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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Use of Social Media in Building Your Business and What to Expect

I have posted in the past about the power and potential of social media in business, but as I am still learning how to use this to promote and build my business, I wanted to share some more of my thoughts and observations about it and how you can navigate the immense quagmire to use it to profitably build your business.

My observations, that I will discuss in detail are:

1. Social media reflects the human condition to a "T", which has many implications.
2. Social media takes a huge commitment of time.
3. Consistency of content creation is key.
4. I suspect that organic growth is more effective than paid reach.
5. Likes and pageviews are not everything.

Social Media, The Human Condition and How to Reach People

As human beings, we are naturally lazy. We want to experience maximum results for as little effort as possible. This is why we have scams and so many useless products in the world today: because we buy into the empty promise that these things will make life easier for us. Over the last 30 years, technology has made us take for granted things that were absolutely impossible 30 years ago. So because of how instant technology is, we expect instant results without thinking about the fact that human nature has not changed, and the implications stemming from the ease that the technology affords.

Social media is wonderful because for the most part it is free (for now). I don't have to pay Google to write and publish the content on this post, and I can reach, potentially millions of people with it. This is something that would have been completely impossible before the internet. If I wanted to reach millions of people 30 years ago TV would have been the only way to do it and the cost would have been in the millions of dollars.

Of course a major implication of this ease of entry is that the internet is chock full of content, and because most of it is written to garner attention in the form of likes and pageviews, most of it is of very little value. So while the potential to reach millions of people with your value proposition and business message exists, it is nowhere near as easy to achieve now as it would be if there was a monetary cost to social media. In a sense, what we have now with social media is a kind of "Tragedy of the Commons". What is that you might ask? Well it is a term traditionally used by economists to explain a situation that arises when a group of people each pursue their own self-interest with the result that everyone is worse off because of it.

So in social media, we now have automated tools that promise to save you time in using social media by automatically posting your content on a pre-determined schedule to every single social media platform that you are a member of, whether it is relevant to your audience or not. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Well, it would be if all that content was useful content and not just advertising and attempts to get attention. But alas it isn't. The result was that many social media platforms such as Facebook groups were filling up with spam. So what Facebook has done to combat this is that they have forced these software tools to disable these automatic posting features and to limit them to channels that you are the administrator of. So that while these tools are helpful and will save you some time, they will not deliver the time savings they promise, in my opinion.

One of the most fundamental aspects of the human condition that has never changed, that has implications for your business is this:

People don't like being sold to. People don't like ads.

Every time you watch TV how often do you skip commercials? How much do you hate having to sit through ads when you go to the movies? Do you notice how you have the option to skip ads on Youtube. How often do you actually listen to an ad when you have the option to skip past it? My guess is almost never.

This takes us to what the basic end-goal is for your use of social media to promote and build your business and what it means to you. The basic end goal is:

To reach people. To inform them that you have a product or service they want.

How do you do that if people hate ads? You do it by giving them something they want for free. What is that thing? Information.

The best way to do that on social media is to have one or both of:

  • A business Facebook page where you can post all kinds of free content, which can include links to your blogs and your business website, and
  • A blog that you regularly post information to that your audience will find useful. 
For example, in the case of my stamp business, I am posting informative articles every day to my Canadian stamp blog. As I work on stamps from the other countries that I sell I will post informative articles to these blogs as well. The great thing about a blog is that it is permanent: your readers can come back and review the information in your posts again and again. What I am doing with these posts is threefold:

  • I am educating my potential customers and creating awareness about aspects of the various stamp issues that they may not be aware of. This information will allow them to make better purchasing decisions and better selling decisions. 
  • By doing this I am slowly building a reputation as someone who is knowlegeable in my chosen field. I am also building credibility and trust. 
  • By educating collectors about the possibilities that exist with certain issues, I am expanding the potential market for that material. 
The ultimate aim of doing the above is to increase sales, but I recognize that this takes a long time to happen. The posts I am working on today may take years to yield the bulk of the sales increase that will eventually result from them. However, my experience so far is that any customer obtained this way that trusts me will come back and buy more from me than he or she would if I only used paid advertising to reach him or her. 

So I believe the first thing you need to recognize about using social media to grow your business is that the majority of your sales growth will come from organic traffic that you grow by consistently posting relevant content related to your product or service that your target customers will be interested in, while including a link to your website. In this way you are not hard-selling your customers: they can access your website if they want to, but they don't feel like they have to. Paid I think will only work if your product is something that is highly specialized, and rare. In that case, then it should be fairly effective, as your potential customers will appreciate simply being informed on where to find what they are looking for. There is certainly no reason why you can't supplement some paid advertising on Facebook with creation of organic content. But I think you are going to be disappointed if you go into using Facebook by just running paid ads. I think most people will respond to paid ads on Facebook in exactly the same way they do to ads on TV or Youtube. That leads me to my next observation.

