It’s interesting that, in most walks of life, we divide ourselves into givers and receivers, doers and watchers, active and passive, makers and breakers, and any other set of opposites that you might care to mention in this context. As a business owner, you have a choice as to how you view the world: will yours be a company that keeps its head down and sticks to the knitting, making a living and quite happy about that, not looking for the next big thing – maintaining rather than developing, slightly in awe of those competitors who seem to race ahead with products and services or with their self-promotion?
Or will you be a market leader, someone who is differentiated from the mass, someone to whom others look for thought leadership and guidance, an acknowledged expert in your field?
It’s that sort of split which marks out companies that are on the track to somewhere from those that are on the road to nowhere. Not that nowhere is a particularly bad place. It’s neither bad not good. Not very exciting. No great challenge. But no great thrill either. What they’re looking for is a quiet life, servicing the needs of their customers and not getting involved in the challenges of business expansion, digital marketing or any of that sort of fancy stuff. It might not work, anyway, they say. So, best leave it alone?
OK – a slightly bizarre and extreme picture there, yet there will be readers of this piece who will, in their more objective moments, realise that they are somewhere on that spectrum, keeping their light hidden and not making any ripples (mixed metaphor, but you get where I’m coming from?)
Social media – and indeed, most aspects of digital marketing – involve sticking your head above the parapet, saying something to get attention, “showing off” as your mother would have called it. And some people are quite definitely more skilled at this form of promotion than others.
Social media influencers garner huge followings of people who subscribe to their channels to hang on their every word or action. These can be as diverse as lifestyle gurus espousing their particular road to happiness; famous, infamous or semi-famous cooks showing off the latest way to prepare something you’d never have thought of; or simply a person who eats in front of the camera, just so that you can watch him or her. Why would anyone follow this stuff? Take Matt Stonie for example. At the time of writing, he has over 8 million subscribers to his Youtube channel. He eats stuff – huge quantities of it – and narrates his views as he goes. It’s hardly gastronomy but he’s followed and makes a huge amount of money from what he does.
Or take DrawingWiffWaffles – around 1.5 million Youtube subscribers. She draws. You watch. But she’s also sharing her skills and reviewing materials as she goes – this is the way to make a living. Maybe I should start a channel where people can watch me writing this sort of article. Would it catch on? Probably not. Why not? Because it doesn’t capture the imagination or have an engagement factor. It’s not adding value to life and it’s not making a difference.
How is all of this relevant for the media that businesses use to communicate? If we start from the premise that it’s undeniable that a good social media presence enhances your company’s chances of being found online and can influence purchasing decisions, then it stands to reason that some people are better at this than others. What makes that difference and how do you achieve it in your sphere of expertise?
The key word in that last sentence was “expertise” – you have it. You must have. It’s why you set up your company. Whether it’s because you can source the best seafood, make the most beautiful jewellery, deliver goods on time, repair washing machines or tell other people how to make themselves more attractive, you are the expert in that field and others aren’t. Leveraging that fact is where the skill lies in building a good social media presence so that you become an influencer.
Before you get to the social media though, you need to understand that whichever platform you choose, it’s merely the signpost to where you keep your content. Write a blog or post news articles on your website, maintain a Youtube channel where you post loads of videos and embed that channel on your website. Create a podcast and broadcast on a regular basis about the topics that are close to your heart. All of that’s the content. Now, drive audience with social media.
Let’s look at the stages:
- Choose your platform: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest… – make sure it’s likely to hit your audience, depending on whether your business is B2B or B2C
- Decide where you want to drive people with your posts – to your website, to your blog, to your podcast, to a product page, to something else – it’s this place which will be the main host for everything you do
- Set some objectives – e.g. a target of 100 followers in two months or 2 million in a year – what’s reasonable?
- Define what you are going to promote on that platform, e.g.: create “How to” posts or videos; discuss how legislation affects what you do; provide commentary on changes and developments in your area of expertise; promote events or products or offers; showcase your company and its employees by giving “behind the scenes” insight; provide an overview of how things have changed over the past 10 years in your line of business; provide an overview of how things will change in the next 10 years; invite guest bloggers to post; and so on, – all content that’s waiting for traffic from the social platforms
- Set up a writing and posting schedule and stick to it – creating content and then promoting it through your social media
- Write engaging, visually attractive (use pics and video), concise and well-written posts on your social platforms that always have a “so what?” – a link to click or an action to take
Your objective is to become the go-to person for this type of information. You are setting yourself up as an authority and the more you do that, the better you’ll get at it. For example, take a look at the ExtraMile blog – I”m not holding this up as a paragon of perfection, but it gives you an idea of how this can work. You’ll find an eclectic mix of articles here and they get a good deal of traffic. We write them with SEO considerations in mind – in other words, they will feature in search results for those topics. Most of all though, we write them to inform, to share knowledge and to demonstrate that we are, in fact, experts in what we do.
Then we blast the heck out of them with posts from social media! This is how to be an influencer in social media. You should try it – it’s fun and it engages all of your workforce if you play it right.
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Nick Evans is Chairman of ExtraMile Communications, which he set up in 2000 with Gabrielle Hadley (Managing Director). ExtraMile is an international digital marketing agency that provides multilingual services in web design and development, email marketing, Search Engine Marketing and PR to companies large and small. (www.extramilecommunications.com)
Previously, Nick was Head of Marketing for Apple Education and before that, had a career in sales and marketing after being a school teacher in the North East of England. He has a long history of working in and with technology, in education, in marketing and in business. He is a published author with titles in topics including business development, education software and, latterly, a venture into teen fiction.