Most of you will agree it’s both a blessing and a curse, and I think from my friends list, I’d find more people who leaned towards curse. Maybe that’s our age more than anything. We’re just not prepared for the information overload that comes with being social online. There’s the pressure to read everything, share everything, comment and like/love/laugh/cry/frown/grimace angrily at everything. I know I spend a crazy amount of my time attached to a laptop, tablet or phone which allows me to check what’s happening in all corners of the world. It’s exhausting.
Many of my friends regularly take month-long breaks from social media and re-calibrate their lives and reactivity accordingly. Some have come off it altogether. At times I am a little jealous of them. It’s something that regularly crosses my mind as I find my reactivity peaking and my ability to process information waning.
However, my business and livelihood rely heavily on social media. More than 85% of my bookings and sales come through social media leads. Gradually more and more people are finding me via my website but the social aspect of business is incredibly important for success.
It’s not enough just to exist on social media, to truly make the best of it, I have to be engaging and interactive. Present most of the time. For the most part, I enjoy it but when my personal Facebook feed is full of politics, arguments and negativity, there are definitely times I wish I could switch off.
Facebook and Instagram (the two main social media outlets I use) don’t make things easy for us small business owners. Their set up means that sometimes my reach is only just into double figures. Which basically means that despite having over 670 followers, sometimes Facebook only shows ~3% of them my posts. It’s extremely frustrating and at times, disheartening.
One “helpful” way Facebook offer to solve this problem is to pay them to show your post to more people. It’s not a lot of money per post but it quickly adds up and businesses with my size of marketing budget see their money drain away really quickly. Facebook is a business itself and needs money to survive but this system has the biggest impact on small businesses.
All is not lost though. Another way around this issue is having followers like, comment on or share posts. This seemingly insignificant act instantly increases our reach and is a massive help. I’m so grateful for the people who regularly like and share my posts and leave their thoughts. Their feedback and response itself is valuable and helps me gauge how well I’m doing but it also means that their friends and family see my work too. This increases my chance of reaching new customers on Facebook and expanding my business. I know, that tiny split second when you click on one of my posts means so much more than you may have realised!
So how does a small business owner keep from losing the plot in today’s hectic online world? I’ve had some success with the following:
1.Scheduling my posts.
I can plan a month or more at a time and make sure I am posting everyday on Facebook to keep up regular interaction with my followers. It means I spend a couple of days planning my message for the month and actively scheduling the posts. This leaves me free to do my daily work without feeling the need to have my Facebook tab open. It’s too tempting to be reactive when it’s sitting right in front of you. Instead I try to plan in time during each day to check in and respond as necessary.
2. Ignoring this guy…
Yes that’s right, on any given Facebook page there’s a little sign that tells you how good the owner is at responding. We get rated by Facebook and given a “badge” if we fall within in the parameters that they deem worthy of honour. When it first arrived I felt really stressed out and kept trying to respond quickly to everything. As it turns out, that’s just not practical and sometimes I have to live without the badge.
And I quickly learned to live without it. My job means I can’t be at a computer all the time and that’s one of the reasons I decided to start this business. The freedom to get outside and be away from a computer screen. I shouldn’t let the powers that be at Facebook convince me to trade that for a little green marker.
3. Set up your business hours.
And more importantly, try to stick to them. I fail more often than I succeed at this. But I’ll keep trying. The important part is to communicate it clearly with my customers. I have a Facebook “Away message” which should be enough but I still find myself replying after the auto response has been issued. Social media makes us think we need to be reactive all the time and while some people expect an instant response, the majority of people understand that we can’t be online all the time.
There are many other marketing strategies for small businesses. Social Media is by no means the only option, but for my line of work, it’s important to be active online. However, for my sanity and ability to sleep at night, there’s a balance to be struck somewhere. I’m not quite there yet but I know I’ll figure it out.