Small businesses have the advantage when it comes to social media

Whenever I start talking about social media marketing at networking events there’s always a couple of people that roll their eyes. There’s lots of different reasons for their knee-jerk reaction, and I certainly don’t judge any of them for it.  For many, unfortunately, they’ve had bad experiences of people who have tried to sell them the idea of marketing to the masses – and they’ve been burnt by costly, yet fruitless forays in to digital advertising.

Of course, it’s not that sort of thing I’m talking about. But that’s the point with knee-jerk reactions; they’re not always on target.

However, I digress.

One of the biggest barriers I come against when it comes to talking about SMM with potential clients is their own perceptions.  Many argue that they’re too small to really make any impact with Facebook or Twitter, and therefore don’t see the value of “throwing money” at it.

I agree, simply throwing money at anything and hoping for the best seems like a bit too much of a gamble – and that’s coming from a girl with a thing for the horses.

No matter how big, or small your business, you have to have a plan. That means you need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve, how much money you have to achieve it, and over what time period you’re going to work on it. It’s more complicated than that of course, but that’s the nuts and bolts.

Most of that will be determined by you and any consultant you decide to get in to help; however, there is one thing that applies to every small business.  You can make a huge impact regardless of your size. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that small businesses might have the advantage when it comes to social marketing.

Think about your small business and any larger scale competitors you may have.  Don’t focus on the things you don’t have such as numerous staff, a large IT department or a huge media budget. Instead, think about what you can do that they can’t.

You can reach out to your local community and be more focussed on the individuals within that community.  You can build genuine relationships.  As a small business you’re more likely to remember Jean from the last time she commented, and you’re definitely in a better position to reply to her when she does reach out to you.  Faceless large corporation couldn’t give a monkey’s about Jean, she’s just order #45789.

Equally, just because you don’t have loads to throw at social media doesn’t mean you can’t get a reaction out of your audience. People love to talk and share, so why not ask them to post pictures of them using your product. Get them to add reviews, or ask questions that they need your answers to. Ask them for their feedback and suggestions, and then act upon them so they know they’ve been listened to.

Being small is a huge advantage when it comes to being genuine.

 

Why size really doesn’t matter

Whenever I talk to people about their current business activity on social media, they often complain about the number of people who follow them. It doesn’t matter if it’s Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook – the number of followers or fans always seems to equate to success as far as they’re concerned.

Big is better, and biggest is best. Apparently.

The problem seems to be even worse when they start to compare the size of their following with those of their competitors.

“Well, John has 500 followers, and we only have 390. No wonder he’s doing better than us.”

I confess in this instance I’m always keen to discover how they know John is doing better.  Because he says so? Well, he’s hardly going to admit sales are down and he’s not sure how he’s going to pay the bills next month is he?

We always assume others have got it together and we don’t, but that’s rarely the reality.

However, let’s make one thing perfectly clear – a larger following does not necessarily mean more business.

Forget online and social media. Let’s look at the real world.

Imagine you have a shop in a dingy back street with very little passing trade. Your competitor, on the other hand is located in the middle of the High Street, and has over 1,000 people pass by their door every day.

Who is doing better in terms of trade?

In all honesty, you have no idea.

More people have the potential to see their shop than yours, but does that equate to more business?  It all means nothing if no one is actually going in and buying anything.

For all you know the five customers you have who actually pop in and purchase exceeds the one he has who window shops.  Plus, your rent is probably lower.

Who’s doing better now?

Social media works in exactly the same way.  Having more followers simply means there is more opportunity for your posts to be seen by people, it doesn’t mean you’re going to do any better from it. In fact, if you have a smaller community of fans who do engage and interact with your content you are most definitely going to do better than someone who is receiving no contact from their audience.

This is the precise reason why I find it so frustrating when people “buy” followers.  Yes, for a mere £20 (or less) you can bump your audience by 20,000.  You may think that looks impressive, you might even assume it gives you a certain amount of credibility – but does it?

There is no “search pages with large followers” option when it comes to Facebook.  The only way a complete random person is going to stumble across your page is if you pay for an ad, or one of your genuine followers interacts with your content.  A paid for, made up profile is not going to do that, and therefore there is simply no benefit to going down this route.

Instead of looking for quick fixes that you think make you look good, take the time to build genuine relationships with your target audience and existing clients.  Reach out to them, ask them questions, thank then when they do respond and most importantly, stop just trying to sell to them.

