9 social media lessons from a micro-business

Posted on July 3, 2012

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Since starting up Collective Content (UK) last year and more recently working on Erbut with Dan I’ve learnt a lot about using social networks and social media for business, especially very small businesses. (I’m still the only CC:UK employee, for example.)

Previously, I was used to established media brands that were in front of millions of people over a year – engaging those users wasn’t easy but it wasn’t hard either. It certainly didn’t feel like a standing start.

And let’s face it, social ain’t going way.

Here are nine lessons:

  1. Go to where your target audience is. You might think you only need, say, Twitter and LinkedIn for B2B customers but it turns out some prefer Facebook (why I recently launched a page there) or YourTube. Some even might still be on MySpace. There – that’s freaked you out.
  2. SEO sucks and social media can help. Search engine optimisation (SEO) – basically writing in such a way as to court the Google gods – has always depressed me. It’s just one of those things, sure, but building up social followings, while not without soulless aspects, is a way to hedge against an algorithm change that can see a bunch of people all of a sudden not realise you exist.
  3. Timing is important. Consider the rhythm of different slices of your audience. Does your business crowd like to read during the day – or maybe on the morning commute? Do you have a consumer audience that is receptive on a Saturday night? Hell, is your business exec up for long form content outside the working week? Use a myriad of free tools to work this out.
  4. Analytics = good; too much analytics = bad. As in [3], working out stuff about your audience or intended audience is worth it. But getting overly sucked in to analytics – which is easy to do – may well be worse than just going with your gut. Time is precious and my bet is you can’t afford to spend 5-hours+ per week in Hootsuite and follwerwonk.com.
  5. The 10:4:1 rule. Apologies for the lack of sourcing on this one but I once read that for every 15 posts/tweets/updates 10 should be informative (eg sharing links), four can be by you (eg links to your blog posts or your inner wisdom) and one can be a direct call to action (eg follow us elsewhere, what do you think of our new site or even – how vulgar! – BUY OUR PRODUCT). When I’ve tried it for Collective Content it’s felt like a decent ratio.
  6. Klout – WTF. This is also about Kred, PeerIndex, Radian6 (now part of salesforce.com) – all of them are imperfect ways of measuring social standing. But remember that many people put stock in these scores. Cathay Pacific started opening its SFO Business lounge to those with a Klout score of over 40. I’ve written about a similar approach from online retailers offering discounts. Don’t try to game them. Take a deep breath.
  7. Don’t forget the newsletter. Someone I was doing some consulting work for almost fell off his chair when I suggested they start a client newsletter. They seem so, well, 1990s. But newsletters are still about the most effective way to reach people and services such as MailChimp are excellent. We’ve all become stricter about what we sign up for. Someone is letting you in to their inbox, probably an inbox they now check out of hours and at weekends on their smart-phones and tablets? That’s a meaningful relationship. Social media and newsletters should complement each other.
  8. Content, content, content. I would say that, right? But unless you have something to point to, unless you have some steak to go with your sizzle, what’s the point? And more specifically, what’s the ‘4’ in your 10:4:1 equation? Content is very different to ad campaigns. It is ongoing, it is educational, it isn’t about you, you, you. Drop me a line if you need some. (Collective Content – We tell your stories.™)
  9. Plan, plan, plan. Lastly, I’m all for that whole ‘be authentic’ thing. I really am. I publish updates to Twitter and Google+ that probably have non-friends scratching their heads. But that’s who I am. Screw it. On the other hand, as a small business you can’t wing it. Certainly not across several social channels, certainly not on a daily basis. Start each week with a plan by platform, trying to cover off maybe half of the posts you’ll make. For the other half – roll with it.

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett or for the latest from Collective Content (UK) – @ColContent or from Erbut @ErbutLtd.

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Posted in: Social media