Dear Socially Stephanie,
Last year I started a small knitting business that I run from home. Through a web site, I offer a limited number of items that I have in stock all the time, and also take commissioned jobs. I don't have money for traditional advertising, so I know I'll have to use social media to break into the market successfully.
Problem: I'm finding it incredibly hard to run my business and build up my online presence at the same time. It's a big, confusing social world out there. Sometimes I don't get to bed until one or two in the morning because I'm Tweeting or Facebooking or LinkedIn-ing... You get the picture.
Can you help me get my social media life in order, so that I can find time to market, improve sales, knit my booties - and sleep?
Knackered Knitter in Nashville
Dear Knackered Knitter:
I get it. Social media can be a huge time suck. But from the sound of it, you already know exactly how important it can be for marketing success. Bravo! You are moving in the right direction.
The question is, how should you manage your time on social media?
First of all, knowledge is power! Cliched, I know, but it's true. You can't -- and shouldn't -- be everywhere at once. Find out where your audience hangs out, and spend the majority of your available time there.
For instance, since LinkedIn is more of a B2B platform, I'd stay away from heavy promotion there. Stick to a couple of the more "creative" and visual sites like Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook. All are consumer-friendly, a natural fit for your product. Many people turn to Pinterest to gather gift ideas. Not only can you use it as intelligence for hot new trends, but you can also use Pinterest to share your booties and connect them directly to your buy link. Make sure your ecommerce site has the necessary "pin this" buttons readily available, along with any other applicable social sharing buttons. This will allow more people to pin your items and increase visitors to your site organically. They'll be doing all the heavy lifting for you!
Take Michaels Craft Store as an example. The crafting chain recently opened up a Pinterest page, a move praised by the social media community. Clearly, with 228,000+ followers and counting, Michaels understands where their audience is! Many Pinterest users are looking for craft supplies and ideas. And guess what: many of the Michaels project pins go straight back to their site with direct links to buy everything that particular project requires. Genius!
Another site I recommend is LilyShop, which is similar to Etsy, a much more established ecommerce site. While it can be hard to break into Etsy's audience because the site is so packed with sellers, LilyShop provides a great opportunity for you to get in on the ground floor. It's still a growing site, which gives you the advantage of building a presence before it's overly crowded. (Unlike in real life, it's definitely a savvy move to be early to the social party.)
Once you've narrowed down which sites you want to focus on, get an analytics tool set up on your site to see where your traffic is coming from and which specific posts, photos, and products are really attracting interest: that way, you can be working smarter, not harder. I use both StatCounter, which I like for that quick fix, and Google Analytics, for a more in-depth look at my metrics once every couple weeks or so.
Overwhelmed yet? Don't be. Just set aside some time each day in the morning and evening so you can check your social media sites for mentions on Twitter, blog comments, or purchase orders. People will typically respond to you around the times you post something, so it might be a good idea to keep your posting times constant as well.
Lastly, save some time for yourself to check social media for non-work related stuff. Social media is fun-keep it that way. And hey, you never know, you might just see a new trend that your business needs to hop on.
Good luck finding your way to bootie paradise! I'll definitely be checking in on your business.
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Illustration by Jesse Wells.