Over the past few years, I have noticed a rise in at-home businesses, especially in my community – the military spouse (and mom) world. I encourage and support these fellow business owners/consultants and believe that what they’re doing is – can be – great! While this article is not about why at-home businesses are good, I want y’all to know first and foremost that I think these venues can be excellent opportunities for you personally and professionally. Having said that, I do have a critical eye for entrepreneurialism and I have seen your businesses succeed and fail as a result of your online marketing. I just want to help.
Before I dig in, let me establish what I believe represents success and failure in at-home business marketing:
- Success: utilizing the available social media platforms to reel in your customers.
- Failure: over-utilizing the available social media platforms to turn customers (and personal affiliations) off from your products.
If you’re an at-home business or consultant you are likely self-taught and self-motivated. Whether it’s Scentsy, Lularoe, Rodan & Fields, etc., you sought out this opportunity and made an intentional decision about investing yourself in this business and brand. You have used your available resources on a budget to set yourself up for success. You use a variety of tools to promote your products and attract customers. These likely – or mostly – include social media marketing. That’s what we’re talking about today.
Here’s the thing: there are unspoken rules regarding the usage of social media. There are some technical challenges to using social media, but there are also numerous cultural obstacles to navigate and ensure your success.
If there’s a main message I want you to take away from this article, it’s this: you can burn out your audience! Sure, it’s your friends’ choice to follow you and open their newsfeed, but social media is a two-way street – there is etiquette to keeping your friends.
Posting too often is annoying. What does this mean? Where is the line? Is the line different for each social media platform? Yes! From Facebook to Twitter and Instagram, each platform has its own social media expectations. I encourage you to get feedback from your friends/customer base (the ones that purchase and especially the ones who don’t). But from my personal experience:
Facebook: Facebook is the platform used the most for personal updates but also used the most for merchandise/sales. This requires a delicate balance. Here are a couple of practical ideas to maintain this balance:
- On your personal page, show how you use your products in your day-to-day life.
- Create a separate business page or group for a majority of your posts.
- Be sure to post about your life on your personal page more than you post about your business and be authentic.
- Personally ask your friends if you can invite them to your page or group first. While this may take more time than sending out a mass invite, it shows respect to the friend by not assuming their interest. Plus, they are much more likely to be active customers if you engage them directly!
- Use high-quality photos.
- Promotions, giveaways, and contests are definitely a successful and trending tactic used by many consultants – just be sure to keep them in your business page or group!
- Boosting your posts will help with visibility and growing your customer base, but do not expect direct sales from one boost. It takes time to sell a customer – or friend. Set a small monthly budget that you allow yourself to use for specific types of post boosts.
- Facebook events are an awesome way to reel in new customers and re-engage old ones. Live parties with incentives and giveaways are sure to bring in business.
Instagram: This platform is a little more difficult to build up a following base and it may take a little bit longer than Facebook, but it is a huge platform for online shopping. Take advantage of it! Be sure to follow the same etiquette as Facebook and mind the personal/professional balance. If you plan to post on Instagram frequently, create your own business page, just as you would with Facebook. Here are some practical ideas for your Instagram accounts:
- Use high-quality photos.
- Research your hashtags and use them consistently!
- Utilize promotions, giveaways, and contests to grow your following base.
- Cross promote with other similar businesses and team up to share one another’s followers!
Twitter: It is perfectly acceptable to tweet more frequently on Twitter than it is to post on Facebook or Instagram; just be sure your content is different! Twitter is very different than Facebook and Instagram and should be treated accordingly. Even though it is ok to tweet more frequently, be sure you still find and follow the right personal/professional balance and create a separate page for your business. More practical ideas:
- Keep your tweets relevant and timely.
- Always use hashtags – just be sure they fit!
- Follow as many applicable pages as possible.
- Be a good Twitter follower; retweet and like as much as possible.
- Tweets with images still perform better than tweets without images.
Maintain your personal brand (life). Do not allow your business to consume your social media presence. Be personal, be yourself! Continue to share normally as you did before starting your at-home business. This is important because your friends are your friends because they’re your friends – not because they’re your customers. If you wish to engage your friends as customers, be sensitive and respectful to the friendship first and foremost! Ask them if they would like to be included before assuming. An invitation is very powerful and can actually help you make sales quicker than you would otherwise. Why? When you ask someone if they want to be included, that counts as a “touch.” In sales, you typically need numerous “touches” (engagements) with a customer before they’ll make a purchase. Also, a personal invitation signifies a commitment of some sort. If a friend accepts your invitation and says they would like to be included, that usually means that, at some point, they will make a purchase from you! If you never directly ask them, it is much easier for that friend to slip away passively and never make a purchase (this has happened to me SO many times)! Remember, building a business takes time!
Cross promotion is huge. Networking isn’t just a handshake anymore. Find other businesses or blogs with similar products or interests. Introduce yourself and pitch why and how you could help promote one another. Now, be sure your products or services are different, but similar enough where your customers may become their customers. Come up with a plan together and share one another’s content. Teaming up on a promotion or giveaway is an excellent way to grow your following base.
Share reviews and stories of how your products are being used. People want to know why your product is worthy of their purchase. The reality is that we live in an oversaturated market and we have to earn our customers’ loyalty. We have to show them why our products are worth their investment and how they can use them. To build loyalty and gain new customers, use your current customers’ real stories, real reviews, and real images of them using your products (with their permission, of course – maybe even offer an incentive)! In my experience, this can be even more valuable than a paid advertisement.
Now a couple of overall tips for your business pages:
- Be sure your profiles are complete and your contact information is easily accessible.
- Change your profile picture and banner on a consistent basis (monthly is a good rule of thumb). Be sure your brand is visible. Your logo should always be present in one of those photos, preferably your profile picture.
- Spelling and grammar are very important. You probably know this by now; just don’t slack in this department. Sloppy spelling and grammar presents a poor image of your products and brand.
- Take advantage of all the free photo and graphic apps and websites to further grow your brand.
- Video is quickly becoming the most utilized visual on the web – just be sure to get your point across fast and keep them under 30 seconds! Also, visuals are more important than sound on video – so, instead of saying what you need to say, show it!
- Finally, be patient! It takes time to establish a brand and even more time to establish a following. Don’t give up and keep at it as if you had thousands of followers. Fake it ‘til you make it!
*This article is not comprehensive as social media is a constantly evolving beast. There are many other platforms and perspectives to account for but hopefully this is a good starting place for you. We are open to suggestions and varying opinions as it is nearly impossible to have one rule of thumb for technology such as social media.*