Don't be on all the social media, fellow entrepreneurs and especially startups. "Why not?" you might exclaim in horror. Because it's a never-ending time-sucking beast that needs feeding! And you have more important things to do with your time when you're starting a business. (If you're an entrepreneur starting a social media management or marketing company, then obviously this is not meant for you.)
If you spend enough time on social media, especially Facebook groups created by 'entrepreneurs' for other 'entrepreneurs', you're bound to come across myriads of schemes that make you feel like you're missing out on something. You can't quite put your finger on it but it's a seemingly magical success formula that others are keeping a closely guarded secret. I'm at the place in my life where six steps to success, sign up for my newsletter to reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and reaching out to the global village to make a gazillion of rands all make me say "Yeah, No". A conference in Hawaii where you get to network with UHNWIs and HNWIs isn't realistic. The 'success story' you're going to listen to is basically living off your hard-earned cash that they've scammed from you. There are real solid proven business principles that you can implement that will work, I promise.
You're also probably in that place where you're having sleepless nights thinking your business has to be on every social media platform there ever was otherwise you'll never nab another customer again, ever in your life. Just, stop. My new motto is something along the lines of get real and focus on your own real village.
Obviously a digital presence is important. I would be out of business otherwise. If you're not online, you're not real. (Kidding, though.) However, you must make sure your presence counts. Don't take the shotgun approach. You look sloppy, all-over-the-place and untrustworthy as an end result. (Keep an eye out for my business plan writing series and see how your digital presence and strategy should constantly be reviewed together with the goals in your business plan.)
Your digital presence must reflect your product or service and it must tell the story of your product and service. Your potential customers should instantly connect to the benefit or positivity you provide or create for them. Your digital presence must also, most certainly, encourage potential customers to contact you and it must make that process easy. Another plus of a digital presence is understanding the fact that you can use it to automate time-consuming processes in your business that an actual employee doesn't necessarily have to handle.
As an Intellectual Property guardian, my advice is to register your domain names that reflect your business and put up a website - even if it lands up being just one page long. That should be your first port of call. You then have email addresses that reflect your business name and don't make you look like a passing ship in the night from a dodgy island pirate port. Also, social media platforms generally prefer, these days, to have 'official' email addresses. Websites count for 'googlers', too.
"What about social media platforms? That was the title of this wasn't it?" you ask. I pose you these questions: What platforms are you comfortable on? Have you profiled your current customers and your potential customers and do you know what platforms they're primarily on? If you are not comfortable on the platforms your customers are going to be found on, then you need to either learn how to use those platforms or budget to outsource the work to a properly qualified social media manager.
You then face the pretty simple process of getting your business registered with an account on the platforms you have identified for customers and setting up your sharing and posting strategy for each platform. It isn't rocket science. Remember, concentrate on 'your village'. If you're getting one thousand likes from Poland on your Facebook page but you're selling high end landscaping services to Sandton complexes, then you're not doing something right. Review immediately. Do not waste your time. We can delve into paid advertising in another post. I do still believe that referrals from happy customers are key these days and trump all else. Showcase your happy customers, with their permission, on your platforms.
The effort you put in must equal some reward in the form of a new customer or sale. Something tangible must come from your efforts. For example, if I am going to dedicate half a day to writing a series of blog posts on a topic, I want at least ten good customers (heck, thirty good customers) to be attracted to my business because they realise I have something to offer them. I can make their life easier. I can fast-track their efforts getting set up digitally. That is my aim. If you are not getting customers or sales, review your approach and don't wait long to review that approach.
"Time-sucking beast" was the description I used at the start of this article. That is really and truly the case when it comes to social media. From the start, track your progress. On most platforms, engagement (interaction) is key to visibility. That takes time. A lot of time. If you find you are not coping, there are solutions such as outsourcing to social media managers or hiring a junior. However, be realistic. Is the engagement translating into sales? If it is, great. Carry on. If not, stop and change your tactics. Do not fold into the pressure around you everywhere today to have a constant digital presence. You might find at some point that you deregister from a platform entirely and that is also ok. Do what works for you!
Profile your business. Profile yourself. Profile your customers. Do it quickly on one sheet of paper in less than 20 minutes. Be realistic. Then plan your digital presence. Make sure it works for you. Don't stretch yourself and don't go stale online. Have fun.