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Getting Started with Social Media – 9 Detailed FAQs

Our Head Trainer, Jo Booth, was recently interviewed by Matthew Stibbe (from Articulate Marketing), on behalf of Microsoft, about her thoughts on getting started with Social Media for small and medium-sized businesses – how to get started and how to make it work for your business. Below we have transcribed the interview for you to refer back to as and when you need. You’re welcome! If you’d like to hear in it’s original format, please listen to the podcast here.

So the interview went like this…

How did you come up with the name Social Media Makes Sense? What do you do for people?

Well we sat down and we already know we were forming a social media business (we were already delivering social media for clients because we kept getting asked) so we decided that the best name for it, was that it actually makes sense. People sometimes argue with us about that, and say it gives them all these problems, but frankly it does make sense! We were originally going to call ourselves ‘Social Media Made Simple’ because everything we do, we do try and make as simple as possible for people, but I think it’s more powerful by saying it makes sense.

We do everything from training, where I go and do a bit of one-to-one with a client and a bit of hand holding and go through the platforms they should be using, to talks on strategy, right through to giving talks seminars at events to 200+ people. We also deliver social media management for clients, I am actually a big advocate of doing it yourself, I think it’s about being sincere and talking about your business as you – I can not be you. However for big companies it’s not so important to have that personality, so we help typically bigger companies with delivering their social media strategy, but for the smaller businesses I usually tell them not to pay me to do it for them, to do it themselves but I will work with them to get it right.

 

Why is Social Media important for small and medium size businesses?

I think it’s really important because it’s a quick, easy and free way to get your message out there. There is no other way you are going to get out in front of millions of people, whether they’re local, national or global in such a quick and easy format. Everything else you have to pay for. Saying that, I do also agree with paying for advertising on social media, I know some people complain that Facebook advertising does not deliver as far and wide as they’d want it to but at the end of the day, Facebook is a business too. In the beginning when you are starting up and you’re a small business, you won’t have the money to do that, so these channels are the quick and easy way to send out your message for free, effectively.

Added to this you have a very quick response time, people can then message you live and you can handle that response straight away and make them feel like a valued customer. Whereas other forms of marketing can be quite slow, if someone sees you in a magazine you have to wait for them to make the initial contact then you have to reply by email etc. it’s a much more cumbersome process.

Going back to talking about the tone of voice/personality I mentioned earlier and why it’s so important for businesses to do it themselves, is I think that usually as a small business you are a one man band and people buy into people. So if that personality is showing through, then that’s what people will invest in. They don’t care about what the name of the business is, they don’t care about the fancy logo that you’ve paid for, they want to know who is behind that business, who they will be working with and who their money is going to. The bigger businesses, such as Microsoft, people aren’t interested in how many people are behind that, they know it’s a lot, they are now interested in the product being delivered and they trust the brand; which is why I say the social media can be run by multiple people because it doesn’t need that personality behind it in the same way a sole trader or a start up business would.

One concern people have about social media is that ‘it’s for people to tell their friends what they’re doing on a Saturday night’, or ‘what they ate for breakfast’ and other personal things. How do you counteract that view of social media?

It’s one of my pet peeves to be honest! People constantly tell me what a waste of time social media is and ‘I’ve done things this way all this time and it’s fine that way..’ etc. in one way yes, if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it, but you can always enhance. That’s what I believe. And social media really is taking over the world, pretty much everyone everywhere has some sort of profile or presence, so why would you cut off that potential market for yourself? Particularly as I said before, when it is for free. It seems like a no brainer!

When they say things like that, about the personal messages, it’s actually usually not that they’re just not interested in hearing about other peoples, but they are saying they don’t want to share what they had for breakfast with their friends.. then don’t! It’s quite simple, you don’t have to share those kinds of messages, no one is forcing you.

The correlation between business and personal online is actually very different, people think it goes hand in hand but it really doesn’t. If you have a personal profile on Facebook, and a business page that’s set up on Facebook through that personal profile, no one knows that but you! No one can see that it’s you behind that business page. So I know people are worried about protecting their identity but it’s completely anonymous who sets up a business page, the only way people will know is if you invite them to know. So I think that’s an important thing to realise, that these are professional profiles and people are making good money by using them and you shouldn’t be missing out on this just because you’re worried about people seeing your private profile.

Another example is LinkedIn, I’m a big advocate of opening up your network, adding people and accepting invites, because the more people you are connected to, then the bigger your network and potential market is. A lot of people are protective over their network and connections, which is quite right, because I wouldn’t be amused if one of my friends was connecting with every Tom, Dick and Harry and then I ended up getting spammed as a result. But LinkedIn has a setting so you can remove people from seeing who your connections are, so you are not risking anyone’s data, you just remove the facility.

