Over the next several weeks I’m going to be publishing an advanced guide to how business owners can create their own social media strategy. We’ll cover everything from why social media matters to the exact types of content you need to be creating to win new business. New chapters will drop every Wednesday.

Creating Your Own Social Media Strategy

 

Part One: Why does social media even matter?

You don’t know me very well yet, but soon enough you’ll learn that I can’t do much of anything in this world without first telling a story. Depending on how you feel about my stories, you might decide I’m a great marketer but that I’d make a lousy dinner guest. I hope that’s not the case because I’m always down for dinner and I promise to not talk too much if you ever invite me. Either way, the stories are always included. Here’s one now:

 

The Lamp Repair Shop

My wife had a lamp that she found at a thrift store or maybe she found it on the side of the road (she finds stuff on the side of the road frequently, I swear it’s like living with Fred Samford).

She loved this lamp, but like most ‘found’ things it needed a little repair work and sprucing up (she also wanted to find The Perfect Lampshade For This Perfect Lamp©, naturally). So she asked me where I thought she should take this mid-century monstrosity lamp to get it repaired and fixed up.

Now, I am one of those annoying people who do for a living exactly the thing he should do for a living, exactly the thing he loves. I love businesses – especially small businesses – and I am a walking encyclopedia of where-to-go-to-get-the-thing.

Seriously, I remember every business I pass and I make it my business to know exactly what they do and who owns it. Why? Because I love nothing better than blurting out the exact place my friends and family need to go RIGHT NOW to get the things they are looking to buy or the services they need done. I’m a connector and I love connecting people to the things they need. All great marketers are great connectors.

So back to this pitiful lamp: I told my wife that I did indeed know where a lamp repair shop was near where we lived. I even knew the name of the man who had owned it for years, but I hadn’t spoken to him in a long time and I wasn’t 100% sure they were still in business. So I told my wife to look up the name of the business and see if they were still open.

 

This next part is very important:

My wife didn’t hop on Google to do a search and find the lamp store. She jumped on Facebook and looked for the Facebook page of the lamp store instead. Why? Because that’s her process, that’s how she most often chooses to find people to do business with. Why do some people search on Facebook and not Google to find a local business? That’s a complicated question and the answer is likely one that includes discussions and data around demographics, generational habits, and the growing importance of getting personal recommendations via social media for the purchases we make. But make no mistake: More and more people like my wife are choosing to use social media as their first stop to find businesses every single day.

And this is what she found:

The lamp store did indeed have a Facebook page, but things didn’t look so great.

  1. They had no profile image, just the generic profile picture that Facebook uses.
  2. Whoever created the Facebook page hadn’t filled out very much information about the business.
  3. Hours of operation were missing.
  4. The call-to-action was just to message the page, not to call the store or visit the website or anything else that had a definitive result.
  5. The last time they had posted an update was EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO!
  6. There were no ratings or comments from customers (ratings hadn’t even been turned on).
  7. There were only a handful of pictures of the store and no pictures at all of the storefront.

I could go on (and on), but you get the point: There was nothing on their Facebook page that reassured my wife that this lamp store was a thriving business with a great reputation for what they do. It was, indeed, exactly the sort of Facebook page you might find left behind after a business has closed. So she decided they must have gone out of business and she decided she’d find sometime later in the day to ask around for other lamp repair shops. And that was the end of the story… almost.

Later that afternoon we were out running errands with our toddler son in the car after lunch. We were sitting at a red light when suddenly I blurted out (as I am prone to do), “Hey, that lamp store I was talking about is right around the corner here. Just out of curiosity let’s go look…”

Sure enough, the lamp store was not only still in business, but they were actually pretty busy for a Sunday afternoon. The shop was friendly, well-staffed, and by all measures doing an ok business just relying on walk-in traffic and word of mouth. My wife ended up dropping off her lamp for repair (and buying a new lampshade in the process) and was genuinely pleased with the results.

 

So what’s to learn here?

Well, first, that lamp store by all rights should pay me a commission! I sold my wife on that particular shop and all but picked her up and dropped her on their doorstep. I’m joking, but the truth is they were lucky (in the truest sense of the word) to get my wife’s business. And if you spend any time reading the things I write about business you’ll quickly find out that I don’t think anyone should ever rely on luck alone for their success.

The lamp store was guilty of what I sometimes call ‘The Broken Open Sign Rule’.

Have you ever pulled into the parking lot of a business who forgot to turn their ‘Open’ sign on? Have you ever had to scratch your head and circle the parking lot a few times, squinting to see if you can make out signs of life inside? Have you ever been tempted to just shrug your shoulders and go someplace else? That’s what bad social media is for a business, it’s a broken ‘Open’ sign in the middle of a busy day. The greatest business in the world might be on the other side of that door, but if I have to rely on squinting and guesses, you’ll be lucky to get my business.

Gray’s Rule Of The Broken Open Sign: If your ‘Open’ sign isn’t on, I will drive around in circles waiting to see if someone walks in or out and then out of sheer frustration and laziness I will shrug my shoulders and go somewhere else.

Jokes aside, I often say that businesses would almost be better off not doing social media at all than doing it poorly. When my wife found the (bad) Facebook page for the lamp store she formed a negative opinion of a business that turned out in the end to be a business she liked a great deal. If she had found no Facebook page at all she might have found them later through a Google search or a personal recommendation or she might not have found them at all, but she’d never have formed the negative opinion that ultimately wasn’t ‘deserved’.

I know business owners, I know how they think. I rely on that ability for my living. And I can hear scores of business owners right now saying, “That settles it, no social media for me. If I’m not on Facebook, there’s no risk of anyone judging me unfavorably.” But that’s not a valid argument for several reasons:

  1. There’s no excuse for doing social media poorly – it’s Facebook, not quantum physics.
  2. The benefits – 40 BILLION potential customers – far outweigh the risks.
  3. If you don’t have time for social media you can hire a company like mine (shameless plug) to do it for you.

Some of you may be thinking that because my story about the lamp shop focused on a retail business that it doesn’t apply to you because you’re not a retail business. It absolutely does. If I’m in the market for life insurance, a lawyer, doctor, or even a supplier of manufacturing materials, the story still applies absolutely. If I experience your business for the first time via social media and I’m faced with content that is outdated or poorly thought out, basic business information that is incomplete or haphazard, and weak or no calls-to-action… you’ll be lucky to get my money. Don’t rely on luck.

Join me next week for Part 2 of “Creating Your Own Social Media Strategy”. We’ll be diving in to how every business needs a personality online and how to not be “The Guy Everyone Hates”.

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