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Social Media For Small Business

Social Media For Small Business

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry I am writing about social media for small business. This journal entry is for all the aspiring and existing small business owners out there who know the importance of social media but perhaps are a little confused on how it fits into their overall business goals. Here are the top 5 things I've learned over the past 5 years when it comes to social media.  

First and foremost, social media is critically important to small business ownership in this day and age. You don't need to be on all the platforms (and I believe you actually shouldn't be on all the platforms) but you must have a presence out there somewhere. Customers expect it. There are millions of small businesses and some only survive for a few months, so I believe that social media is a way of indicating that you are alive and well. I know that sounds almost silly, but let me give you an example. I once found this gorgeous candle company based out of Brooklyn, NY. I found them at a holiday market and bought several candles from them. I wanted to reorder several months later and placed an order with them online. Several weeks went by and I never heard from them. I sent an email and received no response. I checked their social media and nothing had been posted for about 2 or 3 months. I emailed them again. No response. Thankfully I paid with PayPal and I was able to submit a claim with PayPal for a refund because this business had obviously shut down and wasn't even checking email anymore, let alone fulfilling orders. I suppose they forgot to shut down their website? Seems strange, but I guess it could happen. From that time onward, before I order from a small business, I check their social media presence. It's my way of finding out if they are still alive and well. So many people tried to start an online business during the Covid era and so many have already closed (it's not easy to run a business!!!). So, if nothing else, keep a social media presence so that people know you are an operating, working business.

As I said above, I don't think you should be on all the social media platforms. Pick two or three and do it well. It takes an incredible amount of time to be on all the social media platforms, so if you try to do that, you're not going to have a great presence anywhere. You're going to have an (at best) mediocre presence everywhere. For me, for example, I am most dedicated to Instagram and that's where I spend most of my social media time. But I also have a presence on Facebook and also Pinterest because I do a lot of wedding jewelry and a lot of brides plan their wedding using Pinterest. Pick the platforms that make sense for you and your business. It might not make sense for you to be on Pinterest - it might make sense for you to be on YouTube. Only you know where your ideal customers hang out, so get clear on that and then target those platforms. That's the second most important thing I've learned about social media.

Coming in at number three is something you're probably not going to want to hear. Most social media is "pay to play" these days. What does that mean? You have to pay the platform to get your content shown to new customers and even the people who follow you. You cannot rely on organic reach if you want to grow and scale your business. Let me boil this down in really easy concepts so you understand this point. Years ago, Facebook and Instagram started their platforms with the plan of building them up into the massive entities they are today. At first, they had to make their platforms "free" to businesses. But now that everyone is on those platforms (even your grandma!) they can charge businesses to be seen (in other words, they can charge businesses to advertise). That was their plan all along. They saw the revenue potential in these platforms long, long ago. I've been on social media with my business since 2017 and I've seen a lot change in that time frame. Over the course of the last year in particular - so from about early 2021 to the present day - Instagram and Facebook have become pay to play. So if you're not paying them to run ads, your content is being seen by very few people. And let me put in a little caveat here - when your business account on those platforms is brand new, Instagram and Facebook throw you a bone. You'll see a lot of natural engagement (meaning "likes" and such). In other words, Instagram and Facebook are actually showing your posts to your followers. But when your business account is about 6 months old, they'll stop showing your content to your followers. You'll see your "like" counts go from like 200 to 12 per post. Why? Because they want you to pay to be seen. They want you to advertise. Like it or not, it's the way the social media world works now. So, if you want to grow and scale your business, you MUST have a social media advertising budget. This is an absolute non-negotiable in my view. And honestly, advertising on these platforms is so much cheaper than, say, advertising in a magazine or newspaper. Think about it - that's how small businesses had to advertise back in the day! We are so, so lucky to have social media platforms at our disposal.

The next thing I've learned about social media is to ignore the vanity metrics. If you've educated yourself on social media at all, you've likely come across the phrase "vanity metrics" which are things like likes and emoji reactions. The unsophisticated business owner lives and dies by these. He or she is upset if a post doesn't get a certain number of likes. The sophisticated business owner does not even pay attention to likes. The sophisticated business owner pays attention to how many people visit her website. Let's think about it this way - think of your Instagram profile, for example, as a magazine. It's a digital magazine that shows a potential customer what you do, what you sell, what you have to offer. The point of social media is to get someone off the platform and onto your website where YOU can now control their experience. You are no longer relying on Instagram to interact with this person. That is the hope you should have when you post on social media. That someone will be interested enough in your "digital magazine" to click on over to your website to see what else you have to offer. Then, once they hop over to your website, you try to do things like collect their email addresses so you can control how they experience your brand through your newsletters, email offers, etc. Let me give you a real life example from my business. When I run a wedding jewelry ad on Instagram, my hope is always that a bride will jump over to my website to see more. Once she's there, my hope is that she'll sign up for my 20% off bridal discount using her email address. And then I take her through a sequence of emails relevant to her wedding - one email shows her all of our best selling bridal earrings, another email offers help in selecting bridal jewelry, and another email shows her that we also have pieces for her flower girl, bridesmaids, and the mother of the bride. So, in other words, Instagram is just the entry level contact I have with this bride. And then she comes over to my side of the world where I can control our interactions and not rely on Instagram. This is why vanity metrics don't matter. Think about it - if someone sees an ad from your company and she likes what she sees, she's going to click on the ad that says "visit our website" or "shop now" or "learn more." She usually isn't going to like the post and THEN go visit the website. Some people do this of course, but many people just click and head on over without liking. So, in a nutshell, this is why you should be more concerned with how many people are actually going to your website and not with how many people are liking your posts.

Last but not least, the fifth thing I've learned about social media is that it's important to show your face. You don't have to do it all the time, but several times per month will do wonders for your business. If you're a small business owner, I think people have a natural tendency to want to see or get to know the person behind the brand. It's really such a lovely thing, when you stop to think about it. If you shop at a big store like Nordstrom or Target, there is no person behind the brand. It's faceless, right? But a small business does have a face behind it - a person, a family, a story. And people love to connect. It's human nature. To me, we're kind of at this place in time where it's weird if I don't see the face behind the small business. Do you agree? There's a small jewelry company I came across recently on Instagram and they're completely personality-less. There is absolutely no indication of who the owner is. Maybe I'm weird but it felt so strange to see that complete lack of connection. Maybe it's just that I've come to expect that personal connection when dealing with small businesses, and I don't think I'm alone in that. So get out there - connect with the people you are trying to reach! If it makes you uncomfortable, practice in front of your bathroom mirror! And keep it short! It doesn't need to be anything long or elaborate. Or get a few professional photos of yourself and post those with a thoughtful caption introducing yourself, your story, and why you love running your business. 

If you're an aspiring or existing small business owner, I hope this journal entry sheds some light on social media. If you'd like to hear more about how I use social media, leave a comment below and maybe I'll do a follow up journal entry as there is so much that can be said about social media for small business. 

I hope you're able to learn something valuable from my own experiences. My wish is for everyone to know the feeling of doing work that brings them joy. It truly is an unbelievable gift to not dread Mondays and hope for Friday's fast arrival. If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe.

P.S. Are you on Pinterest? I have a Weekly Journal board on Pinterest so you can easily navigate my journal entries. You can view and follow the board by clicking here. I've written so much about quitting my lawyer job to start g+h over the past few years and I want to make it easier for you to access and read the entries that resonate most!


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