5 lessons I've learned about using social media for business

by Lucy Thornton of Perfect Balance Marketing

power off print, laura george, 5 social media lessons for business, perfect balance marketing{power off print by laurageorge}

When I was on maternity leave with my little boy, social networking was a big part of my daily routine:

  • I shared videos with family on Facebook of him rolling over
  • I posted photos of him covered from head to toe in blue paint (don’t ask)
  • I asked mummy friends for their advice on teething, weaning, sleep routines
  • I messaged fellow sleep deprived mums in the early hours of the morning, sharing night feeds over the web

But as my gorgeous boy grew bigger and I went back to work, I began seeing the value of using it to connect with new contacts, existing customers, then new customers.

Since then I’ve started a blog, and developed from a hobby blogger to a professional copywriter, writing content for others and showing people how to use social media for business.

Along the way I’ve experienced challenges and difficulties as well as a real buzz and the excitement of meeting some amazing people (albeit virtually).

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about social networking over the last 3 years (add your own lessons in the comments below – I’m still learning).

1. It’s not all me me me me me

I met with a new client yesterday – she runs an eco-friendly boutique, selling gorgeous, ethical and organic clothing, and accessories – she had considered having a blog to drive traffic to her website but wasn’t sure she could think of enough stuff to write about.

I explained that you’re not writing about yourself when you have a business blog – you’re writing for your target audience.

(And if you don’t know who they are, check out this previous post on getting to know your customer).

You need to visualise your customer and ask yourself what matters to them. Then write about it. What do they worry about?

For my new client, her customers are willing to pay a little more for an eco-product – they care about the planet, about the environment, about sustainability – so she may want to blog about reducing your carbon footprint, growing your own organic veg, testing the alternatives to travelling by car.

2. Be consistent

My blog posts generally fall into the categories of copywriting, search engine optimisation and social media. Business owners who subscribe to Perfect Balance Marketing’s RSS feed know what to expect when a new post drops into their in-box.

But if tomorrow I posted an article about my favourite type of cake*, readers would wonder what was going on. They had signed up for marketing advice to help their business – my unsubscribe rate would go through the roof.

So before you hit that ‘publish’ or ‘share’ button, take a step back and consider whether the content of your post fits your key messages and your target audience.

3. Be a person

Not a machine. Social networking is like a cocktail party:

– you can stay a while, then leave if it’s not your scene

– or stick around and enjoy the networking

– bursting into the room and pitching your products isn’t the best way to make a sale

– listening is the first step to making friends with strangers

– if someone asks you a question, answer

– be generous and share what you know

– and did I mention you need to listen?

Just because it’s an online relationship, doesn’t mean it’s worth any less than a face-to-face relationship, so treat it with respect – which brings me onto the next point.

4. Nurture relationships

Never is the saying “It’s who you know” more true than on the web. People buy from people, and when buying online you can’t look the seller in the eye so it’s harder to trust them with your order (and your credit card details).

But social media gives you the opportunity to build relationships beyond the order confirmation email and to establish your credibility and reputation.

Become the small grocers’ store in your town, where you know the names of all the regulars, know their biggest challenges and help them out now and then. Aim to connect with readers – not sell to them.

5. Put. The. Laptop. Down

Take time away from your computer.

This is a tricky one for me to advocate because I’m guilty of sitting in front of a computer screen most evenings.

But the other evening, I was watching the new series of #TheApprentice, and I spent the entire first episode tweeting with fellow Apprentice-watchers all over the country about the brash and arrogant contestants.

As the credits rolled and my husband and I nodded silently in agreement with Lord Sugar’s decision, I realised I’d not said a word to hubby the whole way through the programme. Reality check.

Online relationships are no substitute for the real thing. Pictures of sunsets on Flickr are no substitute for the real thing. Log off, shut down, step outside and take a deep breath.

What lessons have you learned on your social media journey? Add them in the comments below and we can all keep learning.

* And if you’re wondering, it’s coffee cake ;o)

8 comments

  1. Nanako says:

    Journey is for sure! You hit some really wonderful points, with flair and humor. Learning how to manage my time is something I’ve learned via learning that I’ve been terrible at it! Being organized helps me to not become overwhelmed by it all. AND it’s important to have F.U.N! Thank you for the great post!

  2. Korey says:

    I’m just starting out, but I feel that promoting others often will make them want to do the same in return. And when promoting your own product, tread lightly, and avoid “spammer-itis!”
    Thanks, for the tips.
    Korey

  3. You are so right, but point 5 is the biggy, social networking is not just about the laptop, social networking is about talking, sharing ideas face to face over a coffee, pooling ideas and discussing what we have learnt along the way. Lets social network soon Lucy 🙂

  4. Lucy, thank you for the useful and entertaining tips! As someone who has just started up her own small business, it can be at times confusing regarding the best approach to marketing and gaining customers. You have given me food for thought! Thank you, Chantelle

  5. Thanks Chantelle,

    It can be a bit of advice overload when you first start out, but if you keep your eye on your customer, what they think/want/worry about, you won’t go far wrong.

    Networking is the fun part! Enjoy and let me know how you get on, Lucy

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