Below is the script I pulled together in preparation for an interview I did on the 28 January with Business Victoria regarding how I, as a small business owner, have used social media for exposure and consequently business growth. This may answer the questions of some business owners still toying with the idea of social media.
Question: Tell me about your business
I founded Interim Business Solutions back in 2005 when I decided I wanted to offer business owners a choice from having permanent staff, if they felt the need really wasn’t there. Also a choice for temp staff when permanent staff went on leave and not having to rely on Temporary Agency staff, who you may only ever see once.
I initially set out to offer mainly these onsite services but the virtual support soon took over and I rarely go onsite now and if I do, it’s for training purposes. The business has evolved somewhat during the 5 years.
Many small business owners and solo-preneurs only require ad-hoc support and with the technology that is available these days, there is no reason why you can’t support them from a remote office, other than being able to complete their filing!
Question: When did you start becoming interested in using social media in your business?
I joined LinkedIn some 6-7 years ago when I was still an employee and was interested in making a move. I had also written a business plan right back in the year 2000, so this was an idea I’d had for some time but it was about timing! My LinkedIn Account was fairly dormant for many years as I didn’t really “get it” nor had the need for it to be anything else.
I then joined Facebook back in October 2008 for business purposes only and this was done reluctantly, as I very much had the perception, Facebook was for the younger generation and why would I want to be on Facebook! I pottered using my Facebook Profile only and that too didn’t really gel.
It wasn’t until December 2008 when I joined Twitter, that social media for business all made sense. I was making some amazing connections on Twitter. There was engagement, sharing info and resources and LOTS of FUN! Back then it was still being discovered by many and there was such a BUZZ about it. I was totally addicted. Twitter then made Facebook & LinkedIn make sense. Twitter readily allowed you to connect with those in your target market, they were then connected with on Facebook to really nurture the connection (in a capacity greater than 140 chars) and LinkedIn was to build your credibility.
I rarely go looking for connections now. I wait for people to come to me and I have a fairly set criteria they need to meet for me to return the connection. I’m a true advocate of quality over quantity.
Question: How do you think social media can help business owners – e.g. can it help in finding new customers, marketing, building a brand, etc?
Social media if used well can certainly expose you and your business and it’s been very much about relationship marketing for me. In the early days I was very engaging (I had the time). I have now met in real life 124 Twitter connections. Most of them, I didn’t know prior to connecting on Twitter. I have also created a Twitter “List” for these people.
If you share valuable content and are consistent in the social media domain, people will find you and be interested to follow and hear what you have to say. Those who ONLY broadcast and effectively spam their audience will have little impact and people won’t be interested in following you or those who had, will unfollow on Twitter or hide you on Facebook or worse still, unfriend you!
Since I started my business in 2005, I have always monitored where my leads come from and the conversion. I have blogged about this twice at 6 monthly intervals last year on www.kirstywilson.com (stay tuned for the next one due next month!) To date my lead/client conversion stats are something like this:
Yellow Pages – 11 inquiries with an 18% conversion
Website – 44 inquiries with a 23% conversion
Non social media referrals – 24 inquiries with a 54% conversion
Social Media (Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn) – 119 inquiries with a 41% conversion
Interestingly enough Twitter alone has generated 97 inquiries with a 46% conversion – in a little over 2 years! I now have a client in London and America and many all over Australia purely from meeting them and building a relationship with them using social media. After all, all social media is, is taking face-to-face networking and moving it online. The same principles apply.
Question: What are some of the mistakes that business owners make when they use social media?
I see many mistakes and I can usually coach a new client to address at least one of the following:
For Twitter, it’s constant broadcasting and no engagement or having their Twitter stream being fed solely from their Facebook Page posts, again there is no engagement and the account owner has no idea who has followed them and therefore, they don’t return the follow in a timely manner, which usually means the connector drops off. I rarely return the follow for a tweep where I can perceive these actions. Another mistake I still see, is no effort of customisation of their account to bring their branding to the forefront.
Question: If a business owner asked you how to start their social media strategy, what sort of advice would you give them?
They need to be prepared to be committed and consistent. I would also advise that they need to invest more time early on to create the network and engage and they can later ease off to just nurturing the network. They also don’t need to be involved in ‘everything’! They should decide where their target market is most likely hanging out and join these spaces. Generally, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube are the most popular sites.
If business owners see the benefits of social media but don’t believe they have the time to commit, they should consider outsourcing the support to a social media virtual assistant. They can source tweets/posts from “nuggets” found in their blog posts/articles or Newsletters. They can make the generic postings to keep the content flowing but it is imperative the business owner checks in regularly to engage the audience. It is pointless otherwise. The support person can also monitor the accounts for mentions and comments and alerting the business owner of any that need their attention.
Finally, I can’t stress enough, it’s about quality connections and not quantity. It will be more beneficial to have 200 followers you engage with and they are interested in what you have to say, your services and/or products, than 2,000 who are not the slightest bit interested in what you have to say. There are tactics in this methodology also!
Question: Do you have any other tips for how business owners can effectively use social media?
Be disciplined and keep to your scheduled networking times.
Use the tools available to make managing your social media strategy more efficient, such as Hootsuite where you can send those generic updates to all your imported accounts.
If the business owner blogs, it only makes sense to be on social media, as the content is already there and you just need to share it! A great way to drive traffic to your website!
But…don’t forget…it’s “social” media…
…and…ENGAGE, SHARE & ADD VALUE!