Going social: How to find the right platform for your small business

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Entrepreneurs share their social media setbacks and strategies

Since the dawn of the storefront, small business owners have relied on customer relationships for success. “When you build your relationship marketing skills, you also open the door to more business opportunities, because a personal connection experience leaves a long-lasting impression.” says best-selling author and digital marketing thought leader Kim Garst.

But building relationships with customers can be tricky in today’s day and age. It’s both easier and tougher than it’s ever been, thanks to social media, which allows businesses to communicate with customers directly.

While it’s true that a single message might touch hundreds or even thousands of people, making an impact with that message is challenging. Avoid social media completely, and small business owners risk ostracizing themselves from would-be fans.

QuickBooks Ambassadors, Elizabeth Young and Curt Hammerly, are relatively new entrepreneurs and small business owners. Nevertheless, they’ve successfully grown their enterprises over the last couple of years, thanks in part to social media. Here are some of their tips and tricks for getting ahead on social media today.

 

Focus your efforts where they fit best

On social media and in marketing, it’s no secret that content is king. A well-timed, well-contrived post can woo audiences into brand loyalty and purchasing, while a post that fails to connect with its audience can do the opposite.

But creating good content isn’t easy, and it’s particularly challenging for solopreneurs who already have overflowing to-do lists. That’s why it’s so important for business owners to know which platform works best for them and to focus their energies on making their posts for that platform shine. Failing to do so would be a waste of time, and time is the one thing entrepreneurs can’t afford to misplace.

Elizabeth, owner and CEO of Eliza May Prints, a high-end wedding invitation design company, has learned that lesson personally. “I completely gave up on trying to use Facebook at all, to leverage my business,” she says. “I don’t even have a personal Facebook anymore.”

Initially, Elizabeth thought she needed Facebook to be successful. She joined groups of creatives, ran Facebook ads, and did her best to boost her page. “When I got rid of Facebook, I was really happy about that, because I don’t waste time on that platform anymore,” she says.

Instead, Elizabeth devotes her social media time to Instagram, where she can make the biggest impact and connect with a tight-knit community of followers who really identify with her services and product. “I still spend a lot of time on that app,” she says. “I’ve grown a very big following on there, so I have an audience that I can talk to.”

Now, Elizabeth has this advice for entrepreneurs still looking to connect with their customers via social media:

“What I would say to other people is to choose [a platform] you love and really hone in on that. If that’s Pinterest, and Pinterest makes sense to you, then go for it. Or if you love blogging and blogging makes sense to you, then go for that because there are all these great ways you can grow your business. You can’t grow if your attention’s spread between all of them at the same time.”

 

Commit what you can, walk away when you must

Like Elizabeth, Curt, owner and CEO of Hammerly Ceramics, has made Instagram his platform of choice. But that wasn’t always the plan.

“I got on Patreon, I got on YouTube, and I really thought I could leverage my Instagram following into a YouTube following fairly quickly,” he says. Curt planned to funnel his customers from Instagram into his YouTube channel, where he hoped to wow viewers into purchasing more products and watching his videos. Eventually, he hoped that by capturing a large number of viewers, he’d also be able to monetize his YouTube account and make cash on views as well as product sales.

“That did not work,” he says, and some of that had to do with not putting as much time into the videos as he needed. “I hired a videographer. … I was spending hundreds a month on this guy’s videography skills and having him edit video and all this stuff, [but] I didn’t give it as much time as I probably could have,” he says.

Despite the fact he was spending tens of hours on each video, Curt realized that the commitment he needed to succeed wasn’t one he could provide. And that left him with a tough choice to make: Continue pouring money and time into a platform that wasn’t paying off, or scrap it and stick to what worked.

He decided to scrap it. “That’s probably the worst investment that I’ve made in this entire process,” he says. “There are plenty of people on YouTube doing it, but it wasn’t for me.”

For many entrepreneurs, knowing when to give up on a new idea is a challenge, but Curt looks at these experiences as learning opportunities. “You have to be resilient as an entrepreneur,” he says. “If you keep moving through … if you don’t let that failure hold you back … that adds up to a life of success.”

 

6 social media tips for burgeoning business owners

  • Take the time to craft your voice.
    Your social media voice should be authentic to who you are and how you communicate, but it should also be consistent. Define your voice from the beginning, then stick to it for as long as it helps you connect with your audience.
  • Don’t lose patience.
    No one goes from two followers to 2,000 in a day. Before you discount your efforts and give up on a perfectly good platform, take the time to analyze your strategy so far and adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Be a model of transparency.
    Access is power. When you allow your followers a peek into your life or your creative process, you build trust. And trust leads to love for your brand. As Michael Margolis, CEO and founder of Get Storied, says, “People don’t buy your product, they buy your story.”
  • Don’t let numbers be your only guide.
    Facebook has over 2 billion active accounts. YouTube, 1.9 billion. But sheer numbers don’t guarantee great results. Rather than casting the widest net possible, dedicate your resources to the platform with the best response to your offering.
  • Promote yourself shamelessly.
    Never assume people know who you are and what you sell. Chances are good they’re missing 99 percent of what you say, so keep saying it.
  • Don’t undervalue unexpected victories.
    Before you discount a post for failing to secure a large audience, take the time to read over the reactions of those who did respond. Often it’s the quality of your interactions that matters more than the quantity.

 

What lessons have you learned from building up your social media profile?
What platform has worked best for you? Let us know in the comments below!