Why social media for small businesses is like going on a date

I reckon the story for pretty much every single small business using social media goes like this.

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You have an idea and tell your friends and family that you’re starting your own business. They tell you that if you want to make sales you need to be online and get on social media. What they mean is that they think you should be on a platform like Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.


And it sounds so easy. It’s free. You can do it yourself. All you need to do is put out some posts telling people about what you have to offer and the sales will start rolling in. It makes sense. You know that you have a great offer so if more people knew about it they’d leap at the chance to buy!


So you sign up for an account and start putting out posts. Every single one tells people to buy your product but you don’t seem to be making any extra sales. What’s gone wrong?


The rules of social media

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If the above scenario describes you then you’re missing two key things:


1. People buy from people and

2. You need to be social on social media.


Let’s be clear showing that you’re a person on social media does not mean that you have to become an influencer or post intimate details of your daily life online. That said when you share your face and parts of your life online you are making your business more than a business. You’re showing that there’s a real person behind it with values who is doing more than wanting to get their hands on your money. But that’s not the whole meaning of ‘people buy from people’ and it ties in with the need to be sociable on social media.


Think about going on a date

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Let’s have another story to show what I mean. You’re planning on going on a date and hoping that you’ll be able to get to know your date more intimately! So you pull up your car next to someone you’ve never met before and suggest they hop in. You then tell them to get their kit off and are surprised when they don’t!


Now, you’re not going to do that and none of your friends or family would suggest that you do. If you’re planning on going on a date, you’ll have connected with the person in advance. Maybe you work with them, or know from a social group or got chatting in a queue at the supermarket. They’re interested in getting to know you better. When you do go out you’ll have a two way conversation where you’ll address them by their name, compliment their appearance and ask about their day and their interests.


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It’s just the same on social media. Making connections and sharing something of yourself is important. It makes you part of the community. You can’t just appear out of nowhere and expect people to do what you want.


Now this doesn’t mean that you need to start treating your channels like a feed for Tinder or PoF! But you can treat it more like a combination of networking and hanging out in a new office or community.


Making a purchase puts the buyer in a vulnerable position. They’re parting with their money and putting their trust in you to deliver. When you only post about what you’re selling that doesn’t build trust. You need to listen before you act.


Social media is networking

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Think about it. Attending a networking event isn’t really about selling. That’ll just bore the other participants and most of them probably aren’t your target market anyway. Instead, it’s about getting to know other people and what they do. It’s all about interactions. You’re showing them what kind of person you are. Yes, you might be able to show that you have expertise in your area but you’re also building trust.


Likewise, when you start a new job you talk to your colleagues and share bits of information as you look for common ground. As time goes by your knowledge of your colleagues means you can connect further. On a social level, you’re able to ask about their family, interests and weekend plans. From a work viewpoint you know exactly who to ask about help with certain issues.


Always keep in mind that networks aren’t built overnight. So join some online groups and actively participate in them. Comment meaningfully on posts that other people have written. Share your knowledge and experience.


What to post on social media


I recommend that my clients post with a variety of themes in order to cultivate brand awareness and meet their objectives.


These might include some or all of the following:

  • Posts that engage the community

  • Posts about you

  • Sales posts