One thing that we are often asked by small businesses is how to use social media effectively. We understand It can be quite overwhelming to know what to post where. This is especially true if the business hasn't worked out exactly what it is the message that makes itself different.
A brilliant example that we like to use a lot is the Herdwick Shepherd on Twitter. This is a great example of using simple, engaging stories that help create an audience. Whether this is done with a strategy in mind or not is largely unimportant.
To help organise your thoughts, a simple process can make a really big difference if applied will. The 5 W's are a really great way to help direct your thoughts.
What are you wanting to say?
Who are you wanting to say this to?
Why are you wanting to say it?
Where is the best place to say it?
When is the best place to say it?
The answers to the first three questions might be, I want to tell everyone [who] that I have a special offer [what], to sell more [why]. The 'where' and 'when' can be a little harder to work out. 'Where' might be on your own website, but then driven out across Facebook, Twitter or other ways to get the message out there (local paper, radio etc). The 'when' - it sounds silly, but when people ar listening. 9am on a Monday morning might suit you, but is that when your customers might want to be hearing a message? Pay day can be a big motivator for certain sectors, as can a bright sunny day, or conversely a really dreary day. There are a number of automated functions now that can help you do this, and scheduling an increase the efficiency of your posts dramatically - have a play with a personal account and see what the effect is!
Another consideration is that the 'what' you are saying should vary with the 'where'. Taking an extra few minutes to change the message for different platforms is well worth it. Think about the difference between a message in a newspaper and that same message on the radio, or television. Genuine communication, especially in small business can have a far greater impact. Consider whether a professionally edited video is the best way to market a B&B, or is it the owner talking to a mobile phone camera? Initially as the business owner, you may think the professional route will be the most persuasive, but in many cases, customers might feel the "warts" are being hidden, where as an obviously genuine video can be more re-assuring. One size, does not fit all. To be effective tweaking is essential.
A note on the 'who', sometimes working out 'who' is best to deliver the message to your target audience. This is the basis of good PR, think about how much credibility a VIP has when they deliver a message. Indeed it is why sponsorship deals exist. It might also be worth generating advertorials, or referral business or good old fashioned reviews!
It is worth taking a moment to really decide what it is that makes your business stand out. A classic mistake is to pick a space that is already over-populated. Rural communities when marketing their tourism offer can say that their three differentiators are "beauty, lush, quiet". It is true that these could be qualities they have, but it doesn't truly make them different. "The home of the national marbles championship" is a differentiator. Your message might then say, "Visit the home of the national marbles championship, set in beautiful, quiet countryisde".
So, be honest, creative, consistent and specific. Pick exactly what you are communicating. Is it the product, is the community, is it the event, the quality of your garden or the amazing sunsets! Keep that message coming, consistently and the audience will appreciate it.
We hope that this will give you some ideas on how to better approach your external communications. It is a very important area of small business, and as always we're happy to have discussions to see how we can add value.
We'll focus on hashtags and sharing in another post soon.