Running a business from home has never been easier since the invention of the Internet, social media, and tools like GoToWebinar, Skype and Google + hangouts that make remote and flexible working easier than they’ve ever been before. That said, there are still the same number of hours in the day, so how do you improve your online presence while you’re still trying to run your small business (on your own) and juggle the rest of your life too?
When I first started out I had no website, no LinkedIn profile and no Twitter account. Fast forward 6 and a half years, and I’ve 3 WordPress sites (which seems a bit greedy, I know), 2 Twitter profiles, a Facebook page for my main consultancy business, a LinkedIn profile, a Google+ profile, 2 Pinterest accounts, and an Instagram account – you get the picture.
I’ve learnt a lot along the way – mostly about taking on too much too soon – and have tried and tested a few methods for improving my social media presence – so here are a few of my top tips for getting started on social media without it taking up all of the time that you’re supposed to be building the business and delivering services or products to clients.
If you’re looking for general tips to help you get organised, read Top 10 organisation tips for self employed parents and freelancers
1. To blog or not to blog. That is the question. If you haven’t actually started working for yourself yet, you might be wondering whether to have a website or a blog or both. Personally, while it can be time-consuming (although with a bit of planning, it gets easier) I would recommend starting a blog.
Why? Well, to start with, search engines love content that is refreshed, which makes you easier to find. It’s also a great way of showing visitors who come to your site your knowledge about your subject – which starts to help build a relationship with them where they know, like and trust you – and you can also encourage people to sign up to your email list by sending them new blog updates when they come out, thereby creating an online audience for your work.
If you’re worried that you won’t have the time to write a blog – and for a business site, I’d recommend that you blog once a week – you could create your website using WordPress, giving you the option to add a blog easily once you’re up and running.
2. Decide which social media platforms you want to use. You’ll know this already but there are a multitude of social media platforms out there and my original mistake was to try to get to grips with all of them at the same time, while creating a client list from scratch and trying to drum up offline business.
Now, long term, chances are you want to have a presence on a few platforms, but when you’re starting out your brain is likely to go into meltdown if you try to get a handle on them all at the same time. (Admittedly, that could just be me though).
After initially giving myself far too much work to handle, effectively resulting in me not actually achieving anything, I whittled it down to 3 things:
- blogging on my business site once a week,
- sending out a fortnightly email newsletter to my list,
- sending out daily updates on Twitter profile.
I’ve since added LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ to my list of profiles, but I spent the first 2 years concentrating purely on WordPress, Twitter and my email newsletter. My advice is to make it easy on yourself and pick 2 or 3 platforms that will work best for your business, and get started with them one at a time. Start with one then build on it.
3. Write a Posting Plan. Try to plan what you’re going to say online in advance. Obviously, this will all sit within your wider social media marketing strategy, which I won’t go into here, but start off by planning the messages that will go out on your main platform – your blog – and when they are going to go out. So, if you’ve decided to blog once a week, decide what messages you want to go out from your business over the next 2 – 3 months – that’s roughly 12 post topics at most, which is completely achievable. I use Trello to plan my blog posts – it’s a great planning tool, and you can add in ideas for your posts, as they come to you or as you come across new content that relates to your upcoming posts.
Next, you want to think about how you can use your preferred social media platform to both promote your posts and related content. I use Twitter, for example, to both promote new and old posts from my site, but also to link to relevant content from other blogs, and to send out industry stats and other related news. I have a daily Twitter plan where I post at least 6 or 7 updates a day, which I schedule in advance using Hootsuite (see below). I also build this up to include my Facebook posts (although I do these updates direct on Facebook as that works better), LinkedIn and Pinterest.
I put time aside on a Friday to plan out what needs to be done each week and load my social media messages for the week ahead on Hootsuite.Take a look at 5 tips to improve your online presence for freelancers & small businesses Click To Tweet
WORDS OF CAUTION
Automate where Possible but NOT TOO MUCH!!! – Automation tools like Hootsuite (there are others too but I know this one best because I use it) are great for creating a backbone for your social media messages, but they should not be the start, middle and end – far from it. Check in with social media at least once a day. I check in twice a day for 15 minutes at a time just to stay on top of it all, and if I’m stuck on a train travelling to a meeting, guess what I use the time for? Yep, staying in touch on social media.
Share interesting content. Don’t just broadcast messages about yourself. When you’re at a party, you can see people avoiding the person who just talks about themselves and never asks questions or shows an interest in anyone else. When you just broadcast messages about your brand, effectively, all you’re doing is talking about yourself. So share interesting news, ask questions, respond to other people’s tweets and blog comments and try to start a conversation.
Make sure you aren’t just repeating the same messages on each platform. You want to create awareness and increase an understanding about your company or the work that you do, but try to use each in the way that works best for that particular platform. For example, Twitter is a great way of creating conversations around your brand. It works well for sending out interesting stats, thought-provoking comments or injecting a bit of humour into your messages, but messages that work well on Twitter don’t necessarily work so well on LinkedIn, which is far more formal and business like. Instagram and Pinterest (my current social media ‘crush’) are perfect if you have great eye-catching images – and even if you don’t, you can create the with great tools like Picmonkey or Canva.
Whatever you decide to do, improving your social media presence will help you to build your brand, communicate with your audience and reach a new audience, but if it all seems too much, start by keeping it as simple as possible and building your social media presence slowly.
Do you have any other tips or advice about what’s worked for you? Or do you have a favourite social media platform – and why? Please let me know in the comments below.