If you’re not sure how to build relationships online, get in touch with Lu at Time Saving Heroes today – we are always happy to offer some advice. Call 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

 

 

Your message is not important to us

Despite the impression I like to give, I am only human, and that means even I the-ever-writing-Lu can find it hard at times to come up with content.  Thankfully this week I’ve been given a bit of a hand by some really bad customer service experiences on social media.

One of the most popular services we provide at Time Saving Heroes is social media management.  Whilst we offer a whole host of services in this area, for the most part people just want regular content posting out via their networks.  However, I always try to remind people that it’s not about what they sell or do, but how they engage and build relationships with their audience/customers.

Some people get that, some just don’t.

Never is this more pronounced than when you look at how people manage their business pages Facebook Messenger.  On countless occasions I have stumbled across a page, found the content interesting, liked it, commented and proceeded to follow.  In time I have found myself actually needing to find out something – so I hit the trusty “Send Message” button and wait.

Sometimes I have to wait a few hours – which even the most impatient of individuals can probably live with.

Most times, I have to wait a week, or longer.

In some instances no reply comes at all.

For those of you who have Facebook business pages can I just ask – why are you taking the time to set up a page, fill it with content and to add all your contact details only to ignore your potential customers when they bother to reach out to you?

What the Hell is the point?!

Not only are you potentially missing out on a sale in the here and now, but actually you are leaving a really bad taste in someone’s mouth.  Having managed numerous business pages over the last few years I totally get how annoying “the public” can be.  The seemingly endless barrage of questions that are time consuming to respond to – and they don’t end up buying anyway.  Yes, I get it, but sorry buttercup, that’s what you’re there for.  It’s called customer service.

It’s like having a phone, and never bothering to answer the bloody thing!

If you really don’t want people to get in touch with you via direct messaging, don’t offer it as a method of communication.  And if you are going to offer it, make sure you manage it properly.

If you don’t have the time, then you need Time Saving Heroes.

Are you making the most of the power of word of mouth?

What’s the most important thing when it comes to growing your business? Is it the amount of money you have in your marketing budget? Perhaps it’s your current customers? Maybe it’s developing a new product line or USP.

The reality is there’s no one right answer.  There are plenty of things you need to take into account, and must stay on top of if you really want to make a massive impact and take home the lion’s share of the potential market.

However, one thing I find that often gets overlooked is referrers.

When I talk to business owners looking to get in to social media marketing they often want to focus on their target audience – the people they can immediately sell to.  Of course these people are essential to the success of your business; without these people you won’t make money. However, you don’t just access these people from direct sales. You also rely heavily on word of mouth. And if you don’t currently, you should.

Advertising costs money.

Marketing costs money, and a heck of a lot of time.

You can’t necessarily avoid either of these expenses, but you could add to it for free if you utilise the power of your brand ambassadors.

Last week I had a chat with a woman who runs a domestic cleaning company. She is doing well enough for herself, has 25 members of staff, and isn’t exactly panicking over how to pay her bills at the end of the month. However, she’s the first to admit that sales are stagnant.

She doesn’t spend money on adverts, but does three separate networking events in her local area which takes up over 10 hours of her time each week, and costs her over £300 per month.  When challenged, she admitted she didn’t get as much back as she’d like for her efforts to be cost effective.

When challenged further, she confessed she did get “leads” from her networking colleagues, but by the time she got them, and had a chance to react to them, they’d gone cold.  Further discussion lead to her realising part of the problem was the fact her networking buddies couldn’t easily tag her in to conversations.

For example, one night her colleague saw that a friend had posted on Facebook looking for a recommendation for a cleaner. Dutifully he had posted the right contact details – but as the company in question didn’t have a social media presence he was only able to supply a mobile contact number.

When that number is placed in a list alongside tagged Facebook company pages, which provide all the information a potential client might want, along with photos and independent reviews, it can’t really compete.

It didn’t take long for the woman in question to realise that relying on word of mouth without social media wasn’t really working for her as well as she thought it would.

No matter what your primary focus is when it comes to advertising and/or marketing, social media adds to it.  An up to date account, full of interesting information, reviews, photos and other contact information provides your business with credibility. It gives people an easy way to get in touch and keep track of you.

If you don’t bother with social media, the people on it won’t bother with you.

It really is that simple.

 

To find out more about how social media could benefit your business please get in touch by calling our hero hotline: 0161 883 2024, emailing hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or messaging us via Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

What three years in business has taught me

Today is an important one for me, personally and professionally.  Three years ago Time Saving Heroes officially came in to being, after rattling around in my head for a few months.  Admittedly nothing changed, really; I was still doing exactly the same work, in the same place and with the same clients – I was just doing it under an official name.