Most of these platforms have really moved on from the problems they used to have, like when people were losing their jobs, or getting spammed or trolled, etc. a lot of that has moved on and theses platforms develop daily to ensure it is a safe, fun and good environment for people.

 

And you really can keep your personal life and your professional life separate, you can have a personal page and a business page, that is correct?

Absolutely. In order to set up a business page, you don’t HAVE to have a personal profile, but it is far better if you do because the usability of that page is much better. I won’t go into too much detail on that but basically if you set up your business page by using your personal profile you will have far more functionality. But again, nobody will know that you are behind that business page, you will be the only person who knows. So there’s no danger, no one will share a photo of you, having one too many on a Friday night, and it ending up on a work profile. A lot of people are scared of being tagged in an inappropriate photo, but these people with those photos should be your friends! If they are going to tag you in a photo that compromises your business maybe you should be re-evaluating your friendships. If you are out having a great time at the weekend and you don’t want your clients to see it, they won’t.

One common thing I hear as well is ‘I don’t want to post something that would get me fired’. This baffles me, what on earth are you posting? This is a marketing tool! If you wouldn’t put it in the shop or office on a poster then it shouldn’t be going on social media. If you wouldn’t share a risky joke on the office window, then don’t share it online. It’s quite easy.

 

What sort of benefits would a business look at gaining from using social media? What good things could happen?

There’s quite a lot, I wouldn’t rave about it so much if there wasn’t a lot to gain, but I’ll just touch on a few. The first one, clearly, is sales. Using it as a marketing tool, if you’re marketing yourself correctly then you should be generating interest and sales from it. That’s usually most people’s goals with social media, they want money in their back pocket which is fair enough! And again, like I keep saying, it’s a marketing tool.

You can also use it to drive traffic to your website, and that might not be for sales, that might be for sharing content like a blog you want people to read to get better shares etc. You can get customer feedback and engagement, maybe you have a separate department for say a repairs team for a technology department and you can use it to get live conversations and quick resolutions, and a customer that’s had a resolution actually tend to be a better customer than one that hasn’t had a problem; so don’t be afraid of asking to send the feedback live to you and then fixing the problems.

It can be used for things like talking to other suppliers, maybe you want to build a relationship with your suppliers or network with other businesses.. The opportunities are kind of endless!

I will tell you one of my own stories if you don’t mind, a few years ago I started blogging my journey, a bit like an online dear diary but, hopefully, less cringy! I was using Twitter then, but not nearly as much as I should have been, and I asked my followers to read the blogs I posted and if they liked them to give them a share. The next thing I know I have a message from Yahoo! Small Business, saying they really liked my blogs and would I be interested in guest blogging for them. I was amazed and said yes, wrote a few blogs for them, and then off the back of that I got contacted by SAGE accounting software, complimenting me on my blogs for Yahoo! and asking if I would then guest blog for them too! I am now the youngest business expert for SAGE, and I’m giving a talk next week for business experts up in Newcastle. It’s just kind of snowballed from there and I have since written blogs for people like Virgin, Microsoft and others and created a really good platform for myself to get out there with some really good names supporting me. All the knock on effects from there have been fantastic for me – all from just asking my friends to share my blogs.

That’s the thing, social media can be a really friendly place if you ask people to be friendly, if you’re not a friendly page and cut off conversations quickly then your page isn’t going to go anywhere. It needs to be open and fluid and you need to be asking people to share things for you, invite people to say yes and like things. It’s all about communication and being receptive.

 

And is there one type of business that is better to use social media than others?

I would say that’s down to the individual platforms, I know that social media works for both B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) businesses. For B2B businesses I would say Twitter and LinkedIn are the primary accounts you should use. Twitter is a fantastic tool, people are really open on there, they are far more friendly than Facebook, I don’t know what that’s about but it really works for B2B and its a really easy way to start a conversation with people. LinkedIn is also fantastic, you can connect to potential new clients, suppliers, existing clients, and really develop and harness those relationships.

Whereas for B2C businesses, I think you should be focusing on Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn has it’s place but it wouldn’t be where I was spending most of my time. I think Facebook works for B2C businesses because you can really delve deep into that target audience, you can run an advert and be so specific about who it’s going to. You can really narrow down who you are talking to. Some people say ‘well you’re cutting out a load of audience there’, but as long as you’re reaching the right audience what does it matter? You want someone that is going to buy off you to be seeing your content. You will get more sales if your market is smaller but very specific. You get the real depth of knowledge, it’s got the insights as well all for free, so you can really get to know your clients.

