Over the last 20 years of working from home in various businesses, I frequently came across other small businesses whose owners didn’t realize they would have to invest in marketing and advertising. Even today, home-based businesses and work at home moms aren’t always comfortable leveraging even simple social media strategies to get their product or service in front of the right people. 

Back in the day, urban businesses were all about flyers. Back when I co-owned a window company, my partner and I made the decision to invest in Yellow Pages ads.

Let me tell you – back then, our Yellow Pages ad cost BIG BUCKS…. but it also brought in tons of leads, many of which converted to paying customers. In fact, we found out that our older, more financially stable customers found us through the Yellow Pages because they still relied on the Yellow Pages to find home improvement companies.

Perhaps because of the significant cost associated with marketing and advertising, a lot of small businesses don’t do it. And home-based businesses… forget about it.

The reality is there are other businesses out there right now that do what you do. The only difference between you and them is they invest in advertising. You need to do the same.

Maybe you’re not ready to shell out big bucks on print ads or billboards. But you should definitely have a plan for how you’re going to reach your audience on social media because it’s highly unlikely that you are the only provider of whatever product or service you deliver. It’s not like thirty years ago, when your family’s bakery may have been the only place to get fresh bread for ten miles.

It’s not that way at all, not even for fresh-baked bread.

So, it’s in your best interest to learn and implement affordable, effective, money-making ways to tell people about your business. This week’s post is for those of you who are still on the fence about using social media strategies to grow your business. Let me give you 9 strategies for making that transition easier.

#1. Figure Out Who You Are and What You Do

Who are you and what is your value to the market? That’s the same information that makes up the average resume, but most of us don’t think in terms of being walking resumes.

Most of us can quantify our market value easily. We have X number of technical proficiencies and Y number of behavioral proficiencies. What becomes hard is figuring out how we want people to see us. But this part is going to be crucial moving forward because knowing the image you want to project to the world is going to help you figure out the social media, website, marketing brochures, business cards, FB ads, and the rest of the collateral you’re going to be using to market your small business.

#2. Make Sure You Can Deliver on Your Promises

Now that you know how you want to be seen and what you plan to deliver, make sure you have the talent and skills available to deliver on that promise consistently. This is true whether you’re delivering on them yourself or hiring someone else to perform them.

#3. Create Separate Social Media Accounts for Your Professional Endeavors

It may be tempting when you first start marketing your business to target those closest to you. The dilemma is there’s a difference between the people you know and your target customers. So, while you may want to start with your 4,997 Facebook friends, unless you’ve been talking to them all along about that thing you do, you need to consider building your tribe elsewhere.

If you are trying to build a business or a product, it may be best to create a social profile in the name of your business or product. If you’re working to become a thought leader in your industry, you may also want to brand your name.

#4. Only Start Social Accounts Where Your Target Audience Is

Okay, so it’s time to put your professional profile on social media. Which network do you use?

Of course, the go-to answers are Facebook or Instagram. It seems everybody’s on Facebook, so that should be a good place to start. It is… unless you’re marketing to 13 to 24-year-olds. They’re not on Facebook. They have accounts, but they’re not using the platform. So, where are they?

That’s the quandary you face building your social presence. You have to know who your target audience is then find out where they hang out online. As well, you have to know which platform they are most open to receiving promotional content.

For instance, I get a lot of ads about marketing products going through my Facebook feed. I expect to see cool stuff like clothes, shoes, and subscription kits on Instagram. According to Bustle, Millennials think Instagram is the best place to reach them with your marketing materials. For Boomers, it’s Facebook and YouTube. This the kind of info you need to know to make your marketing efforts most effective.

#5. Learn How Each Social Platform Works

Once you know who you’re targeting and where they hang out online, it’s time to learn how they use the platform. Each social network has its own culture, its own way of communicating, and its own purpose.

For instance, Instagram is a platform where people consume content through images, so you will find some of the most beautiful photos on social media right there in your Instagram feed.

Snapchat, on the other hand, is the Land of Imperfection. Snapchat is where people go to express themselves without having to think so hard about their precious brands. You may have seen your kids using the funny filters that add cat ears to their heads… filters that allow you to swap faces with the other person in the picture with you. If you try to deploy a Snapchat culture on Instagram, you will find it hard to build your brand and market your small business.

So, make the time to play on each platform where your audience is so you understand the platform.

#6. Make Your Bio and Headshot Consistent with Your Image

If you don’t already have a website with your bio published to it, create a super-short biography specifically for your social platforms. I think the standard is somewhere around 100 to 200 characters. Make it punchy, succinct, and on-brand.

Most people don’t have professional headshots just laying around. In that case, you can usually get a pretty nice picture of yourself by making good use of natural light. With daylight behind your phone’s camera, snap a picture of yourself against a solid-colored background, preferably a lighter color. Even a 5 mega pixel camera can make you look pretty good in natural light.

I wouldn’t recommend using a 5-mega pixel camera, but if that’s what you have access to, make it work, girl.

Skip snapping a picture in the office. Office lights are usually not conducive to great-looking selfies.

#7. Make Your Online Conversation About More Than Your Business

For the love of goodness, don’t be one of those people who only talks about your business, books, and clients. That’s called a marketer or sales person and nobody wants someone in their feed who’s always marketing to them.

Instead, offer value. That can be a funny web show. It can be an interesting fact. It can be a powerful quote. It can be a beautiful picture. It can be a makeup tutorial. Whatever it is, create each piece of content with your audience in mind.

Online relationships are like most relationships – focus first on providing value to the other person. When you’ve built enough equity into the relationship by giving, then you can ask for (not take) something in return.

The average person is bombarded with ads from marketers, from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to sleep. During the morning news, over morning coffee, taking the kids to school, all you see and hear are advertisements from people who want you to do business with them. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re able to completely tune them out.

We’ve become blind to ads.

So, don’t focus on making every other social post something about your business. Just the opposite. If you focus on what you can do for others, you won’t even have to ask for the sale.

#8: Build Your Network

A great way to build your network is to start by looking for people who are interested in what interests you. This is true of all platforms, and the sole reason hashtags were invented. Hashtags are actually search words, a way for people to find different topics online. So on Twitter, Instagram and now LinkedIn, you can search for topical content using hashtags and find a chronological history of the times each hashtag has been used, sorted with the most recent post (or the most popular post) first.

On LinkedIn, you can find, join or start groups about different topics, professions, proficiencies, and common goals.  Start by finding people with whom you have something in common and connect with them.

#9. Be Responsive

Perhaps most important of all in the social media onboarding process is learning how to engage with other people on social media.

Earlier I warned against making all of your posts about your business. The same holds true for how you interact with the other people in your network or groups. In every situation, try to provide value WITHOUT asking anything in return. You may say, “Well, my awesome widget is valuable. It will grow their business by 20%!”

They don’t care about your widget or about you. Make them care about the widget by making them care about you.

So, when someone follows you or joins your group, or comments on your picture or witty saying, comment back. Thank them. The goal is to start a conversation with them that you can have for years to come. And you know what? Even if they have no need for the thing you sell, they may know twenty people who do, and recommend your thing to them.

That’s a good start.

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