Really Common Small Business Mistakes to Watch Out For (and Avoid)
Social media. Love it, hate it or view it as a necessarily evil, it’s here to stay. 66% of people in the UK currently use at least one social media platform, and this number is likely to grow. That means you really can’t ignore it as a channel for growing your business.
Far too many small business owners ignore social media entirely. Others try to engage with it, but go about it all wrong and end up doing their business more harm than good.
Here are five of the most common social media mistakes that you need to stop making yesterday if you’re going to use these important channels to grow your business.
Social media shouldn’t be an annoying add-on that you grudgingly do when you’ve got time. Despite stereotypes about the kind of people who use and understand “the socials,” it’s also not something that you can just hand off to an inexperienced intern or a young family member and then forget all about.
Effectively using social media to promote your business requires investment. This might be time and energy, money, or both. You need to develop a strategy, stick to it, and show up consistently if you want social media to work for you.
If you don’t have the skills but want to learn, there are dozens of courses you can take that will teach you the basics of social media marketing. If you don’t have the time, or really want to focus your attention elsewhere, hire a Virtual Assistant who specialises in this area or a freelance Social Media Manager to do it for you.
One question I get asked all the time is whether paid posts are worth it. The answer is yes, with a caveat: they’re part of your overall social strategy, not its only piece. Organic reach is just as important as, if not more important than, paid reach. If you’re going to invest money in one area of your social media strategy, spend it on hiring a professional to set up and run your channels for you before you start spending it on paid posts.
Who is your target audience? (If you don’t know the answer to that question, stop reading right now and come back when you’ve figured it out. I’ll wait.)
Different audiences live on different social media platforms. This means you need to have a clear idea who your target demographics are and where they hang out.
If you want to reach young people between the ages of 15 and 25, for example, you wouldn’t focus your attention primarily on LinkedIn (where only around 30% of this age group have an active account.) Your time would be better spent growing your presence on Youtube, TikTok, or Instagram. Similarly, if you were hoping to connect with senior decision makers at companies, you’re unlikely to find them on Instagram (well you might, but they’re more likely to be posting pictures of their children, their cat, or their dinner rather than using the platform for serious business networking.) You’d want LinkedIn for that.
I’ll let you into a secret: I hate Facebook! But I maintain an account and run a page on there. That’s because growing my business matters to me, and I’ve learned that Facebook is a great place to find work, engage with clients, and reach new audiences.
In short, if you feel like you’re doing everything right and still not getting the engagement you want, it’s probably because you’re on the wrong platforms.
Would you follow an account that posted nothing but variations on “BUY OUR STUFF!!!” over and over again? No, me neither. The key to getting social media marketing right is to provide the kind of value that will keep your audience coming back to your account again and again.
Let me give you two examples:
I follow @VirtuallyDone, a freelance Virtual Assistant, on Instagram. She posts relevant and useful advice and content that I find beneficial as a self-employed person. I’ve never had the need of a VA personally, but if I ever do – or know anyone who does – I’ll be going straight to her.
Over on Twitter, I follow @BertsBooks, an online bookshop. I enjoy their channel because, in between their promotional content, they share news and thoughts relevant to book-lovers, interviews with authors, giveaways, and behind-the-scenes snippets. And yes, I’ve bought books from them!
Don’t be afraid to promote your business on your social media channels, of course – but lead with real value for your audience. Exactly what this will be will depend on your business, but consider:
Social media is designed to facilitate conversations. This means you need to talk to your audience and directly engage with them. If a customer takes the time to tweet at you or comment on your Instagram post, respond to them. If someone messages you on Facebook or LinkedIn to ask a question, give them the courtesy of a timely reply. If there’s a conversation going on that’s linked to your industry, don’t be afraid to join in.
In other words: talk to your audience, not at them!
I’ve seen this far too much in the last few months as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold, and even more in recent weeks as the Black Lives Matter movement has been growing in America and across the world.
Please don’t jump on current events, especially tragedies or serious and painful situations, and try to pin sales pitches to them. Not only doesn’t it work, it makes you look callous and out of touch. You potentially alienate a huge swathe of your audience and do lasting damage to your brand reputation.
The possible exception to this rule is if you’re giving all the proceeds from sales (for a particular product or particular period of time) to a relevant organisation. But even then, tread carefully.
By all means, use your brand account – sensitively – to comment on current events if you wish to. This helps to humanise your brand and show your customers that you care about them as people and about the world, not just making a quick sale. But don’t try to use tragedy to sell. It’s not a good look.
It sucks to be chewed out or criticised on social media. Most of us have been there at one time or another and it’s horrible! The temptation can be to delete offending tweets, hide critical Facebook comments, or just vanish from a platform in the hope of the storm blowing over by the time you get back. Resist this temptation with all your might!
It’s much better to respond to criticism by thanking the person for bringing the issue to your attention, and then doing what you can to make it right. If a customer isn’t happy, try to remedy the problem. If someone says you’ve posted something offensive, consider whether they might have a point and apologise if so.
Criticism feels horrible in the moment, but it’s one of the ways we – and our businesses – grow. Promptly and professionally responding to criticism and fixing a problem will reflect much better on you than ignoring it… or arguing back!
Really Common Small Business Mistakes to Watch Out For (and Avoid)
Are you following all the rules of good email marketing but not seeing the return you’d like? Perhaps you’re close to concluding that
If this sounds familiar, don’t give up yet. According to Salescycle, 73% of marketers rate the return on investment (ROI) of email marketing as either “excellent” or “good”. That’s higher than the score for any other marketing channel. In other words, you need to get email marketing right.
If you’re having trouble getting that high ROI, it’s possible that your email deliverability is at fault. But what is email deliverability and how can you improve it? Read on to find out.
Influencer marketing is big business, and still growing. As social media has become more and more a part of our daily lives, people are increasingly turning to their favourite online personalities for recommendations and lifestyle advice.
Large companies are generally amazing at social monitoring. Have you ever tagged a company in a post on social media, either positive or negative, and received a response within minutes? Well, that’s due to their stellar social monitoring….
It’s tough right now…here’s a personal reflection on keeping going if your mental health is being destroyed by CoVid19 by Jess Dixon
Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is a series of steps you take to make your website rank more highly in the results on Google and other search engines. It scares a lot of people, because it seems complicated – and it is. Experts make whole careers out of doing SEO, and make good money out of it.
But what if you can’t afford to hire an expert to get your website ranking? Don’t worry – there are a few things you can do by yourself that are cheap or free.
As you get to grips with running your business, you’ll find the tools and systems that work best for you. I encourage you to try things out – avail yourself of free trials wherever you can, and experiment until you find a system you love.
With that in mind, I wanted to tell you about five tools that make my life as a freelance writer so much easier.