Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Linkedin, and now Periscope. Social platforms that have taken over our lives, both personal and professional, or so it seems. At least for most of us. As a 50-something-year-old business woman, I was a little late to the game, however, I realized quickly, five or so years ago, that if I wanted to survive in the hospitality industry as a small business owner, I had to embrace one or two platforms, learn them, and use them. Every day. Here’s why:
Pinterest – 70 Million Active Users
Twitter – 560 Million Active Users
Facebook – 1 Billion Active Users
Instagram – 150 Million Active Users
Google+ – 400 Million Active Users
Linkedin – 240 Million Active Users
How else can I reach out to, let me see, that adds up to 2.42 Billion users? Of course my little Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts don’t touch millions, but technically, they could. Yes, we all know that you now have to “pay to play” on Facebook to be seen, and sponsored posts are popping up on other platforms as well, but most posts that “go viral” were not initially sponsored posts. I would have been an idiot to not get in the game, and probably dead in the water by now.
By no means am I a social media expert so I am not going to even attempt to explain one platform over another to you, or the pros and cons of each. Instead I write to those who are critical of social media, making their digs to those of us trying to get our little businesses seen and heard, trying to survive in a sea of experts.
“I hate Facebook.”
“My friend’s husband reconnected with his high school sweetheart on Facebook and left her last year.”
“We don’t do social media. We’ve heard about the things people post.”
“I have a job. I could never find the time to play like that.”
“I’d never let my kids have an account. Nothing good happens there.”
“I stare at a computer all day at work. The last thing I want to do when I get home is turn on another computer.”
I’ve heard it all. I respect your feelings, opinions and choices. All I ask is that you respect mine as well. (And stop rambling on about something you know nothing about, for the most part.)
In response to the critics, I say:
Social media is in part how I have built my businesses. Period. How? Here are just a few ways:
- I can hear my readers/followers/fans and respond.
They check-in at Three Birds Tavern, post pics of their food, and let me know on the spot about their experience. Good and bad, and I can improve my business as a result.
- Online exposure allows me to attract guests/customers.
- Posts on social media afford a behind the scenes look at the business, involving staff, preparation details, etc.
- I can get personal with you, I can be authentic, and people like that. At least many do.
- Social media allows me to showcase our brand. We paid a lot of money for logo creation, branding, etc., and it is important to showcase the brand regularly.
- I can put our guests/customers in the spotlight by sharing their posts, and they like that.
- It’s instant. Posting. Commenting. Responding. Fixing a problem. Spotlighting a special event.
On a personal level, I have reconnected with many people from my past on social media: elementary school, high school, college, Indonesia, my 20’s, my 30’s, and so on. People that I would otherwise most likely never talked to again. With some I’ve discussed illness, death and suicide, comforting one another during difficult times. With some I’ve shared business connections and helped find jobs. I will admit that I reconnected, and quickly disconnected with some, remembering why I initially disconnected. However, I have not reconnected with any old flames and abandoned by current life. I am guessing that if you are looking to do that, you are going to do it, whether that be via some social platform, email, cell phone, at work or on a barstool.
Social media is not how I communicate with family and close friends. There are times that I see something that reminds me of one of my kids, a close friend, or even Jack, and I will quickly “share” simply because at that moment it is easy, and efficient. I talk to my loved ones, usually daily, in a more personal setting (ok, I confess, often by text).
My posts are not about you. Believe it or not. I do not have the time or energy to plot against anyone via social media. There are times I post things on my personal page that have some quiet meaning to me, but with certainty I say that my posts are never directed at any one person, in a negative or vengeful way. If you know me well, you know that if I have something to say to you, and if I care about our relationship, I will share my thoughts with you directly. If I don’t care, I won’t share, with you, or on social media. Promise.
In addition to promoting my own businesses, I use social media to promote you. We rise by lifting others. I say this over and over, and try to take time out of most days to find someone out there on social media who is fighting for their business, art, music, cause, etc., to be seen and heard. So I share. It takes very little effort, may boost their confidence at some particular time, and who knows what connections might come for them from a share. A click of a button to like and another to share.
Social media takes a lot of time and commitment, and a post is not a post is not a post. There is a difference between good social media and bad social media, and just as it can help you build your business, it can destroy a business as well. Most often, in my opinion, the effect is flat, does nothing, or very little, to grow your business. To see results, you must take the time to learn about the different social platforms, choose one or two that you are comfortable with, stay current during the daily evolutions, and commit to looking at it daily. Yes, you read that right. Daily.
So to those who believe that all social platforms are evil and every moment we spend on them is a waste of time, I ask that you consider the potential good for small business owners starting up on a shoestring budget. For artists who can post photos of their art for us to actually see. For musicians who can post recordings of their music on Youtube (check out Highway 4) and Vine Videos. For a teenager who is talented with Photoshop and Adobe InDesign, and could help other businesses while growing his business experience.
Of course there are potential negatives that go along with online communication, just like everything else in life, bullying and the luring of minors by adult perverts among the most concerning for me. I lived through teenagers and AOL, and completely understand those concerns. If you have minors in the house using social media, it is even more important that you become educated and savvy with the platforms attracting the teens in your area. It is also important that they learn to navigate appropriate social platforms. It will be a part of their lives, eventually, and one day most will drink a beer, smoke a joint and have sex. Education is key. Teach them about it to protect them.
Thanks for reading, keep your mind open, go ahead and post. Social media is fun!