We hear a lot from our clients about the confusion and the difficulty of maintaining their websites AND their social media feeds AND their businesses. Small and medium sized businesses spend so much time juggling so many things its hard to keep it all straight – and hard to prioritize what might be most beneficial to the business at any one time.
So lets kick the facts, in this digitally pervasive era. The first is that the majority of people interested in your business are going to check it out online as a matter of vetting you, and they’re going to form judgments on your business based on your website presentation. A study by the firm Brainrider found that 85% of business to business customers search the web before making a purchase decision, so a website is generally the “first impression” of your company and offerings. A Stanford University study found that 75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design.
If you’ve got social media going on, and its featured on the site, they’re going to check you out there, too. Or perhaps they’ll find you first on social media, which will lead them back to your website (or primary place of business, like, say, Etsy).
So which social media channel matters?
Some people have harnessed one specific social media channel and are using it to drive their businesses.
I recently visited a brick and mortar furniture shop that sells beautifully refinished midcentury modern furniture in the Hudson Valley. The work was exquisite, and expensive, and I wondered to myself how a niche furniture design shop was making a living there. Anyone who’s in the business of brick and mortar furniture will tell you it can be difficult to get enough foot traffic to keep on. Well, I didn’t even have to ask: the proprietor told me that 70% of his sales come from people seeing his wares on Instagram. Likewise I recently read a first person report on Etsy of a pottery designer who couldn’t keep her Etsy store stocked because by featuring her work on Instagram, she’d sell out of items in light speed. Check out some more Instagram success stories here.
Pinterest is a huge influencer as well. While American men use the service, but 70% of users are women. (The company points out that more men use the platform in the U.S. every month than read Sports Illustrated and GQ combined, and there’s a 50-50 split between male and female Pinners in emerging markets like India, Korea, and Japan.) So again it’s business specific: if you sell building tools, for example, posting pictures of aluminum siding may not get you far on Pinterest. However, if you’re clever like Home Depot, you could use Pinterest to show how your tools can be used to do home renovation projects. (People care less about your stuff and more about the benefit it provides them. Show them the benefits in social media).
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Others choose Facebook to drive their engagement with potential customers. Consider for example Mychal Stittsworth, who increased his family’s meat market sales in Minnesota by 250% by engaging with customers through a facebook page. “I’d post about taking a batch of salmon out of the smoker or about a new brat recipe we developed, and we’d sell out right away. People would tell me how they were looking at Facebook at work and decided to come by on their way home after seeing something we shared.”
Twitter is a great place for making connections with future customers and friends as well, and twitter friends can turn into real life friends. There are lots of stories out there, but our favorite is one that happened to one of Medium & Message’s own staff. She had an active twitter campaign to share research on a specific topic, trying to bridge the divide between the academics and the general twitter population. It landed her in the sights of a prominent New York thinktank, which turned into a series of consulting gigs that took her to Ecuador and Peru over the course of two years. Not bad for a thing she started in her spare time.
And let’s not forget…. email
And then, there’s email. Everyone’s talking about building your email list these days (and that’s why it seems like 80% of websites you visit have those annoying popups to subscribe to their newsletters) – but there’s a great reason for that. People most likely only see your social media posts if they happen to be on those social media channels in the hours after you post there. But email >> everyone checks their email boxes regularly – and nearly everyone uses email, unlike facebook or linkedin. And while not everyone opens all their emails, they’ll still see yours – and it will stay there until they take some sort of action with it. In case you’re still not convinced, according to Smart Insights: Email campaigns see 50-100 times the click rates that Facebook and Twitter do. So the point here is that yes, there are a bunch of social media channels as well as email, and a bunch of televangelists for each one telling you why your business needs to be on whichever channel they think is most important.
Which channel, then?
The truth is, you need to be on the channel you think is most important, and/or the one that makes the most sense for your particular business. You don’t need to be on 15 different ones. (Snapchat for business? Sure, it can be done… but why? Unless your business model is doing 24 hour flash sales to millennials – snapchats disappear in 24 hours, and making one is a lot of effort for essentially disposable content.)
If you’re in a business that caters to a lot of travelers, you can’t ignore TripAdvisor. If you’re a restaurant, you can’t ignore Yelp. If you’re selling physical products, Instagram is king. Pinterest is also huge for physical selling – if your products fit their female-skewed demographic. And if you want to community build your services-based business via Facebook, do that!
But There Has to Be a Point
But there’s got to be a point to all that activity. It needs to drive people back to your website and your physical location, if you have one.
Each of these platforms have limitations to what a physical post can be (character limits, image requirements, etc) that are outside of your control. You may be limited about what you can say about your business in the bio. You may only be able to feature one link where people can check you out more.
That’s why your website is so powerful. Its the place where you get to tell your whole story, as you see fit, provide all the information that a potential customer might need or want, and showcase all that you have to offer, in once place.
Your website is your home base. Your social media is the outfield. Ultimately the goal is to get people to return to the motherland. To try out another metaphor, Call it Zion. Social media is for proselytizing, but the goal is to get people to come to church (or your etsy page, whatever.)
[bctt tweet=”Your website is Zion. Social media is for proselytizing, but the goal is to get people to come to church.”]
There should be a flow back and forth between social media and your website. Neither exist in a vaccuum; and your website and social media are all part of your presentation.
So back to this question, with limited hours in the day, where should the effort go, social media, or your website?
Most people would choose social media. It is quicker to do, right? Well, not necessarily. And if you’re out on social media talking about an upcoming event your business is having, and people go to your website to find out something more, and there’s nothing there… then you’ve put the cart in front of the horse. You’ve piqued people’s interest and then aren’t fulfilling their desire for the whole story.
So the answer to the question is, you should be focusing on your website FIRST.
So how is a busy biz supposed to deal with the website, AND social media, AND business?