It’s not often I get to enjoy in depth conversation with enterpreneurs who are in a similar position to me, about things which affect us all.
But this week there was a lot of discussion around social media and just how useful it actually is to small businesses. In particular the conversation was directed at Facebook.
I have never viewed social media as a sales platform. I rarely shift products because of it and hardly ever get a private commission as a result. But it has been great for organising collaborative work with fellow creatives (specifically photoshoots) and for use as a ‘Here I am!’ marketing platform – not for getting products sold but simply for saying, ‘Hey, I’m here, I’m still in business!’ And of course it’s ideal for getting your portfolio out into the world.
But equally, working as a sole proprietor, and especially if you work from home a lot, social media can provide an important lifeline to fellow business people and the public. It’s a lonely world and keeping in it can be difficult if you are the only one in your business and contact with clients is limited.
The article which sparked the initial conversation ‘The End Of Organic Reach = The End of Facebook?’ looked at the demise of Facebook for business because in order to get ‘reaches’ you now have to pay. And, it seems (thanks to a leaked sales deck in November), that even paying doesn’t increase traffic. It’s why you rarely see ‘Liked’ pages appearing in your newsfeed these days. If you don’t pay, you don’t get shared. So, not surprisingly, people are walking away and looking for other places to ply their trade – specifically free places. Of far more interest than the article is how it’s affecting real people, real businesses.
We considered the other options, but none of them – Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn are really ‘sales platforms’. They are simply social media tools for reminding people you still exist and connecting with fellow business owners (not your client!). In some cases this might be enough and having that sort of online presence will have its value to small businesses, but it involves a lot of housekeeping, publishing posts, tweets and shares to make sure you’re always in the loop. I lose most of my evenings to social media housekeeping. And for what?
Is there another option? And can you ever replace good old fashion face to face customer contact with the sterile environment of the computer screen. Even Etsy, the rival to Ebay has proved a poor performer for many small businesses. One large sale in September has been the only thing stopping me from shutting up shop completely. Plenty of browsers but few sales. Just like the high street I guess. Only without the large monthly outlays.
The only other online alternative is the website. A good clean simple site should at least give you a decent enough presence and you don’t even need to pay anything to get you started. A good one will be expensive but it depends how much you think you will rely on it. Many social media users are there because of the small or non-existent financial outlays.
Sometimes it’s the difference between losing money and breaking even, let alone profiting.
My thanks to Pearls and Swine for heading up the conversation that inspired this post. Now let’s see if this heads up works. ;-)