Recently, I talked with a professional woman who said she needed to learn how to use social media for her business. She seemed mystified by how to use Twitter and Facebook to expand her online presence, and she said she would like to learn more. She is not alone.
According to the 2014 National Association of Women Business Owners Report, 85% of women entrepreneurs believe using social media will help their businesses. However, only 67% of them actually use it to market their products and services. In addition, only 54% of women business owners are confident that they can build a social media presence. As we looked at these numbers, Lisa, Doris and I saw ourselves. We have learned a great deal about what social media really means and what it takes to build a business. However, continuing to improve our effective use of social media is a work in progress.
Whether it is the time required to use it or the time and effort required to learn how, women entrepreneurs should look seriously at how they use or do not use all the tools available to them if they are going to make the most of the changing marketplace.
They need to ask themselves the following questions:
- What is my purpose? What do I want social media to do for my business? Do I want to grow my email list, promote a specific service, or promote content I have created? Unless you have a clear purpose and plan, it is far too easy to get lost in the information jungle.
- Who is my audience? What are their needs and preferences? That is the important question to ask for any marketing plan. However, it is critical to define your social media audience because they have so many conflicting messages to filter.
- Where is my audience? Just as it is critical to know who the audience is, it is essential to know where they “live.” Different demographics reside in different social media platforms. Older and wealthier users prefer Facebook. Younger users prefer Tumblr and Instagram. Women outnumber men in every major platform except LinkedIn and Google+. Women make up over 80% of Pinterest users and 58% of Facebook users. 70% of Google+ users and 63% of LinkedIn users are men (From NonProfit Quarterly and Huff Post Tech). Implementing a strategy that appeals to your audience using only one or two social media networks is far more effective that trying to reach out to a large audience that may not fit your target market.
- How can I connect with my audience most effectively? Unlike marketing strategies of old, effective social media marketing “pulls” rather than “pushes.” It is built on relationships and brand identification. Making connections and telling stories builds loyalty and interest much more than strategies that rely on constant sales messages.
- How do I ask for business? On the other hand, women often do not actively ask for business. Unless you include a purchase request, social media can be a drain on other productive marketing activities. In addition to providing valuable content and/or entertainment, business owners must include specific calls to action to meet their business objectives.
- How can I use my time most efficiently? The vast majority of female entrepreneurs own small businesses. They do not have access to large marketing or IT departments. They often do the work themselves. Therefore, time is the critical factor. Creating and adhering to a schedule that includes relationship building, content sharing and limited direct selling within a specified time is the key to efficient use of social media networks.
- How do I measure the success of my social media efforts? When you set up a social media marketing plan, it is important to determine how you will measure its success. If your purpose is to build an email list, decide what success will look like. If the strategy is not working, change the strategy until it meets your clearly defined business objectives.
- What tools are available to help me use social media? Investigate the hundreds of online tools that will help you make the best use of your time and energy. They include apps to help you manage the accounts you follow, schedule your posts, find or create valuable content and much more. The time spent to search out those apps will pay off in time saved in the future. (See Women’s Learning Studio Top Tools and Apps.)
We hope you find the questions valuable as you work to build your own social media presence and expand your business though these valuable networks. We also hope you will join us as we learn together to navigate the women’s entrepreneurial path. If you have additional ideas about how to enhance and expand social media for business, please add comments below.