I can clearly remember the first few weeks when I started learning about using social media for business. I couldn’t afford to pay for an expensive diploma for soon-to-be professional online marketeers and I didn’t have a big enough budget to buy all the expert books on social media either. The only choice I had was to paddle through the endless sea of free articles, blog posts, podcasts, videos and e-books with the hope of finding one which would be the ultimate training explaining step-by-step what I had to do in order to get new clients on social media. I’d still be looking for it today if it weren’t for the fact that somewhere along the way I gave up and decided to just keep trying things out until I come up with my own little social media management system that suits the needs of my business. And so over a year later, having tried and tested several social media marketing strategies, I have come up with a system that works for me. Here’s my journey, including the mistakes I made at the beginning and the approach that I am using now, which allows me to manage all of my social media accounts in only 2 hours a week.
Selling on social media vs community building
I have made a lot of mistakes as a newbie to online marketing. Firstly, I was overly ambitious in relation to the speed with which I wanted to grow my business (yup, this on its own can be quite damaging if you’re just starting out). Everyone kept saying that it usually takes around 1-2 years for a business to start generating money, but I just wouldn’t take it. I’ve always been very ambitious in my career and I usually managed to achieve things quicker than most people. And so, naturally, I assumed that it would be the same with my business. I expected sound results to come within less a year, and I expected social media to help me with generating those results. This meant that, at least initially, I approached social media as a ‘selling’ platform through which I could ‘advertise’ my services and products. And guess what? Yes, I was disappointed. Here’s why. As I wanted quick results, I was literally bombarding my “followers” on social media with information about the tickets for the events that we were organising, like in the case below:
I would send that message to them a few times a week, in different forms, and I would only post a few other things during that week which were not related to a specific event I was trying to promote. I was hoping that anyone who would see the link would click on it and then, hopefully, buy the ticket for the event. The difficulty with this approach was that because I wasn’t posting anything that would be beneficial to my audience, even if someone who was not yet subscribed to my social media accounts saw one of my posts because their friends had liked or retweeted it, they still wouldn’t want to follow my business on social media because there was no good reason for them to do it. There was just no steady stream of interesting articles and resources that they could regularly benefit from, and so they had no incentive to start following my business. And so I was missing out on the opportunity to communicate with them regularly. What I realised then was that I needed to stop treating social media as a marketplace and start looking at it as a place where people come to read interesting articles and get inspired. And so the only way to attract someone’s attention was to actually give them something interesting to read.
My new approach was to write articles (like this one) on a weekly basis and post them on social media with the hope that readers (like you) would find them useful. These days, rather than sending direct sales messages, I focus on promoting my articles on social media in the hope of providing value. I also throw in posts about other interesting articles which I find and read on a regular basis, and I do it in a very conscious way. Whereas in the past I was posting articles from the same popular platforms that everyone else was sharing (does Entrepreneur.com ring a bell?), these days I make an effort to regularly find for my audience unique, quality articles from less popular websites that they are not likely to find on many other social media channels. Since I started doing this, I have seen a steady increase in people following FBIZZ, especially on Facebook, which I am extremely happy about. And so here’s how our messages on social media look like now:
One useful tool that I use to identify those new interesting platforms and regularly preview articles posted on them is Feedly, which I will write about some time soon. If you’re interested in finding out more about this and other tools I use, sign up for the newsletter below and stay tuned!
Posting once a day vs posting several times a day
When I first started with social media for business, I was completely lost in relation to how often I should be posting. I didn’t want to annoy people but I didn’t want them to forget about me either. Again, I sorted through a range of articles on how often I should be posting and I got a range of different suggestions. And so I decided to try things out whilst remaining cautious not to irritate my audience. For the first few months I was posting a few times a week. I would release one post on Monday, one on Wednesday and another one on Friday or so. I would post the messages always at 8 am and I didn’t think it made a difference at what time I was doing that anyway. I just assumed that since people followed my profiles on social media, they would see my messages at some point in their news feed. What I didn’t realise, though, was that my average follower would also follow a couple hundred other channels on social media, and all of those profiles were posting a few times every day. This meant that my three messages per week were usually getting snowed under all the other messages from channels posting more frequently and, very often, would not even reach my followers. And then I talked to a friend of mine who runs a social media consultancy and who introduced me to the whole concept of ‘peak times’ during which people were usually checking their social media accounts during the day. The idea was to identify my own daily peak times based on the insight statistics from my Facebook account and to post every day at those times to maximise the chances of my audience actually seeing my posts. Obviously, I don't have the time to send posts on social media several times a day, every day. But this is where scheduling tools like Hootsuite come in handy. I will be writing more about how to use Hootsuite for business soon, so if you’re interested in finding out how I use them to manage social media in only 2 hours per week, sign up to the newsletter below and stay tuned!
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Monitoring the popularity of your posts
One final (major) mistake that I used to do in the past was posting on social media without actually checking whether my followers enjoyed the posts I was sending. It’s quite normal that when you’re just starting out with social media for business, you’re not sure what types of posts will be useful and interesting to people who follow you. So it’s likely that some of the messages you will be posting will be far more popular than others. But the trick is to find a way to monitor what your audience likes and doesn’t like, so that you can keep improving on the type and quality of content you are posting. Now, there are two ways to do it - the paid one and the free one. In relation to the paid tools, I’ve tried some reports produced by the pro version of Hootsuite, but I haven’t found those to be very different from the reports which can be accessed for free on individual social media platforms. If I’m wrong and if there are some useful features I am yet to discover that you are aware of, please feel free to share your tips in the comments below! From what I learned so far, the free reports available on individual social media platforms are pretty easy to read, especially if you’re not an expert and you’re just starting out with social media marketing, so I saw no reason to pay for expensive professional social media monitoring tools. The idea is to have just enough information to get a sense of which of your posts are more popular than others so that you can produce more of those. I don understand, though, that if you are posting on several social media platforms it might be difficult to remember to monitor those on a regular basis. My advice? Use a project planner (e.g. Asana) and schedule a weekly reports’ check for each of the social media platforms. Asana is pretty useful for that because it allows you to include repeated tasks on a weekly basis, which means that once you tick the task as completed it will automatically pop up as the task for next week. It also allows you to include live links to websites, which means that you could follow a link directly from Asana to the individual report on a particular social media platform, which makes the whole process quick and smooth. Here’s how my own set of tasks looks like in Asana:
That’s all I have for you now, but there will be plenty more articles coming in the near future, so feel free to share any problems and topic suggestions you have in the comments below. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get our latest articles delivered to your e-mail box every Tuesday.
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