Social media is no longer the new kid on the block, but small business owners still don’t know how to leverage it effectively and drive their growth aspirations forward.

Disclaimer: Please read this article only if you’re willing to invest into your business long-term and aren’t looking for quick wins and growth hacking tricks. I can help you build a successful company with a strong legacy, but I can’t help you get hundreds of new leads within a week.

Social is a long-term game

Even though most businesses accept social media as a relevant and important part of their marketing mix, there are still too many who have no idea how social media marketing actually works.

They see big brands and their competitors with lots of followers; posting quality content several times a day; getting lots of likes; and having a strong presence everywhere – they want the same and they want it fast!

The problem, though, is most don’t realise that it takes lots of time and effort (or a huge budget to get an agency dealing with it) to get to the same position. They don’t grasp that what they are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg and that it took a long time, lots of effort and significant investments to get there.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as overnight success and even seemingly random videos that go viral out of nowhere usually have a string of unsuccessful attempts behind them.

Don’t be that guy, be social instead

The bottom line is people don’t join social networks to be sold to. They don’t care about your latest product or special offer.

I’m not saying that you can’t lure a few of them with a discount to purchase from you, but it’s unlikely they’ll come back to buy again in the future for the full price. This approach will see you needing to constantly chase new clients and discount your products/service to get people’s attention.

Every successful business owner knows that the true gold mine lies in returning customers. It’s well-documented fact, that it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one [source: Econsultancy]. So stop chasing new followers and new leads and instead focus on building loyalty with your current clients and expanding your network organically.

It’s also a well-known fact that people buy from people (even if you’re in the B2B industry, you’re still selling to real humans, not robots or logos) and you need to act like that. People will go the extra mile and pay more to buy from brands that they have a connection to. They want to feel included and ‘part of the family’.

Please allow me to share one more cliche – people buy from people they like, trust and can relate to! To build trust online takes time and effort and it’s easily lost by being too spammy and salesy. To build trust you need to show up over and over again and consistently deliver a great experience to your audiences. If you can build a strong presence and a community around your brand, you’ll get an abundance of new leads, referrals and brand advocates.

It’s not about you!

First and foremost, please remember that marketing (especially social media marketing) isn’t about you; it’s about them! Their needs and pains, their questions and challenges. Social media is about being social, engaging in genuine conversations and being interested in their wishes more than you care about your own.

I’m not saying give away stuff for free, you should charge however much you value your time. I’m just trying to say that if you give them your attention, your helping hands and your best intentions, you’ll get back more work, clients, orders, support and money than you could ever imagine – definitely more than if you’d tried to sell something to them.

I feel a bit sad that I still need to write blog posts like this one, as I still see too many business owners and freelancers using social media in completely the wrong way (and then complaining that they’re not seeing any results).

Let’s settle this once and for all – social media isn’t a place to sell!

Social media isn’t going anywhere

So it’s time to learn how it works!

Social media is here to stay. It’s not one of the shiny new things or trends that will fade away in few months. Social media should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. But it needs to exactly that – part of the overall marketing strategy that’s aligned with your business vision and helps you achieve your goals. If you don’t have a strategy, you’re wasting your time (and money) with marketing.

Social media isn’t about selling! It’s not yet another broadcasting tool where you can shout out loud how amazing you and your products to millions of people. Well, you can, but it won’t get you anywhere. Social media came as the answer to the overload of mass communication – too many billboards, TV ads and pop-ups on the web were driving people crazy, they were annoyed by the constant selling. They wanted to connect with other people, learn and have fun. And that’s where social media came to the game.

It used to be known as social networks – from the word networking / connecting people. Then marketers joined and as usual, they ruined everything. They saw the potential of masses people being just fingertips away, ready to be sold to. And that’s where everything went downhill.

If you’re still struggling to get the grips with what social is (and what it’s not), I highly recommend watching this video:

It’s not all only doom and gloom

So how should I use social media to grow my business?

I’m glad you asked!

Numbers of likes or followers are vanity metrics, as well as web traffic, video views or impressions/reach (unless you have clear conversion goals set up). The best way to see tangible results is to focus on creating real conversations and build relationships with the members of your online community. That’s where lies the power of social media in my opinion.

I’ve already mentioned above that social media is about being social, it’s not about selling! It’s about being present, being helpful and truly interested in learning more about pains and challenges of your prospects, it’s about starting, facilitating & engaging in conversations and ultimately building relationships with your audiences.

When I say audiences I don’t mean only your potential customers, I also mean your current clients, your business partners, resellers, collaborators, other business owners in your network and the general public. By trying to connect only with your potential customers your mission out on valuable connections!

Social media works the same way as a good networking group works (not like the one where people jump into your conversation to shove their business card into your hand and leave). It’s about people coming back and building strong relationships over a longer period of time, getting to know each other, helping each other and collaborating on different projects.

What can YOU do to leverage the power of social media for your business?

Start by learning a bit more about how social media marketing actually works, focus on strategic principles rather than tactical hacks (they are changing way too often for you to keep up). Once you understand the why and how of social media, you can decide if it’s something you’d like to pursue for your business (or if other marketing levers are better suited for your audience).

Don’t try to be everywhere at the same time. Find one platform where your audience hangs out and really drill down on understanding how this platform works, what content your audience wants to read/watch and focus on establishing a strong presence there. You can have another platform as your secondary channel, but put most of your energy into making one network really work for you.

Truly care about your audience and create content and conversations that will provide them with value. Also, think about your brand values and make sure that all your content reflects accurately them.

And most of all, make sure that you have a social media plan lined up before you jump into creating new accounts and posting tons of content. Be clear about where you are and where you want to get, which road you’ll going to take and how fast you can actually go!

If you want to learn more about creating a social media strategy for your business, check out my Social Media Starter Kit.

What should you take away from this blog post?

  • Be yourself and be human
  • Don’t sell – engage and build relationships instead
  • Play the long-term game and have a clear strategy
  • Master one network before jumping on more channels

Do you still have any questions about using social media to grow your business? Let me know in comments, tweet me at @lenkakopp or get in touch!

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