Although it was a Sunday, I remember sitting at our kitchen table, finalising my five year plan.  As I look back I’m amazed how far I’ve come, and what lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

# 1 – Failure is an opportunity

I’d be lying if I said everything had gone to plan over the last three years, and I hadn’t put a foot wrong.  Actually, if we’re going to be completely honest about this, I’ve made some monumental cock ups along the way.

The good thing though about wandering off the path is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you are lost.  Such events can provide you with an enormous opportunity to learn – what to do, and most certainly what not to do.

The end of 2015 was challenging, for many reasons, but I have to admit everything I went through in those last few months have made me far more sure-footed as I move forward.  It was hard at the time, but looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

# 2 – Don’t listen to every piece of advice

When I started TSH I hadn’t done any networking, so when I got thrown in to this world of other businesses, expos and 121’s I felt like a scared little newbie.  To be fair, I was.  Looking around the room at my peers I was in awe of their knowledge and experience, and was convinced they all had their shit together and were so much better than me.

As a result I listened, and took every bit of advice that was offered in those first few months.  I mean, they knew what they were talking about.  They had it all sussed, and I’d be an idiot not to listen to their pearls of wisdom.

James Altucher once said “Anyone who gives actual advice is a fraud. We’re all just trying to understand the planet from our own tiny perspectives” and it’s so true.  Now while I listen to what people say and suggest, I don’t follow it blindly. I accept it for what it is – just their opinion and viewpoint.  They might be right, but it doesn’t mean what they are saying is right for me.

After three years I have learnt to make that all important distinction, and to trust my gut when it comes to my business.

# 3 – Forget the “rules”

Many people work a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always worked.  That’s fine for them, but I don’t want to live that way.  I started this business in my kitchen, and three years later, here I sit again, surrounded by my dogs and listening to the sound of my children laughing.

I tried the serviced office, I tried the rented space, and yet I came back home.  I was advised, by many, that it would be more professional to have a dedicated work space; that I’d be taken more seriously, that I’d earn more money, if I stepped away from the kitchen table.  Bollocks.

The reality is my professionalism comes from me, not my location.  I am no better writing in an office than I am sitting on my bed.  The words are the same, it’s only the environment that’s different, and as I don’t write with clients present, what does it matter where I do it?  Even when I had an office I would meet clients at their place of work, or in a coffee shop.  I still do that now.  Nothing has changed. Except I am now £600pm better off.

Equally, three months ago I embraced a new approach to my emails.  I have an auto-responder that lets people know I check my emails three times a day, and will respond as soon as possible at those specified times.  If you need me before that, phone me.

Some people have taken the utter piss out of me, and that’s fine.  However, I am now not tied to my inbox, people’s expectations are managed and I am generally far more efficient.  Laugh all you like, but my inbox, my rules.

# 4 – My dreams are mine

I learnt the hard way that when you tell anyone and everyone your dreams, they get battered and bashed up along the way.  People will always have an opinion, and whilst some people will be on hand to offer support and guidance, share their stories or just lend a sympathetic ear, other people will not.

I’ve had people tell me I can’t, that it won’t work or that it will cost too much – all comments that are so negative they make you want to just say “OK, I won’t bother”.  I’ve also had people take my ideas, my dreams, my plans and ambitions and steal them; screwing me over in the process.

The truth is you don’t have to share your dreams with anyone.  Now I work quietly towards mine, and when I get there, I will shout about my arrival from the roof tops.  My nearest and dearest know where I’m heading, and enjoy the journey with me; no one else needs to.

# 5 – It’s better to do something rather than nothing

It’s far too easy to overthink things when you run your own business.  Should you share that post?  Should you write that blog?  How will people react to the use of the word “bollocks”? How much should you quote for that job, what can the client afford?  The problem with thinking is that it has this nasty tendency to get in the bloody way of doing.

You can waste hours, days or even months pushing thoughts around whilst you try to find the perfect path, by which time you have lost out.  The reality is that until you do something you’re not going to know 100% whether it’s the right thing or not.

My advice? Trust your gut, move and hope for the best.

But, that’s just my view, from my own tiny perspective.

Stop saying Social Media doesn’t work

Despite the fact that social media marketing can boast positive ROI for up to 92% of businesses who use it, it’s still a largely underrated mode of getting your brand out there.