Social Media Takes a Huge Commitment of Time

If you want to build a following of potential customers, you have to get traffic to your blog posts or your Facebook page and have to convert those readers into people who go view your website. To do this you need to be posting content on a regular basis, and the content needs to be varied. The reason of course is that people get addicted to information and you don't know when someone has the time to read your posts.

This doesn't mean that you need to post every day, but it does mean that you need to post on a regular schedule, whether that be weekly, daily or monthly. Your readers, if they like your content will start checking back for more, and if they don't find it, they won't come back to your blog. They probably won't start exploring the pages on your blog like "about the author", or "links", until they have read enough of your content to decide they like you and are curious to know more about you or your business.

Of course your posts have to be contain quality information if you are hoping to build a loyal following of customers. This means it needs to be both accurate and useful. Because of this, you are going to find that it takes a lot of time to write a blog post. For instance, I have been writing this post now for just over an hour. I had to think for a good hour before that about what I wanted to say. For many of my stamp blog posts, I have to do research, which can take an hour or more. I also have to obtain scans of stamps to provide interesting and useful images to my readers. So an average stamp blog post can take me 3 or 4 hours to write.

Once you have written your post and published it, you need to promote it by sharing it to various social media platform, such as:

  • Your timeline on Facebook.
  • Your business page on Facebook
  • Any Facebook Groups that you are a member of.
  • Linked-in
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
and so on.

One of the most effective ways to dramatically increase the readership of your blog is to join as many groups as you can on Facebook that you can whose members will be interested in your blog. Once you are a member, you can share your posts manually to each of those groups. As I said before, there is no automatic way to do this, but if you have a tab open with your groups list you can do all this sharing in about half an hour to an hour, depending on how many groups you are sharing to. Many of these groups have thousands or tens of thousands of members. Think about that for a minute. Technology now allows us for free, to compose an informative message in a few hours and put it in front of tens of thousands of people in a matter of hours, and it is permanent. That is a phenomenally productive use of your time, even though it may not feel like it is because you are not getting immediate sales. 

The key is to be consistent and to remember that page-views and likes are not everything. They are important, but over the long-run, you will attract readers simply by virtue of the fact that over time, Google's search algorithms will push your posts to the top of the search engine's results. The way their algorithm works, the more content you have published that is relevant to readers, the higher your search ranking. So as long as you consistently post informative, quality articles, they will contain the keywords that place you in the forefront of Google's search engine. In this way you will attract traffic from social media, but also from outside social media as well. In the end, what you are looking for are prospects who convert to customers. Not everybody - in fact very few people on Facebook who like a page will buy anything. So don't get discouraged when you see only 100 page-views on your blog in a day, when some stupid Youtube video gets a million hits. Remember that those million people clicking on that video aren't buying anything directly, although if the video is of a new music artist's song then yes, they will likely attend that artist's concert or buy the record. If your product is in some specialized niche, even though you reach is small, as long as you are consistent you are going to become a known leader in your field pretty quickly. 

I have only been blogging 5 days a week for four months now and as of today I appear at the bottom of the first page in Google's search results when "Canadian Philately" is entered into the search. "Canadian stamps" doesn't bring me up at all, because it is too general. If I enter the name of a specific stamp issue that I have posted about like "The Karsh Issue of Canada 1953-1967", I'm now 5th from the top on the first page. The first four results are for Yousuf Karsh, the photographer who inspired the set design. I'm actually the first stamp result, outranking everyone else. Why? Because I have written 5 blog posts consisting of probably 15,000 words. So the more you post, the more consistently, the closer to #1 in Google search you will appear. That is crucial because it means now that any stamp collector interested in that set that searches for this issue in Google is going to find my blog. Because they are interested, they are going to read it. Eventually they will notice that I am a stamp dealer and then if they like what I have to say, they may look for the links to my E-bay store. 

That is how it works I think. You lay the foundation today for the traffic you expect to get tomorrow. 


  1. Good on ya mate, seems like you put some real thought into your business plan.

  2. I like your overall post but I will counter one thing you said about ads. If an ad is funny or very interesting then there is click potential but otherwise I agree, people pass by them.

  3. You are absolutely right. I didn't think to address that aspect of ads. I guess I should have said that if you are going to do paid ads, at least make them funny or interesting.

  4. Exactly! Great post overall.