – in the right circumstances, they can help you grow.