Social Savvy: Will social media make your business profitable? - Aug/Sep 19

By Christine B. Whittemore

As valuable as social relationship building is, a business owner must always remember that Facebook and other social media sites aren’t the whole universe of their business. Rather, they are satellites that rotate around the business, and they can relocate, change and even disappear at a moment’s notice. These sites will happily take a business’ money and time and owe it nothing in exchange. So, what’s a savvy, grounded small business owner to do? Always focus on business first.

After all, as a small business owner, you have limited time. You can’t do everything, and you must prioritize. Certainly, taking care of customers is top of mind. As much as you realize that being digitally visible can enhance your business, what should you do first when you feel as if you must do it all- and immediately-especially when it comes to social networks? Let’s explore what happens when you take a social-network-first approach, using Facebook.

In this Facebook-first scenario, your attention is completely fixed on your Facebook company page. You regularly update your cover image; you have a robust content calendar that includes images, videos and quirky commentary. You’ve developed a regular Facebook Live series, and you pride yourself on responding to comments and questions in real time. So, what’s the downside? Three issues come to mind.

Facebook is mass media. The first issue has to do with what Facebook has become: modern-day mass media. Just as network TV generates considerable revenue from in-program advertising, so too does Facebook via sponsored messages that appear in the newsfeed.

This means that unless you spend money, your Facebook visibility will be severely limited. And that’s despite all the fabulous content you create and share, and the spectacular responsiveness you demonstrate. However, spending oodles of money won’t guarantee complete business success either. Remember, Facebook likes your advertising dollars. The more money you spend with it, the happier it will be. And unless you have specific goals for measuring meaningful results, you may wind up no better off than if you had kept your money.

What’s a worthy goal? That’s up to you to determine. In my mind, though, you may want to focus on opt-in email addresses from people who are interested in your business.

Facebook is the equivalent of a water cooler on steroids. Unlike LinkedIn, the professional network, Facebook is mostly about puppies, kittens, babies and social commentaries that encourage likes, hearts, guffaws and other emotions. You can discover advice, uncover insights and lightly touch your social circle. What rarely happens, though, is business. Just like a company picnic or your kid’s softball game, the interactions are light and social. You empathize, share stories and may start to develop a relationship around an activity.

So, unless you give people encountering your brilliant content a truly compelling reason to seek you out to do business with and give them the means to connect with you, you may have difficulty converting that investment into real profits.

Facebook owns your Facebook page. Ultimately, it’s a matter of ownership, making this issue more critical than the first two together. Facebook owns the platform you’re investing so much time and effort in. That means that your likers, followers and fans don’t belong to you. For that matter, you no longer own the content you’ve posted to Facebook. Facebook does.

Trader Joe’s relentlessly pursues its business strategy, which focuses on its store experience and its website. The website reinforces products and store locations. The company encourages you to subscribe to the Fearless Flyer, its paper-based newsletter about products available in its store locations.

Here’s what’s fascinating: Trader Joe’s has no official presence on Facebook. You’ll see community pages, pages created by fans, and Facebook-generated store pages. The company doesn’t actively maintain any of them. Although it has claimed a Twitter account, it is not active.

However, you will find Trader Joe’s on Instagram with images that celebrate product and stores. And, as of April 2019, it has launched a YouTube channel. In other words, Trader Joe’s has strategically decided how and when it will embrace social media. You can, too.

You can’t completely ignore that your prospects and customers hang out on digital social networks and may be influenced by what they hear there. However, you can commit ruthlessly to the strategy that’s right for your business. At the same time, you must remain aware of possibilities and be open to modifying your strategy as needed.

Your Business is Your Home Planet. If you think of Facebook and other social networks as satellites, consider that they rotate around your home planet. That planet represents your physical business entity made up of your showroom, people and even your brand-labeled vehicles as well as your digital business entity-your website.

Just as you keep your showroom spotless, so should you maintain your website. After all, it’s your 24/7 digital showroom and sales representative. It must be fresh, up-to-date and regularly updated with plenty of helpful, educational information and beautiful images of your work. Make both your website and showroom look like destinations worth talking about. Fill both with your passion and enthusiasm.

Make it Easy to do Business with You. Your prime directive should be to make it easy to do business with you. Use your physical and digital home planet assets to answer the questions customers and prospects have. Have a means for people to sign up to hear more from you in both locations. And consider adding chat and/or chatbot (i.e., automated chat) functionality to your website.

Nurture Your Relationships. You’re in a relationship business, right? This means that you need to nurture the relationships you create. Send out communications that are fun and interesting; don’t always be selling. Rather, make your readers smarter. If relevant, repurpose bits of that content on social networks you participate in (because they add value to your business) to draw them back to your home planet.

Drive Prospects to Your Website. To that point, get in the habit of driving people to your website or showroom. People who visit your properties self-select themselves to hear more from you. They are raising their hands. Don’t abuse them; respect them and nurture them. If you experiment with paid search (i.e., Google Ads) or even Facebook Ads, use the same concepts and drive people back to your site.

Measure Regularly Against Your Goals. As a business owner, you regularly evaluate how you allocate resources. The same applies to your digital business presence. Be sure to measure, analyze and review regularly to ensure that you are achieving your goals and supporting your business. Don’t forget to regularly Google yourself as I’ve discussed in previous articles.

Don’t Forget Real Life Networking. Perhaps it’s obvious, yet it bears re-stating. Don’t assume that if you build a website (or a showroom), customers will just show up. You must network in real life. Attend chamber meetings; experiment with home shows; join local design and realtor groups; and collaborate with businesspeople in related spaces to yours. Don’t become complacent. It’s part of being open to possibilities.

Even though you’re under pressure to participate in social networks, you have options, just as Trader Joe’s demonstrates. You can’t do them all, but you also can’t stick your head in the sand and ignore the digital world around you. Do so and you will become extinct. However, you can successfully pursue a focused digital strategy where your home planets come first. Then, remain curious, aware and be ready to expand your digital presence when you want to.

Copyright 2019 Floor Focus