When starting a business, you wouldn't give your heat and hydro a sales goal. That doesn't make sense does it? To say "Heat and hydro cost $350 per month, and therefore just by providing heat and hydro we should bring in $350 worth of business" is absolutely crazy. It misses every other part of business.
You cannot be in business unless you have a product or service to sell: that is essential to business. Period. Every single business has a purpose, a problem to solve, a need or want to fulfill.
So gone is the fleeting moment where people believed social media is a perfect driver of sales. This, I am sorry to say, is no longer true. Social media cannot be your main sales tool: it must be seen as an integral part of multiple duties and functions that make a business successful. It is the fastest and easiest way to build trust, pique interest and be a reference for information when needed in the customer journey.
There are exceptions to the above statement: if you have a storefront (retail or restaurant) and sell a product or service that is common and priced accordingly to your community, then social media can be a primary sales tool (when done right). As so many businesses fall outside this narrow definition, it also stands that social media cannot be our primary sales tool. There are hundreds of social media sites that appeal to different users and demographics for any host of reasons. And, more shockingly, the average social media user has five different social accounts. Knowing that each platform is a business and offers advertising, that's 5 platforms where people are being sold to. Translation: content shock is real, and because we see so much marketing content we freeze and make no buying decisions. On top of that, there are so many people and so many rules and so many changes, how are we to keep up?
How we access information has changed drastically, but our habits have not fully kept up. We still want too feel good and confident in our buying decisons, we want to trust the source and we still want to discuss with our peers what we are purchasing. Social media has not changed that fact: but it has changed how we do it.
To this end, social media must be a part of common duties and functions in small business. According to the previously linked article, every small business owner must perform such jobs as: accounting and financial reporting, strategy creation, marketing, sales, delivering products/services, customer service and more. From that list (which is quite a bit unto itself, and by no way exhaustive) social media is ONE part of the marketing portion! From my experience of working with hundreds of small business owners, it pains my heart to see businesses stop doing marketing or advertising when in their business. There's too many other things to do, and for many marketing is seen as writing and releasing promotional information, which they don't have time for. However, marketing is an essential part of a list of duties, and social media a small part of that.
We know how a business gets started, and what they must do to survive, but there are common elements and tasks highly successful businesses do that we can't forget. Successful businesses innovate - they do their research and development, see what's been done and to what degrees of success, and do or create something entirely new. Successful businesses try new things! They are resilient and open to change, and embrace this in their daily actions. The form a business plan and run with it, adjusting their plans or actions accordingly. They drive sales, often.
Social media can be a part of all of these processes! And, it can stand alone.
So if social media is a saturated wasteland where everyone is competing with each other, businesses and the corporations that are the social platforms, what is social media good for? Social media is crucial for a few things essential to business:
- It is a reference point of information that can be accessed quickly. If you have a website, odds are it's not the easiest to search. Do you know what will appear in various searches quickly? Social media profiles. That is why it is crucial to have a clear and well laid out about section that gives customers and potential customers all the information you need.
- This is crazy important: social media is a fantastic source for research. Get to know who your target market is, where they are online, what they are doing, habits and behaviours.
- Social media builds trust and credibility: if you use your social profiles correctly and share (or preferably write) high quality content, people will like what you say, trust your wisdom and become more likely to purchase from you.
- Your platforms build awareness: it is more real estate in the universe where you can be found, discovered and influencing the conversation about you and your business.
- Social media can be used to pique interest: gone are the days when you have to creatively display products (or services) in a way that is visually appealing in a store: now you can do so online and catch attention. Careful: try not to be too salesy or slimy.
- Social media allows you to connect personally! Social media is a reflection of real life, so use it to engage by name with users, ask questions and respond
Pursue this list wisely. Because social media is so vast and expansive, so many people don't take the short amount of time to really get to know it and its function. This really helps clear the air, and hopefully inspire to action. Make sure social media is part of the mix by
- having a business plan that makes mention of social media efforts (as part of something bigger)
- having a marketing plan that is well researched, and incorporates social media only when warranted
- taking a step back and examining your business: know where it's going, how quickly, and what needs to change.
I hope this helps and clarifies, and even provides ideas. If you have any questions, or want help applying this to your business, CLICK HERE and fill out the form to get started on where we can find places for social media to fit into your business.