Last week I was at an Expo and it was a great opportunity to speak to a whole new market and make new contacts.  For some people, the second I mentioned that social media management and training was one of the services I offered, they switched off.  Just not interested.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s fine – however, I decided to challenge some of them to find out what their aversion to the big bad world of social was.  Here’s what I discovered:

# 1 It’s just a fad

No, really.  In 2017 we still have people who believe social media is just a “fad”.  I don’t mean to be rude or appear mocking but, really?!

This argument might have held a bit of weight in 2007 if I was trying to sell the concept of digital marketing, but ten years later I think we have to accept it’s not about to fizzle out.  Facebook has over 1.2 billion users, a figure that is actually increasing and all platforms are constantly evolving in order to keep their users happy.

There is an entire generation that knows nothing but social – people expect it!  I can buy the argument that maybe your target audience doesn’t engage with social media, and that’s all well and good, but please stop suggesting it’s not got longevity in it!

# 2 It’s free

Some people I spoke to seemed to think that digital marketing, specifically engaging with audiences via social networking sites, wasn’t worth it because it was free.

It took me a while to get my head round this.

Essentially, there is perceived value in paying for something; which conversely means if you’re not paying for something, it’s worthless.  When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like you can access free accounts, and assuming you’re not paying for any form of advertising, it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

Of course, my argument was you could pay me to manage it for you so it does cost you something …

# 3 It doesn’t work

The people who had tried to engage with social media marketing in the past cited the fact they had poor results as a reason not to bother again.  On further probing it actually turns out that they were either buying followers, or didn’t have a coherent strategy.

Consider the former; if you are simply buying people to follow you, in a bid to look more popular than you are, then you can’t complain about the lack of engagement or interaction.  How do you know the people that have followed given a damn about your brand, product or service?  I have always argued it’s better to have 10 engaged and motivated followers than 100 people who have no genuine idea who you are or what you do.

With regards to the latter, without a plan you have no hope of achieving anything.  Encouraging people to interact with you takes time and/or money – and yes, it can take a lot of both.  You need to stop, think about your strategy, your audience, your goals and put the plan in to action.  If you do that, it really can work.

The one with the wine (and cheese)

It’s been a bit of a funny week really and I’m not sure I can pick just one highlight.

On top of a traditionally busy week as we hurtle to the start of a new month I’ve had a few issues to contend with when it comes to managing people.  When you work for yourself, and don’t have staff, it’s very easy to forget how difficult conflicts with other people can be to resolve.  This week I was thrown in to having sort something out on behalf of someone and it probably took more out of me than I initially thought.

In fact, it’s still bouncing away in the back of my mind long after the time was logged and the invoice has been sent.  That’s probably my biggest challenge of the week.

As for the highlights …

Those of you who are avid readers of my ramblings will no doubt be aware that Time Saving Heroes exhibited at thebestofBolton’s Big Bolton Expo on Tuesday.  You can read more about our experience here.

We had a great time, and have made some brilliant contacts.  The main reason I chose to exhibit in Bolton this month rather than in Bury is we’re looking to move in to the Bolton market, and it was a great introduction to so many businesses.

My personal favourite part of the evening was the speed networking. I’d never done it before, and despite the fact that I appear to have the confidence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, I’m actually quite a shy individual.  So the thought of being forced to talk to a bunch of strangers for 90 seconds at a time was actually quite terrifying.  The reality is it was actually a ridiculous amount of fun!

If you’ve never been involved in this before I highly recommend it.  Just make sure you have a drink on hand for when you finish – I like a natter, but my goodness I was talked out afterwards and drier than Ghandi’s flip flop.

Another highlight occured last night, when I was lucky enough to attend a wine and cheese tasting event at Bury Football Club, hosted by Jean Juviniere Limited.

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I like a glass (or five) of wine. While I greatly enjoy a tipple, the reality is I am more of a user than a connoisseur.  And I have been more than happy to live that way for years.  A wine tasting event has never appealed (other than the obvious opportunity to consume copious amounts of fermented grapes) for fear I will show myself to be uncouth. Of course, having a loud Essex accent already sets me firmly down that path as it is.

However, last night I went along with the intention of throwing myself out of my comfort zone in the hopes of discovering something magical.

Now, I can’t pretend it was a life changing experience (it appears I still cannot get on with red), but it was a lot of fun and I’m glad I went.  If nothing else I have found a whole new appreciation for cheese (combined with wine), and am now in love with Grandad’s Sausages.  It’s no wonder they’ve been putting a smile on Grandma’s face for over 50 years! They certainly put a smile on mine.

My takeaway for this week then is simply it’s always worth putting yourself out there, and doing things you might not fancy on the surface, or are a little nervous of.