Part 2 of my series on Internet Marketing - business owners, enjoy! If you're not interested, don't unsubscribe, I promise to go back to white girl in Haiti stories as soon as I publish part 3. If you are bored or exhausted by social media marketing, would having a group of other Mennonite business owners help? Read my idea and let me know! Info at the bottom of the post.
If you’re a small business owner, I’m sure you’ve heard this by now: your business needs an active social media presence. Have you ever wondered tho, as you guiltily pull out your cell phone camera after a month of not posting, then sigh as you try to think of a somewhat reasonable hashtag… (wait, I’m supposed to use 8 hashtags?) what really is the point of all this? What is my goal, and what exactly am I supposed to be posting all the time?
One thing that gets confusing is the amount of people right now making their living (or trying to) by being an internet influencer.
When you’re reading things online about business, there’s a lot of information about this style of business. You should never confuse influencers with a traditional business selling goods or services.
Influencers are advertising their lifestyle. They’re sharing everything from their breakfast to what brand of measuring spoons they like, and they want you to fall in love with their lifestyle. Then, the longer you follow them, the more you will trust them and their recommendations about products. Usually they make most of their money with affiliate marketing – recommending products or services to others and receiving a percentage of each sale. They also churn out lots of educational blog posts and entertaining videos, sprinkled with ads, and they get paid per view or click from huge ad companies.
You can see where these people care a lot about gathering a huge following. They need likes, subscribes, follows, and shares, and they are constantly monitoring those numbers and trying to grow them. Their whole business model is based on people “liking” their “lifestyle” enough to watch their videos every day and hopefully buy products they recommend.
We all are “influencers” to a certain extent. We talk about what we like and use to our family and friends, but most of us don’t depend on influencing for our income. Really we’d rather forget about Instagram and Facebook and just build houses, run our restaurants, or focus on shipping out fresh roasted coffee or hand-poured candles
to customers we know will love them.
So… I’d like for you to just calm down about the whole social media thing, quit worrying if your hashtag is perfect, and put this all into a bit of perspective.
Traditionally, buying and selling has been about trust and reputation. The higher the price for a product or service, the higher the level of trust you need to make a sale. You probably do a bit more research on the person that’s going to overhaul your transmission or build your new house than you do on what brand of coffee you’re going to buy.
Do you look at the person’s Facebook page and immediately decide if they’re a good carpenter? Probably not! Probably you talk to friends that have worked with the person in the past. You might look at their website and Facebook page too. Hopefully you see clear pictures of their past work, the posts have good grammar and spelling and no obvious red flags, and it’s easy to find a way to contact the business owner. But at some point you will call them, and you’ll probably talk multiple times and meet in person before you make the decision.
What about trying a new brand of coffee? It could start with a night at your friend’s house that ended with an extra good cupa-joe with raspberry cheesecake. The conversation was so good, the coffee made it even better, and you just casually ask what brand of coffee it is. That could lead to you looking the person up online and smiling at the quirky caffeine quotes he has on his Instagram. Maybe you buy your first bag from his Amazon store. Many small product businesses are successful selling through Amazon or Etsy first because people tend to default to buying from big, “trustworthy”, sites. Then after they have an established customer base that is referring others they start selling from their private site. However you decide to buy though, in the end it’s the quality of that first small bag of coffee that decides if you’ll keep using it and recommend to your friends, or if you go back to buying 8 o’clock beans from Walmart. No one really cares about your cute Instagram page if it’s obvious you really don’t know how to roast coffee.
Research shows that on average people need to see something between 7 and 15 times before buying it the first time. So it’s safe to say that out of those 7 times, at least 1 could be your social media content or at least your website. But probably not all 7. We use the internet a LOT when making buying decisions, but the process is still the same as it has been for years. It’s still based on your relationship with the customer and providing good work. Also, I think people will always trust a word-of-mouth referral, even from a stranger, above internet reviews and social media glam. We know how easy it is to be fake.
So, what are some simple ways you can have an online presence without getting overwhelmed and burned out by constant posting and worrying about likes and shares?
1. Website with good SEO: In my opinion, your personal website is more valuable than your social media presence. It’s like owning property instead of renting a small space crowded with other business owners to hold up your sign. If you do have a website, remember that if it’s outdated, hard to use, has no real valuable content, or has ads because you’re on some free plan, you may be doing more harm than good. Your online space needs to be clean and well-maintained, much like a physical store. It also needs to show up when people are looking for businesses like yours, or have good SEO (search engine optimization), which is a whole other topic!
