Here's my last article in this 3 part internet marketing series! Thanks for hanging in there with me! Remember to let me know if your interested in a group focused on Social Media Marketing for other Mennonite businesses. Details at the end of the post.
So you finally took the leap and created social media accounts for your business, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest. Now what? Do you need to be everywhere? How many times a week should you post? WHAT should you post? Does all of this even really matter? You just want to make your customers happy and keep your bank account out of the red. So here’s a breakdown of some different common social media platforms, and how they can help your business.
Feeling burned out? Pick only one platform and focus on posting quality content with a purpose! Maybe later you can find a way to re-purpose content and build in sharing on other platforms. But you’re probably better off not trying to be everywhere at once!
I’ve divided this into two parts: content creation and social media networking. Content creation takes longer but will have more long-lasting benefits like SEO for your website and also potentially save you time if you’re answering questions that literally EVERYONE asks you. It can also make your customers feel special because you are taking the time to give them your knowledge for free.
Social networking sites are all about building community and potentially being discovered by new people. People go to these sites to be entertained, not educated, and the shelf life of your post will be very short. But they’re a great tool to post little tidbits of information, showcase product photos, and post about events or sales that a lot of people need to find out about fast.
Like one person said, decide if your audience is scrolling or searching.
Some platforms like Instagram are for scrollers. You want your content there to be a bit lighter – inspirational, just something to stop their finger moving over the screen and get them to read and maybe smile or be mildly interested. Even better, share it or leave a comment.
Platforms like YouTube and Pinterest, as well as Google itself, are for searchers. You need your posts on these platforms to focus on education. Many people search for things like “how to…” and many of the rest of searches name specific problems. Your searcher-focused content should be a bit more serious and focused on answers, whether education or a product you sell.
Google SEO: Don't underestimate the power of your own personal website. If people type "restaurant in Houston" into the search bar, it means they're hungry! They're headed for either your restaurant or your competitor's. If they type "plumber near me" you know they have a leaky toilet that they're ready to pay someone to fix.
Blogging: “But that takes so long!” you’re saying. Yes. It does. It also adds so much value to your website. Not every website needs a blog. And having a blog doesn’t mean you need to post every week. Can you imagine subscribing to weekly blog posts from your dentist? If you do want to hop on the blogging train, be systematic. Post about things people are always asking you about. Do a monthly tutorial about a product you sell. Scheduled content, even if it’s once a month or once a quarter, usually gets more views and engagement because it is predictable. When you sit down to write, step into your customer’s shoes for a bit. You want to write things that really address common problems they have or what new people that don’t know about your business will be searching for.
Email Marketing and Newsletters: How is this different than blogging and having people subscribe to your blog? I’m thinking of actually are putting effort into creating a visually pleasing email newsletter with helpful content and/or offers. Usually people subscribe to your list by either buying a product from you or filling out a form on your site, and you manage it all with a software like ConvertKit or MailerLite. Again, it’s better to schedule this! Even if you’re just doing quarterly newsletters highlighting seasonal products or a year end email to all of your customers, it’s better to be predictable. Email marketing is a great option for notifying people of sales, new products, and events. It’s a bit more personal than any of the other internet marketing tools. You should really consider that email address list you’ve collected as sacred. Everyone is asking for your email address these days! Don’t just stuff people’s inboxes with spammy emails pressuring them to buy, or send out information that doesn’t apply to half the people on your list. They’ll just click delete or unsubscribe. You already know how to be a nice person. Make sure you have good email marketing manners.
Pinterest: Pinterest is less of a social media platform (focused on following certain people) and more of a visual search engine. Most people, unless they’re just killing time, type in a specific problem in the search bar. The majority of its users are still female, so many are posting content like recipes, home décor and organizing tips, and activities for children. Recently they’ve added the ability to sell products. Pinterest is a great place to share some products, and to post “how to” type blog posts that solve a problem, no matter what the subject. When posting to Pinterest, it’s all about the picture. There are many tutorials on how to create Pinterest graphics, which I suggest you check out before you get started to increase your chances of being found. Pinterest tracks “impressions” (how many people saw your post), “saves” (how many pin your post), and “outbound clicks” (how many people click on the pin and go to your site). You should be most concerned about is the outbound clicks. These are the people actually showing interest in becoming your customer. If you go to your pin and scroll down to the “more like this” section, you can get an idea if you are doing a good job on your pictures and pin descriptions. Hopefully your pin and the other suggestions below will be similar content.
YouTube: YouTube is also a search engine more than a social media platform, exclusively for videos. Many people use it to solve their problems or learn more about a subject. YouTube videos have a long-lasting life – the more people watch them the higher they will rank in search results. They prioritize high-quality content with good descriptions that match the content.
Podcasting: This is maybe the “new” blogging. Many influencers and other business owners too have their own podcasts nowadays. Even if you don’t want to start a podcast yourself, it could be good exposure for your business to be on someone else’s podcast. They’re always looking for people to interview. So do your research and find someone showcasing local businesses, or if you get an offer, don’t turn it down!
