This is one of a series of blog posts in which the owners of small and start-up businesses talk to me about the ways they use social media and the difference it has (or hasn’t) made to their business.
All sorts of entrepreneurs will be appearing here – from business coaches to web designers and anyone in between. If you would like to be featured, just get in touch.
This time, it’s the turn of Marianna Beckwith, The director of Chocolate Box Coaching. She has been in business since 2013, offering one-to-one coaching or group training in NLP techniques. She is fairly new to social media and is not certain yet how much benefit her company receives.
What social media do you use for your business?
What forms of promotion and customer communication did you use before?
As a new business, I started with all of the above, having built my website. I was very aware that I would need the social media connections at the same time as launching my website, so I installed them. This was a good way to propel myself into the social media world immediately.
What are the benefits of social media for a business?
It’s an effective means of being in contact with fellow professionals in a variety of related businesses as well as connecting to clients. This is important to me, as I work alone when I’m not working with clients. For me, having an occasional chat, or asking a question via social media now takes the place of interaction in a busy office. Using a variety of social media also means I can promote my business in a variety of styles, depending on the specific platform (Facebook is more chatty, LinkedIn more corporate). Social media is very immediate, and can generate some interesting, spontaneous discussions. It’s sometimes surprising to see how far the reach can go from a chance post, or comment. The ability to schedule posts is a useful way to stay current and in the “public eye”. It’s useful for promotional campaigns, provided it’s handled carefully.
What are the disadvantages?
Time. I could easily spend all day researching posts to share, and writing my own posts. For the return I get in terms of revenue, I’m not yet convinced that it’s the best use of my resources. For my business, face-to-face contact is also extremely important, so I need to communicate directly with people as much as possible. For me, interaction in a purely virtual environment needs to be carefully balanced with face-to-face networking. If you offer a service with face-to-face communication as the foundation of that service, you need to meet people personally to build trust.
What is your social media strategy?
I run the SM, with occasional help and advice from colleagues. I have invested in some 1:1 training, which was valuable up to a point. I post my blog weekly, and share it across all the SM sites mentioned above. I post on FB and Twitter during the week, as and when I find information I consider would be interesting/valuable/amusing to my friends, colleagues and potential clients. When I have courses running, I use SM for reminders.
What difference do you think it has made to your business?
At the moment, I’m still evaluating its effectiveness. I feel that I need to do it to stay on the radar, because everyone else uses it, but I can’t say that I’ve had much business from it yet. Facebook has been the most successful for me so far in terms of reach. I will continue to use SM because I believe the interaction is valuable.
What would you recommend to someone starting out with social media?
I’d say that using SM effectively demands time, commitment and perseverance. It also depends very much on the type of business you have, as to how much success you may have with it. Some online companies do very well with it, because if its “instant gratification” element. For those businesses, it’s an effective tool. Twitter is good for chats, and so is FB and G+. My personal rule is to be very wary of what you post in the heat of the moment, to read your posts carefully before you share, to be mindful of how they might be interpreted (would you mind your mum/grandmother reading it?). Get as much advice from as many different sources as you can, from people who have built successful businesses with and without heavy SM use. Know who your clients are likely to be, and invest most of your time with their SM of choice. Adapt your approach so it is appropriate for the individual platforms.
Marianna is The Chocolate Box Coach – coaching for educational professionals, life change, career success, and communication skills. She also works in partnership with other wellbeing professionals to provide taster sessions for corporates keen to boost the health and wellbeing of their employees.