(A great resource for learning about SEO is Meg Casebolt: Love at First Search.)
2. Content Creation: This could be things like blog posts or educational articles, or even being a guest on a podcast or interviewed for the local news. We call this “evergreen content” because it will continue to be valuable. This content takes longer to create. But blog posts posted on your website will be there forever, (fun fact: lifespan of an Instagram post is considered to be 48 hours, Facebook: 5 hours, Twitter: 20 min!) and if written correctly, will boost your SEO and help new people find you. Isn’t that just giving away your knowledge for free? My dad, who is an accountant, has free content on his website that could actually save him time. People can read general information about a topic or grab a generic spreadsheet to help them know what type of income and expenses they need to track. This is different than giving personalized help and tax advice, which he most certainly charges for.
3. Advertising events, sales, and new offers: You definitely should be posting about any new products, sales, or if you are having hot dog day at your greenhouse! This is time-sensitive information and how well you do depends on how many people know! Post attractive pictures and graphics and then shamelessly say, “Share this with your friends and family!” Make sure your posts easy to share on all social media sites and make sure that all the details are clear. You are going to a lot of work for this event and its whole purpose is to serve your customers. They need to know. You may feel like you’re oversharing but post more than once. Well, maybe not hourly for two weeks, but… you know.
4. Establish Yourself as the Expert: I put this in a different category than content creation, because I’m thinking of short Facebook or Instagram posts that you could do in 5 minutes. For example, a family member that repairs windshields told me she was posting in local Facebook groups about how to de-ice a windshield safely right after their area had a snowstorm. Very smart posting in my mind! She was sharing a useful tip with her community, while establishing that they were the windshield pros that could help if there was a problem. Here are some ideas:
A danger or pitfall people should be aware of
Answer to a question you get often
A little-known fact about whatever it is that you do
Short video explaining how to use a product
5. Talk to Your Customer’s Pain Points: This isn’t really a type of post but a style of relating to customers. People are coming to you to solve a problem. Do you know and care what their problems are? Do your social media posts (and attitude) make them feel like you understand what they’re going through? Using technical jargon that only other mechanics will understand probably isn’t relatable to the single mom that is just trying to figure out “what that clacky noise is.” She’s worried the problem is serious. She’s worried she’ll be stranded somewhere with no wheels. She’s worried that you’re going to overcharge her because she’s clueless. And she’s very important to your business, so find a way to talk to her. BIG BONUS: This also helps SEO because if you use the language your customers use, your website/social media posts will naturally have keywords that people are typing into Google!
6. Rapport Building Content: This is important, not as important as some of the other types of posts maybe, but it’s fun and personal. If you make custom quilts and you have an annoying cat, please make sure the cat is in your posts! It just makes me smile. It’s maybe harder for a Mennonite business to come up with content like this because of not using personal photography, but you can find ways to seem likable and relatable. Some ideas:
Ask a question in your post. Make sure you reply to any comments you get.
Why you love what you do
A short behind the scenes video or some pics
Short history of starting your business
Reviews or testimonials – be sure to thank the person and tag them in the post
A picture of your products in use, along with why you like them
Once in a while… something personal and completely unrelated to your business
So go out and post with a true purpose in mind! Even if the photo isn’t quite professional and you don’t have a clue about hashtags! Just remember it’s all part of relationship building – and that’s why you’re in business, to do good work for others and be able to support your people. It’s really not all about the likes and follows. #goodluck
Do you need a boost in your internet marketing?
I feel like many Mennonite business owners are like me - social media and any kind of online marketing can be such a drag! I'm not super comfortable on Instagram - my Mennonite friends aren't posting cute baby pictures and cat videos like the rest of the world, so what's the fun? I feel like I'm just trying to talk/sell products into an empty space full of strangers!
Here's my idea! Maybe we need a group of Mennonite business owners to learn from each other and most importantly, stay motivated! I'm thinking of a simple Telegram group with 3 things:
A weekly topic to share ideas - things like photography tips, content ideas for different types of businesses, helpful tools/software, which platforms you're most inspired with, etc.
Account spotlights - choose one or two businesses to spotlight every week and the group could check out what they're doing and give constructive feedback or observations
Accountability - couldn't we all benefit from just being asked at the end of the week - did you post on Facebook? It might give a little push to put SOMETHING out there because consistency is better than perfection.
If this interests you at all, let me know in the comments, or send me an email at email@example.com with your ideas! I'll decide whether to start something at the end of the month based on your feedback.