Cringeworthy – the way I approached Driven’s social media strategy in the first year.
But, like most of my early mistakes, the knowledge gained from the process has proven invaluable and I hope this recap helps you sidestep the blunders I made.
It’s important to set proper context. Upon launching the firm, I went from having no personal social media presence to thinking the business MUST have social media. Essentially, I went from zero to one hundred overnight. Everything I read talked about social media’s power. Unlimited reach. Free advertising. Brand building. I thought, “How could I, a millennial business owner, not take full advantage of these opportunities?” Let’s spray and pray – Post! Post! Post!
A few problems emerged with this strategy, or lack thereof.
I passively used Twitter through my corporate life, so it felt natural to venture to this platform first. I would never post (largely because I wasn’t allowed to with a corporation), but I would consume the treasure trove of quality financial information that lies in Financial Twitter, aka “Fintwit”. In this niche part of the platform, many well respected financial authorities communicate, share and debate their ideas for all who care to follow. With the corporate shackles gone, I figured I’d jump right into the community.
I directed my very first tweet to a man named Barry Ritholtz and…… he blocked me. No exaggeration.. My first tweet.
Barry’s name may not be well known outside of finance, but he has arguably done more for my career without knowing it than any other person. I’ve read Barry’s blog “The Big Picture” almost every single day since being introduced to it while interning at Fidelity in 2010. I learned a lot, and fast, because of him. Getting blocked by an idol because I didn’t really know how to use the platform was not the ideal start.
I could go on with my continued failed attempts to break into the community, but I’ll cut straight to the point. After a few months I had an epiphany – I had accomplished nothing noteworthy with the business via social media! I did not deserve to be spending my time trying to “break into the financial twitter community” no matter how much my ego would have benefitted. I had a company that needed to grow and, at the current stage, trying to socialize with peers via social media was not moving the needle.
Lesson one: If the primary objective of my company, at this stage, is to attract and grow Members, why am I spending so much time on channels that do not directly impact this outcome!? While stemming from social media, this became a question I now ask of all business related activities.
Be sure to ask yourself, “What purpose does this activity or approach serve for the firm?” Making online “friends” probably isn’t top of the list for most new businesses.
Most of my friends are on Instagram. When I launched the company’s social media, IG instantly had the most “followers”. The trouble was that I had never used the platform and had a lot of growing pains with how it works.
A few lessons (now which mostly seem obvious):
Lesson One: A community takes time to build. You can’t expect that people are going to use hash tags and tag posts just because you ask. I heard the process best described as “the cardio” of brand building. It takes time to show up every day, and often is “pay to play”. Unfortunately, as a one person operation, this is very hard to commit to and outsourcing or advertising dollars may not be in the budget in year one. You have to ask yourself, “Is posting daily the best use of time and resources at this stage?” My conclusion was, at this stage, probably not.
Lesson Two: The number one priority for Instagram is to entertain. You are competing with cute pictures of kids and amazing travel photos. Therefore, attractive photos and/or clever infographics grab eyeballs. However, both are time consuming and/or difficult to obtain. Additionally, I quickly hated being the person “always on their phone” trying to get a good picture. Generating the material to produce quality content is a full time job in and of itself. It’s easy to see why these social media consulting firms are popping up all over the place!
Lesson Three: Be laser focused. I thought strictly posting about finance may get boring over time and going the “self development” route may keep people engaged by mixing it up. Would including photos and captions of fitness and business books break the cadence and keep the page interesting? No. In fact, this confused people. Close friends even told me some people asked if I had closed Driven and moved into fitness. Literally the worst result I could have hoped for. Especially early on, it is important to stay committed and clear about your message, even if it feels repetitive to you.
Instagram still presents a great opportunity as the primary purpose of the platform for the firm is brand awareness. I think as new business owners, we just have to be honest with ourselves about how much time we can commit in order to stick to a consistent posting schedule while still effectively operating the actual business.
Facebook has served the firm well, and I see further opportunity to expand usage on the platform.
Currently, I mostly use FB to publish blog posts and media mentions. The functionality allows people to easily share these posts with others, which helps extend the reach.
Arguably my most successful marketing has come from free live seminars I conduct in the local San Diego market. I see no reason that I can’t also put these seminars on via webinar and promote them through FB to extend the reach even further.
*A very special thank you to those of you who have rated the seminar so highly and referred friends. You have really helped grow the membership and rankings on Meetup, which seems to have a nice snowball effect of new members joining!
LinkedIn gets similar treatment as Facebook. I use it to publish blog posts and media mentions. Additionally, LinkedIn has a networking benefit to the platform I use frequently.
Most moderators at networking events encourage the audience to turn on their shared LinkedIn location services (a great feature) to encourage connecting. Since you don’t always get to speak with everyone you’d like to at the events, this feature has proved to be an outstanding way to follow up with people for one on ones.
Lessons from LinkedIn and Facebook – both platforms provide helpful outlets to periodically check in to let the world know the business exists, that you are thinking about your customers, and provide updates on what you are working on. There is far less expectation and need for daily usage, which allows you to focus on building your actual business – exactly what you should be doing at this stage!
While you may have different experiences with social media platforms, I feel pretty certain you’ll agree that “spray and pray” is a terrible marketing strategy. It didn’t take me a full year to realize this, but it took longer than I care to admit.
Working with business owners, I now ask them about their marketing strategy in our business planning sessions. Specifically, I use the following questions to understand their target market:
Who are they?
Where are they?
What is their problem?
How do you solve that problem?
What do they appreciate?
Answering these questions and determining the appropriate platform(s) to address them will go a lot further than the Post! Post! Post! process that proved ineffective. Whether you agree or disagree, I’d love to know what you think and hear more about your experience! The marketing and social media world is ever changing, and shared experiences and lessons learned will hopefully help us all in the long run. #WhatDrivesYou?