Social Media Networking Platforms:
Facebook: This is where it all started folks! And because Mark Zuckerburg now owns Instagram and WhatsApp also, it’s safe to say he still has the monopoly! It seems like everyone is on Facebook, doing and sharing and selling everything. It has some great features, like being able to post events and also many areas have Facebook groups for local businesses. You can also join Facebook groups for your industry, where more people will see your content besides just your own followers. It’s definitely a good option for a local brick and mortar business that needs a place to quickly share whatever is going on with their community.
Instagram: Instagram is picture based, and typically frequented by a younger crowd. Again, it’s a great option for a small business trying to spread news through their community. Like Facebook, it’s easy to re-share content and it can reach a bigger audience that way. It’s also used a lot by creatives – so if you have any creative type business or you’re selling “pretty” things, (I’ll actually include restaurants in there because food pictures are beautiful to me) take advantage of this picture based platform.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is all about professionals and corporations looking to hire people and people sharing resumes, right? Maybe. You probably don’t need a LinkedIn account to sell rustic furniture made from pallets, but I have heard of it working for people with new products that are looking for wholesale buyers. Just look into it and see if it makes sense for your business.
WhatsApp: I’m adding this ONLY because it’s Mennonites reading this. I don’t think other people use WhatsApp statuses to market and share things the way we do. I don’t think its wrong. For awhile, my age group did seem like it was going overboard, but I think it’s gotten better lately. People are creating silent groups on WhatsApp and Telegram where they can showcase their fabric, essential oils, Pampered Chef flash sales, and handmade baby clothes. I think this is a good idea. If I’m your friend, I really do want to know you have a business and what you sell. If it’s something I need, I want to support you, and I also want to recommend your business to my friends. Handmade baby clothes and custom quilts are so adorable. Post them once in a while. But I don’t want to see 20 pictures of them a week. Sometimes I want to just hear about YOU without your business. Maybe you should invest in a website or Etsy store and showcase your products there. It might make it easier for us to buy from you anyway. Like I said with email marketing, your contacts in your phone are friends and family. They should be sacred to you. They’re interested in your business, but they don’t want to be digitally bombarded. So I think when posting on WhatsApp, we just all need to listen for the little feeling that says it’s enough.
Just for fun…
I’m gonna end with my personal experience with some of these social media platforms. I think if you’re taking the time to post to even one of them, you need to know why you’re doing it and what you can expect in return for your effort! Hope this helps get you thinking!
Blogging: I blog because I love to write. It doesn’t have anything to do with money, and never will. I have no desire to run ads or recommend products for you to buy on Amazon. My blog is a personal blog – not educational in any way. It’s sole purpose is for me to keep in touch with American life, family, and friends. I also want to honor my Haitian family and friends and my new lifestyle here. If you read my posts, I hope that you can feel that – I really appreciate these people and what they do for me, and I don’t ever want to sound like I am making fun of their culture or ways of doing things. I’m still surprised that I hit 1,000 subscribers, and sometimes I feel weird about writing such personal things only to have it read by strangers. But I’ve had some great conversations about life with people I’ve never met because of this. And I love that. Life is about being connected with others. And the more you talk to strangers, the more you realize we are all more the same than we are different.
Instagram: I got the idea for the Café au Lait Cookbook in early 2021. It was truly one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done, and I’m so grateful to everyone that helped, and to the people at Mennonite Press and Gospel Publishers for giving ordinary people a way to print and sell books! It’s a chance not many people in the world have. I mentioned it in some blog posts and my friends must have told their friends, because the first printing is almost sold out and I’m doing a second smaller one! I feel like it was a great success, almost without any effort on my part as far as marketing. I did realize I love sharing food and recipes tho, so I have an Instagram account now where I post pictures of food from the cookbook and other cross-cultural recipes. I like the way Instagram looks. I like how fast it is to post. I can’t really nail down any book sales from Instagram and I’m not that great at tracking, but I’d say so far it hasn’t made a difference for book sales. Maybe someday it will, and maybe I need to hit it harder. But because this book was written by Mennonites in the assumption that mostly Mennonites will read it, my ideal customers aren’t spending hours on Instagram.
Pinterest: Again, I’ve dabbled with Pinterest pins to grow my blog subscribers and advertise the Café au Lait Cookbook. Pinterest pins take effort to create! I did set up a freebie with a few Haitian recipes and starting in April, I plan to pin more, directing viewers to this freebie. We’ll see if this has any affect. I hope with time it could help me sell more digital copies of the cookbook.
Shoulder Tapping & Referrals: As you know, I help people build websites for their businesses, and I would truly love to grow this into a bigger business! Again, my ideal client is a Mennonite small business owner. There are a lot of web designers out there, and I feel like for now, it’s best to focus on a small group of people I can really serve. So most of my business has been from people I know, or people that have been referred to me. I do write articles and advertise in the business bulletin, and I’ve had some success there because of it being Mennonite focused. On a podcast one time, someone called this style of business “shoulder tapping.” It’s a more personal, old-fashioned approach, starting with people you already know and just politely tapping shoulders every once in awhile, saying “I’m here if you need me!” It's a great strategy that I hope no one underestimates.
Some Favorite Resources:
Social Media Strategy: Social Slowdown Podcast by Meg Casebolt
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.