Starting and growing a thriving business commands attention in so many different directions. Social media is just one piece of the puzzle a small business owner must fit together with all the other pieces to run a successful business. Overlooked, it could hurt a small business.
If you are a social media neophyte to boot, the commitment to post content to social media as a new small business owner can be daunting. What platforms should I use? What content should I post? How often should I post? How much time should I be spending on engagement? Never mind, that you’re scratching your head that the “pound” symbol on the phone is now called a hashtag and that ‘”tagging” isn’t the same thing you did as a store clerk when you were in your teens. At least a “handle” is still a nickname but the older association of it being truckers using CB radios is no longer top of mind.
So, if you’re part of the older generation that did not grow up with social media, nor adopt it later in life, and who is hoping to run your own small business, maybe a quaint coffee house in a small tourist town, I thought I’d put myself in your shoes today to provide some suggestions to introduce social media into your business. The key is to start small, experiment and go from there.
When it comes to social media, Facebook has the largest number of users. Twitter and Instagram are well known platforms and while Twitter has been around longer, Instagram has more users. Unless you have money set aside to pay someone to create content and manage your social media accounts, carrying out this yourself for the three most well-known social media platforms will consume too much of your time initially that you need to spend elsewhere.
But, social marketing increases your exposure, so you can’t ignore it. You will need to choose one or two platforms to start with. Start with the platform that is used most by the customer base for your coffee shop.
If you want to target a younger clientele, six out of ten Instagram users are 18-29, so it would be good choice. The biggest category of Twitter users is the 25 to 24 age group and the 35 to 44 age group, but Twitter users also represent a much smaller overall user group than Facebook or Instagram.
Facebook’s biggest users are the older demographic with the 65+ group growing. Facebook isn’t being used as much by the younger generation anymore, with teens preferring Instagram and Snapchat. Younger users do use Facebook Messenger for talking (audio and video) and texting but not so much the other features of Facebook. Will they start to use Facebook when they are older?
If you’re looking to attract both locals in town and tourists of all age groups, but primarily those in their twenties, thirties and forties, I would jump on the Instagram bandwagon as it is a newer platform, one that is growing and is most popular with the 18 to 29 group. After you have experimented with Instagram for a year, you can then decide whether or not to add another platform once you’ve assessed how you are doing with Instagram.
Visual Appeal and Engagement
Because you’re using Instagram, you will need pictures or videos, and this is true regardless of platform, as using pictures and video is essential to create visually appealing content. More than this, you need to create content that your customer base can relate to, that entertains them, that asks them questions or asks them their opinions, so interaction or engagement occurs. And, you will need to set aside time every day to respond to comments or complaints by those that follow you on Instagram.
Calendar of Social Media Content
Setting out a calendar of social media content to publish is a good idea. Why? You need to communicate regularly with your audience in social media. It doesn’t do much good to have an Instagram account and use it once every week or two. You need to communicate daily. Minimum of one-a-day, like the vitamins! If you had other social accounts, you would need to communicate on those too, and the old “copy and paste” the same thing from one platform to the next isn’t terribly original.
Back to your Instagram account. Posting at least one item per day to your Instagram account means 365 postings in a year. How are you going to come up with 365 things to communicate with your audience? You can schedule posts in advance using a variety of tools on the market such as Hootsuite, but you need ideas for content and you need to create it.
You could start by populating the calendar with holidays, celebration days and local events in town. You could wish your customers the best of the holidays, safe travels on their holidays and ask them about their plans. On celebration days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Earth Day, or Halloween, you could have special promotions to encourage people to drop in and talk about their plans on those days on social media. For local events or attractions in town, you could create awareness and help promote attendance and have followers discuss their plans to visit.
That still leaves a lot of gaps in the calendar. So what else can you post about?
Features of regular customers or out of towners, employees, suppliers, and other local businesses are good ways to get engagement. Promoting charitable organizations or causes you feel strongly about are worthwhile postings.
You could choose a day of the week (like Mondays) for special offerings and promote it on social media every week. A Question of the Week about coffee, local history, current events in town can spark engagement. Posting about new products is always a good enticement on social media. Days throughout the year can be designated as customer appreciation days.
Just like searching for a conversation starter with a stranger, there is always the weather to discuss. A post of a picture of the coffee house storefront in the sunshine with the doors wide-open with customers inside enjoying coffee and conversation or on the patio out back would generate comments.
Lastly, on the days when you are just scratching your head for things to post, you could provide inspirational quotes or a simple thank you to customers.
The Moral of the Story?
Don’t be afraid. Do some reading and grab the bull by the horn and try one social media platform that you think makes sense. You are a business owner after all, you can figure this out! Yes, you’ll make some mistakes, but that is part of the process and will make you better in the long-run. Get help with social media if you really feel you need it, but learn it, and master it so you can do it yourself. You’ll be an old hand at it before you know it and have the flexibility to do it on your own. It is the unknown, but it’s not as scary as you think.
Do you have other ideas to engage with customers in this line of business on social media?
Facebook: You’re a New Small Business Owner and a Social Media Neophyte: You’ll be Fine. https://bit.ly/2F5MQgl
Twitter: You’re a New Small Business Owner and a Social Media Neophyte: You’ll be Fine. #SocialMedia https://bit.ly/2F5MQgl