Entrepreneurship is tricky. Running a business is challenging. Unfortunately, based purely on statistics, the chances of failing are very high. Many of us had dreams of turning our passion into profit and in fact, many businesses are built around a specific skill or passion. The problem is that most of us don’t realise that instead of spending all of our time on our passion, we end up spending our days on finances, administration, HR issues, selling and marketing.
“Sooner or later you need to accept that you are NOT in the business of what you do,
but rather in the business of MARKETING AND SELLING what you do.”
The REAL Entrepreneur
This has to be the biggest wake-up call for any entrepreneur. And the worst is, sometimes we’re in business for YEARS before it actually clicks! Fortunately marketing and access to the tools and technology, which was once the domain of ad agencies only, is now well within our reach. And the most powerful of them all is social media. But…
“Social media and technology are not agents of change.
They are just tools.”
Stuart J Ellman
President of 92Y
We have to learn to use the tools effectively to make them work. We need a strategy that defines what tools we should have in our toolbox and how to make them work for us. Otherwise they’re worthless.
A strategy will help us to define the:
• How and
It works out who we are talking to, what we’re hoping to achieve and what we need to do to achieve these things. It determines when and where they need to happen so we can make sure that they do. It determines how the different elements and the people will work together to make them happen and it determines why we are trying to achieve all of this. In other words, it helps us to determine our OBJECTIVES.
As we’ve just read, we need to define objectives for our business. In essence, this is establishing what we want our business to achieve. Then we need to know WHO our customers are. Clearly defining our target market is critical to the success of our business. Once we have these things in place, we need to determine how social media is going to help us reach our target market to achieve our business objectives. Our business objectives need to underpin EVERYTHING we do.
It’s always a good idea to start with an understanding of what we’re doing right now, with an audit of where we are currently, what we want to do and what we need to change in order to get there. This could be platforms, presence, naming conventions etc. Once we’ve determined the lie of the land in our world, we need to look at what our competitors are up to:
• What they are doing on social media
• Where they have presence
• How they are using it
• How effective it is
• What we would like to try
• What we would ignore, and
• How we can learn from what they are doing (both in term of their mistakes and their successes).
Once we’ve completed our audit, we need to make sure our brand is really working for us. We need to review:
• Our logo (not essential to get a business going but important nonetheless)
• How we use our logo
• How we use colours
• How we use fonts
• The images we choose
• Our messaging
• Our language, and
• The voice we use to express ourselves.
Brand is a critical part of social media strategy so if these things are not clearly defined for our business, this would be the perfect time to create clarity – and document it!! This is essential if we’re ever going to look for help from an external supplier but it’s also important to have it for ourselves. It’s surprising how quickly we forget and change things if we haven’t put pegs in the ground. Brand erosion is something real and it’s bad enough when someone else ‘messes with our brand’ but so much worse when we do it ourselves!
Next is actually defining WHAT we need to say to our audience. What is the messaging that needs to go out there to help them make decisions about our product or service? How can we help them understand the capabilities of our product or service? What content is required in order to to convince them to do business with us? How should we use the different platforms to get that message through to our target audience?
Coupled with content is our social media policy. It determines what is okay and what is not. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages of documentation it could be as simple as saying we don’t ever use humour because jokes are often at the expense of someone else (be it from a cultural, sexist or other perspective), we don’t touch on religion or address politics because both are contentious and we will not tolerate any issues around race, culture or creed. Having a defined policy makes it easy to look at something and determine very quickly whether or not we can use it.
Social media presence opens us to many risks including damage to our brand, disclosure of information, identity theft and legal, regulatory or compliance violations. These risks are both from a personal and a business perspective. It’s important to have risk mitigation steps in place and, once again, it doesn’t have to be a book. We need to determine how we monitor our posts and what actions we will take when we pick up negativity – basically, who will handle it and how they will. It’s quite difficult to anticipate what could go wrong but awareness and acknowledgment in your strategy is important.
Many of us are in a team of ONE so, may think “it’s all me” but, it doesn’t have to be. Some of us have partners, we all (at some point) have customers and we generally have suppliers. All of these people form our broader ‘team’. When we’ve defined a powerful social media strategy we need to take them through it. There’s always a chance they could give us beautiful stock images, video, testimonials or case studies. They might even be willing to provide product as giveaways or prizes.
If we’re not alone then our own team needs to be the first to know what’s going on. We need to get them follow us on all platforms. They should be the first people online keeping an eye on things, sharing our posts and actually being a part of the process. They also need to know how they can contribute to the program be it through submitting stories, taking video or photographs at shows, exhibitions or events, or getting feedback from customers. Testimonials are incredibly powerful when it comes to selling goods and services so we need to make that part of our strategy. We can do really cool stuff like offering our clients professional photography which in return we can jointly leverage. Win-win!
Finally, we need to establish how everything measures up at the end of the day. The only way we will know what is working and what isn’t, is by making sure we measure everything that relates to our objectives. We actually need to measure everything we possibly can because it may not be critical at the start of our journey but could become important later!
When we’re measuring we not only see when things are working but also when they aren’t and can make changes accordingly!
Back to where we started. Social media and technology are the tools we use to make the impression we want to in and on the world. We need to make sure that we pull them all together and use them effectively to achieve our business objectives. But, we have to take the time to do it and hopefully have some fun in the process!