 

What would be your top tip for getting started on social media?

The number one thing is not to overwhelm yourself. I come across a lot of businesses that say ‘Well I tried it, but it didn’t work so I stopped trying’. And it turns out they set up a Twitter, a Facebook, a Pinterest, a LinkedIn etc. and really spread themselves thin. They should pick one, maybe two, platforms to begin with and really master using them.

It’s a bit of trial and error, I can’t tell you ‘this’ and tell you it will work because every business is different and every business has a unique selling point. So focus on a platform, trial and error with types of posts, times of day, maybe some humorous and some that aren’t. Figure out what that group like and use it… regularly too I should point out! Once you’ve got that started you can look at transferring it over to a differing platform, it will need altered slightly but you’ve got your starting point then. If you start on every single platform and spread your efforts so thinly it’s not going to work, you will be blind posting and not getting the results you need.

I’d also say, give yourself three months, which sounds like a long time but it is one of those things that needs time to build up and earn people’s trust. People don’t buy from people they don’t know, you need the time be become established to them. You will get sales from social media you just need to persevere with it.

 

Is there a particular tool you should be using to get started?

I think that depends on the type of audience you are going for, you should think in their shoes and work out where they hang out. When we know these details we can use the right channels for our business and use them to our benefit. For example, if I’m aiming at 20-25 year old girls who live in London who are interested in jogging. I can guess that joggers like things that motivate them, so I’ll post some motivational quotes. Say my business is selling nutrition bars, I don’t just post about that, I’ll post updates on the newest type of running shoes, or stories about famous runners. I use the market to my benefit, I don’t just post about myself because that’s boring, I’m using the tools that are related to my target audience.

Having said that, there are a few tools I suggest for any business, HootSuite – although there are other scheduling tools you can use but HootSuite is my favourite. It lets you have 3 different social media profiles for free, and you can schedule posts at different times of day, using different imagery etc. You shouldn’t use this all the time because it takes away the personality from your profile but it’s a very useful tool for planning ahead. I’d say use it for your basics, staple posts, maybe three times a week is fine.

I also use something called MailChimp, which is not quite social media but it’s an email marketing software. And I love it because it’s free, you can have up to 2000 people on your list and you can send up to 10,000 emails per month. This is a great way of sending out promotional offers, links to your website, and it links back around to your social media again. You can get your audience to subscribe to your MailChimp then get sending out newsletters. It’s a great way of keeping the interest going. Email marketing is still one of the most powerful tools we have, I know I’m a social media expert but email marketing is still great; particularly if you use it well. You can choose who you send it to, make sure the information is relevant but make sure you really commit to it. There’s nothing worse and more desperate than that random newsletter that comes through your email, it has to be commitment, whether it’s monthly or weekly, just put that commitment into doing it on a regular basis.

 

In conclusion, are there any definite do’s or don’ts you would advise people?

Don’t be afraid. That’s the biggest setback for people. Social media has come a long way, you could always find a buddy at work as well to proofread and check what’s going out; I’m dyslexic so I still get people to proofread what I’m sending out because I’ve made mistakes in the past! Just put yourself out there, think of it as a marketing tool and not a personal hang out space. Once you make that transition in your mind I think it becomes a lot less of a fear in your mind. Watch webinars, listen to podcasts if you’re not sure and build up that confidence.

A definite do I would say is involve your friends and family, I often find clients say ‘I’ve only got 5 likes I don’t know how to get more’. Well you’ve got 500 friends on Facebook, why have you not shared it and asked them to like it? They might not purchase anything but they can show their support and give you a like if you put it out there. Ask them to give it a like or a share. I know the biggest worry with that is that people feel like that are going to pester their friends, but the way the algorithm works on Facebook means that if someone doesn’t engage with your content, after a certain point you will just drop off their home feed. You will still get the registered ‘like’ but they will not be getting all your posts in their feed if they aren’t interested. From that, you will then grow your network. I think every person has about 200 friends on average, if you get those 200 friends to like you, then their 200 friends are going to hear about it. The chances are is that within their 200 friends, there is going to be some potential clients. Use your network. You are just sharing your news, and it looks good if someone comes to your page and sees 200 likes you immediately, you look established. If you have 5, people won’t be interested. So get your friends and family involved.

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Don’t forget to listen to the original podcast on Microsoft here.

Best of luck,

Jo