Start-ups that allow you to book the nearest taxi or invite the person nearest to you for a date now pop up like mushrooms left, right, and centre.
Food and clothing stores previously limited to brick-and-mortar stores are now flourishing thanks to e-commerce.
Selling is not only easier – advertising and promotions have become more convenient and cheaper too. Promoting your product or service through Facebook or Twitter is practically free, but the catch is to use it wisely and strategically.
If you’re a budding entrepreneur who’s only just discovered the wonders of social media for your business, here are 5 crash course tips for you:
Create the basics, and commit to a content plan
Create your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for starters. Ensure your accounts’ names sound professional and unique. Also, complete your profile by adding your company information, logo, and details about your products or services.
Once done, connect to the lowest hanging fruit – your own personal network (friends, relatives, and loved ones, including that old neighbour of yours you’ve been ignoring on Facebook, but is now your potential customer).
Require (or beg) them to share, retweet, and repost to their own personal networks. This is where you start growing your network.
Keeping your social media accounts active may be tedious, but it’s all about content planning.
Content usually come in 3 types:
- A promotion (Example: Retweet this message and stand a chance to win free tickets to a concert!)
- A shareable third-party information (Example: If you’re a travel agency, repost an article by Trip Advisor about the Top 10 Countries to visit in 2014)
- Your own, organic information (Example: If you’re a reseller of concert tickets, remind your customers about other means of contacting you: “Got queries or suggestions? We’re also on twitter@ticketplanet!”)
It may be exciting to post on social media for the first few weeks, but it can get tiring after a while. Create a calendar if you must, and follow it. This is not a diet plan, so don’t cheat. Keep in mind that all your posts can provide an opportunity to engage your audience, and gain new customers. So, you should pay attention to the quality of the content you produce. If you’re not confident about your content, you can take an online marketing education to learn about various content strategies.
Post smart, not hard
It’s not the volume, but the quality of posts that will keep your customers engaged. Posting ten times on Facebook or Instagram may irritate your followers, so keep it to a maximum of two or three.
Be smart with your timing. Post during strategic times ‒ when customers are online. Based on studies, people usually check social media accounts in the morning before work (8-10 AM), after work (5-7 PM), and before bed (9-11 PM). Posting during dead times will only bury your post! Fortunately, some online sites have features that allow you to schedule when your posts will be published. You can simply upload your media and specify the time you want it to go live. This way, it’s more manageable when you create and post various marketing and promotional content. Additionally, if you’d like to maximise this strategy, consider hiring a virtual assistant to help you with administrative tasks, including social media marketing.
Now, if you want your customers to see your posts more often, you need to make them “like” or “comment” on your posts more often, too. Here’s why: Facebook’s newsfeed intelligence works on a basic rule: higher interaction = higher visibility. You can encourage users to interact with your posts by engaging with them. For instance, if someone asks a question in your comment section, answer them. Doing so may help improve your visibility on the platforms you’re using.
If you’re wondering why you’re rarely seeing the posts of a friend, this is one of those reasons – you’re likely not interacting on Facebook. Keep your customers engaged on Facebook and they will surely see you on their newsfeeds.
Take advantage of online influencers
You can never build a massive base of followers on social media by yourself. Try getting popular bloggers, online gurus, and YouTube celebrities to endorse your brand. You can check out personalities whose audience is similar to your business.
For instance, my bestfriend, Gie owns House of Sunnies (HOS), a start-up company that sells high-end sunglasses. As she needed more publicity, she approached Lolita Perez, a famous fashion Instagrammer to post photos of herself (with Gie’s sunnies).
Gie gave Lolita a free pair of Gucci sunglasses in exchange for Lolita to post a link to HOS’s Instagram account. Within three days, HOS acquired 300 new followers and dozens of inquiries.
Bartering is the name of the game for most online influencers. In exchange for a tweet or a post, offer them your product or service: food, clothing, fashion accessories, skin or dental services, transportation, and maybe even anti-termite services!
And how do you contact them? You don’t need to go to their manager (most of them manage themselves!) – a simple tweet, e-mail, or direct message won’t hurt.
If they like what you offer, they will surely negotiate next!
Keep your enemies close
Everyone is on social media, including your competitors. It may be helpful to monitor their performance and activity online so you can figure out what you can offer to your target audience that’s unique or better than what they have.
How many followers does your competitor have on Instagram? Does your competitor get a lot of customer complaints on Twitter? Then, it’s time that you highlight you have better customer service on social media.
Did Larry’s Laundromat down the block just announce that they will close next week due to store renovations? Then maybe, next week is the right time for you to offer customers a free trial service.
Understand your customers better
The most beautiful thing about online channels is that they are measurable. You can measure your visitors’ age, gender, location, time of visit, etc. instantly. Take advantage of this feature because it can lead you to where more money is.
Facebook pages give you a breakdown of how many people “liked” or commented on a post. This tells you which information is popular.
You will also see which type of people visit your site the most. Are you getting a lot of comments and posts from City X? Maybe you should sell more in that city.
Confused why there are more males versus females commenting on your posts? Maybe that female perfume you’re selling is becoming a bestseller gift among males – you should talk to them more. If you want to hear more from your audience, you can encourage them to leave feedback on your online accounts. They can send you a message or fill out a survey about your products and services. This way, you can find out which aspects of your business appeal to your customers, and which ones need improvement.
Always keep score. Check the numbers, smell where the money is coming from, and follow where it goes. You will start realising that marketing is also a science, not just art.
These are just the basics and we are barely scratching the surface. There are so many things to learn (and take advantage of) with social media.
Remember, you’re just one of the hundreds or thousands of people they’re seeing every day on Facebook and Twitter, so work hard to get through that clutter! You need to stand out!
Good luck, and may you be the next entrepreneur who will make it big!