Editor’s Note: If you missed it this morning, check out Bevin’s great piece on how to plug your kids in to environmental education as we head toward Earth Day. You can read it HERE. Now, it’s time to figure out why the heck any of us would use social media for business. Have a great Sunday!
I remember years ago when Ken first got on Facebook and I vowed it would be the last stop on the train for me. Already engrossed in the work of pulling together a daily e-publication, planning community programming and working on raising the tiny person, I barely had time for making dinner, much less screwing around on social media sites. I had a couple of friends who swore up and down that it was the ultimate time suck – the great waster of all time that could be spent actually being productive.
But, as I kept getting deeper into my reading of blogging pundits like Pro Blogger, Internet Business Mastery, The Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington along with daily reads like Media In Canada, Word of Mouth Marketing Association and Interactive Advertising Bureau, there was one thing that became painfully clear – social media and the ability to use it well is a pre-requisite to business in the modern marketplace – whether you run an online media company or an Etsy shop to sell your hobby projects.
I reluctantly set up a personal Facebook page, totally worried about spending way too much time there and got down to re-getting to know a lot of my friends, colleagues and family. Eventually, I got around to setting up an Our Big Earth Fan Page.
At that point, I thought there would be some magical migration there and let it be. Then I moved on to tackling Twitter.
I set up the Our Big Earth Twitter page and stared blankly at the screen.
Really, I suspect that’s what most people do – or at least I hope that’s what most people do. I was so dumbfounded by Twitter, how it could actually be a useful business tool that didn’t require me to spend half my day on the computer networking. My Twitter account literally sat, virtually unused, for months and I wondered how it was possible that all of these Internet gurus used any social media site effectively.
I had to get things rolling and knew at least some of this stuff really worked because I started my social media journey way back in San Francisco, when taking pictures of the tiny person and wanted an online tool that let me easily blog photos. That’s when I discovered then Canadian-owned FLICKR (it’s since been sold to Yahoo).
I kept going back to my incredible experience on that site in the middle of my constant frustration with Twitter and Facebook. FLICKR had, literally, saved my life as a young mom - connecting me to a group of women at the same place in their lives who supported, loved and befriended each other despite the reality that in the last five years I have yet to meet any of them in person. It was a lifeline, a place to launch personal projects, to learn photography and, of course, to make amazing friends.
That’s what got me started thinking that building a social media network is crucial to women-owned businesses.
The reality is that women network very differently than most men do. We tend to be more personal, more familiar and more in need of connecting at a neighborly sort of level. Women, when they do business, seek each others opinions out, know each others kids names, cry in front of new clients without hesitation and send each other baked goods when you find out through a friend that their relationship is on the fritz.
And, more than making the quick sale or drumming up traffic, that is where I believe successful social media marketing begins for women in business – finding that root sense of connection.
Just to note, I have no delusions of grandeur about being a social media marketing guru. But, the reality is that OBE gets a fair bit of its daily traffic from our Facebook (more than 700 fans), Twitter (nearly 2,000 followers) and FLICKR (225 Contacts) feeds – each of them reaching a very different type of reader who keeps track of us for very different reasons. They all have been a crucial part of growing our business and allowing a very busy me the chance to keep up with clients, colleagues and friends, whom I respect and care about dearly.
Managing them, though, is a bit of a process. With Facebook it’s about staying in front of readers. It’s like your social media RSS feed. Keep it up to date and active (but, not overloading people) has been the key to keeping readers in touch with what’s happening. It’s also a great place to set up event reminders and share some (but very sparingly) personal details. It’s a great connective point.
Twitter was my monster to overcome and it wasn’t until I downloaded TweetDeck that I finally got into the potential of Twitter and its business marketing matrix. Tweeting directly from the web was a headache. With this Twitter management tool you can see the latest tweets from all of your followers, sort them by topic and see all direct messages, retweets and comments coming back your direction. Finally, something that sorted the craziness out for me. There are other Twitter management tools. But, I really like TweetDeck as it’s easy, often updated and only occasionally glitchy.
Then, Twitter became one of my hottest spots for connecting with business colleagues and potential clients. I L-O-V-E it and have made many a contact there that resulted in great leads, new friendships and business partnerships.
FLICKR, what can I say? If you want to connect with people who love photography, plug in. FLICKR, for me, is a place filled with creative ideas. I’ve discovered some of my favorite blogs like The Magic Onions, The Crafty Crow and Modish there, and am constantly inspired by the incredible ideas. I wish I had more time to spend there.
Speaking of time, most people say to me “That’s really nice. But, I don’t have hours every day to do any of that.” I have to say that it’s easy to get lost in it all sometimes.
But, if you consider how much time most professional business consultants recommend you dedicate to marketing (at least 25%), social media can extend that time investment exponentially.
My recommendation is use it judiciously. I spend about an hour a day, total, between professional Facebook and Twitter time. FLICKR is something I check regularly for updates. But, could definitely do more on. An hour a day is not really a lot to network and keep your customers plugged in.
In the end, though, I concede that women-owned businesses need social media because women need community. A well-loved, nurtured and active community means your friends, clients and colleagues know, love and enjoy sharing with you. They may even kick you in the butt when you get headed in the wrong direction and they celebrate your victories with you – even if it’s not always with a “like,” a comment or a retweet.
I stick with the social media because I need that daily interaction and really love keeping up with people.
Getting yourself connected is a great way discover how broad, interesting and amazing that community can be.
Category: Mom & Dad