I get a lot of solo entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs asking me, with trepidation, do they have to be on every social media network? It's clear that most people who ask this question have read the countless articles out of the marketing industry extolling that a comprehensive social media plan is key to any and all marketing campaigns. And for any large to mid-size -or even small- company, this is true. However, for solo entrepreneurs and self employed people, things are a little different. You don't have team of social media experts or even one marketing manager; you only have you. There's only so much you can do in a day. And frankly, when you are your business, marketing campaigns that rely heavily on building real-life connections tend to go a lot further. But there is still plenty to be gained from social media.
Solo Entrepreneur = Solo Social Media?
Let's take a rational, scale-appropriate view on social media: You probably use one form of social media personally already. Having used that network a bit, you already know the ins and outs of that network. You've seen how businesses use it, and you're familiar with the culture of the people there. These are all huge assets in the world of social media. Build your business presence on that network. If someday you find yourself with some extra time, then expand to another one. One social media network is better than none, and one that you actually interact with is going to be way more effective than one you don't interact with.
Novice at Social Media?
Some of you may not use a social media network yet, so you're faced with the question of which one to adopt. First off, keep in mind that learning a social media network is like learning a new skill. It will require work at first, and it's wise to have manageable-sized "lessons" here and there, rather than trying to cram it all in your head at once. Engage with your new social media network once every couple of days or everyday over the course of a month or two. You will gain in understanding if you pace yourself.
Secondly, which social media network you choose depends on your personal preferences and the proclivities of your industry. If cramming your thoughts down to 140 characters is painful, then twitter probably isn't for you. If you love fashion design, image-based Instagram would make sense. Here's a quick run down of the most common networks, who uses them, and what it's like to interact on them.
- Facebook - heavily based on social groups. Individuals who have lots of friends and are part of special interest groups often find it easy to leverage Facebook for their business. The business page options are primarily for a fee, so having a strong personal presence is a must for solo entrepreneurs. Posts can be any length, include links and photos.
- Twitter - focuses on real-time communication and short snippets. Interacting with leading figures and on trending topics (through use of hashtags) can build your prominence on Twitter.
- Instagram - picture focused. This is great for any business in the realm of fashion, fitness (including yoga), lifestyle, food or photography. The interaction style is a lot like twitter.
- Linked In - focused on professional networks. This platform is key for business-to-business services and everything related to the tech industry. Interaction style is similar to facebook, but focuses on professional relationships more than social ones.
- Google+ - frankly, I know almost no one who uses this as a social media network, and I know of no industries that focus around this network. However, having a Google+ page is a key way for a business to manage it's presence on google search results. I highly recommend setting up a business page even if you don't use the social media network.
- Pinterest - if your business relates to beautiful things, or crafts and how-to's, this is your network. Share inspiration, or just wedding ideas.
- Snap chat - trendy and immediate. If you want to target young adults, you like taking selfies, and the notion of a moving-selfie doesn't freak you out, this is the network for you!
- Periscope - short video rants (but not as short as snap chat!) that expire in 24hrs. Long enough to offer some content, but temporary enough that you're not giving away the farm. Great for industries where personality and/or immediacy is key.
- YouTube - longer video segments. This starts to end up in the realm of video-blogging ("vlogging") more than social media, but it does have a distinct social component. Following other vloggers and commenting will increase your status on this network.
You may want to start an account on a network and try it out for a while. Having an inactive profile is rarely a problem. In fact you might come back later to discover you have a bunch of new followers! So feel free to test drive however many networks you're interested in. Just make sure you give them some effort over a long span of time (like a month or two) to really understand how to use the network and determine if it's the one for you.
Pros Who are Ready to Go Big or Go Home
For those of you who have already mastered a network or two and are looking to streamline your efforts, there are a lot of services out there that can make posting more efficient. Hootsuite is my favorite (it has a free version) and Buffer performs a similar service. These services give you the opportunity to draft a post and send it out across all your social media networks at the same time. You can also schedule posts in advance across most networks. Interacting with social media is more than just making posts, so this won't consolidate everything you do on social media, but it can ensure that you'll be making posts regularly, even if you don't logon that often.
The Bigger Picture
Social media is just one way of marketing your business, so don't get over fixated on it. Every potential client has their favorite way of being interacted with, and your ideal client will love whichever way you decided to market (because if they didn't, then they wouldn't be your ideal client!) The best approach is to utilize a variety of marketing strategies, whether or not they involve social media, in order to build and maintain your flow of new clients.
Need help developing a marketing strategy? You know who to call! (and it ain't the Ghostbusters!)