I do Facebook, as they say. It’s a necessary evil of running a small business. For me it helps me maintain a connection between my local friends and my business and has resulted in sales from friends who otherwise might not see what I sell. However, more and more I see posts on Facebook saying things like ‘5 ways to support your friends business without buying anything’ or pleas to ‘support friends small businesses like you support celebrities you don’t actually know’. I’m left wondering why do I need to ask?
Why do we need to ask to support friends small businesses?
I just find it bizarre that ‘we’ feel we need to ‘ask’ friends to support our small businesses.
What is a friend? If I consider myself a friend with someone then surely I want to support them? Why on earth do they need to ask me? I think our society is coming to something very bereft if supporting our friends isn’t just a given.
Perhaps the very same Facebook (or other social media platforms) are responsible? Have they disconnected us so far from ‘community’ that we don’t care or identify with each other any more. Or is that just an excuse for justifying a self-centred existence that just thinks about ourselves, our convenience. Do we resent so much when our friends seemingly give up on the traditional ‘proper job’ to try and make it on their own that we don’t want to support them. Perhaps we want them to fail so that we can feel better about not taking the same leap of faith and giving up all to start our own businesses?
Perhaps it’s none of my business?
My business, if you don’t happen to be a friend who has found this blog post by clicking a link on my Facebook page, is cards and gift wrap. I’m not selling anything wacky. I’m not selling anything unusual, expensive or so exclusive that you’d never want to use it. I sell birthday cards. Everyone has a birthday I’m pretty sure everyone knows someone who has a birthday. So it stands to reason that everyone I know will at some point need to buy a birthday card. I sell gift wrap too. Most people at some point need to wrap a present, or put it in a gift bag (I do those too!).
Yet, I know lots of ‘friends’ who never buy a thing from me.
I do need to add here that I have LOTS of friends who do buy from me and without them I’d have given up my small business years ago. I’m not ungrateful and this isn’t a post to beg the friends who don’t support me to buy.
I’d like to beg, if I thought it would do any good. I’d really like to tell you how hard my family is finding things. I gave up my ‘career’ to look after my children full time and my husband has just gone part time in his ‘proper job’ to try and make it as a writer. Oh we’re struggling but it’s our choice to be where we are. We didn’t think it would be easy. We have asked for help with little things but only sometimes do people listen. A good example is when a friend reads one of my husband’s books, we ask them to leave a review on Amazon. Just to click the stars, not even to write anything but only a small minority of people have. That small act can make a huge difference to a writer. If everyone left a review it would help enormously.
All the posts on Facebook are true. Liking, commenting, sharing friend’s posts does help a small business. But for flip’s sake it’s not half as helpful as actually buying the stuff!
But your choices are none of my business.
Is it too much to ask?
I’m not going to ask you to buy anything from my shop. I suspect I’ve already lost a few ‘fans’ just by writing this post. Perhaps I am just too disconnected from my friends. I’m probably too busy myself to really understand what they need, why should it be any different them to me.
Instead I’m going to look up a few friends I know who have small businesses and give them some support over the next few days.
If you would like to see some samples first just ask and I’ll be happy to send you some.
Perhaps you have a business that could use every day cards too? E.g. how about sending ‘New Home’ cards to your customers if you’re an estate agent, or ‘Sympathy’ cards when people lose their pets if you’re a vet.
Sending a greeting card to your customers with a handwritten note makes an overwhelming positive statement. Boost your image by making it personal and send our exclusively illustrated cards to your clients today.
Found this great article about why sending ‘holiday’ cards is great for business but I think there is far more potential than just Christmas cards. So I’ve added in my own suggestions of what cards businesses could send. Do you have any other ideas – I’d love to hear them. Business thank you cards are the obvious ones but what others could you use?
Business thank you cards
Inspire your employees
Let them know you’re thinking about them
Business specific cards
There are many different kinds of businesses available to the consumer today. Customers can choose who they want to do business with and with more businesses opening daily, and the explosion of internet businesses, customers are looking for the best places to do business with. Never before has it been more important to try and keep the clients your business currently has.
The number one reason customers will tell you that they want is good service. They want to feel as though the business cares whether or not they choose their service. In order to keep the clients you have and build new clients you need to keep the customers feeling important.
Business greeting cards are an excellent way to let your clients know that you appreciate their business and welcome their return. During the holidays more and more businesses are sending greeting cards. Most customers will welcome the little surprise as long as some general rules are followed.
First of all it is very important to have current information on the customer such as address and name. A business that sends a greeting card with good intentions to the wrong address or with a misspelled name will come off as impersonal and pushy.
Secondly it is imperative that the greeting cards are kept with a neutral tone, so as not to offend. However there are exceptions to the rule, if a business chooses to stand by their religion choice and is willing to risk losing a customer, then a religious card is acceptable.
Finally the most important part of sending a holiday greeting card to a customer is to have the head of the company sign the cards personally. This is the only way to ensure the client feels touched by the company’s awareness and compassion. An unsigned card will be the same as a flyer in the mail.
Holiday greeting cards sent out by businesses are an excellent way to remind the client that you are it for them, even if they don’t require your services at present time, the card will ensure they will return when they need your services next time.
The personal greeting cards are just that, personal. Customers want to feel as though you need and want their business. The customer also wants to feel as though they are important to your business.
Another benefit to holiday greeting cards are they serve as a type of reminder notice, reminding clients of the need to make a return appointment or a servicing due on a vehicle. The client will be more likely to pick up the phone and request your business after they receive a personal greeting. Keeping the camaraderie going between client and business will pay back when they return and have told others that you remembered them during the holidays.
Here are 5 ideas for how to do Facebook networking with your Facebook page. What happens when we network, who we can network with, including comment buddies and networking groups. Finally a wee look at how much time to spend Facebook networking and what to do when it’s not working.
I’d like to start with my disclaimer! I am not a social media expert, I just offer to share what has or hasn’t worked for me. I trust that you will do the same so that we can learn from each other. Please feel free to ask questions or add your comments, tips, strategies or alternative opinions.
1 Understand networking and what happens when you network
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar
The idea of Facebook networking is really no different to networking face to face. You are engaging with people in conversation. It’s about building other people up who will then do the same for you.
On Facebook this means liking, commenting and occasionally sharing other people’s posts, maybe pages.
If you don’t interact with other people’s pages then they will not interact with yours. It’s as simple as that – unless you have a very very engaging page that attracts a lot of interest or controversy!
When you like or comment on someone’s post then all your Facebook friends get notification of that in their newsfeed. Also it tells Facebook that the post you’ve commented on is interesting. Facebook will then show it to more people meaning that person’s engagement/’people who saw this post’ will go up. In turn, the page holder will (should!) respond to your comment, which in turn will show up in people’s newsfeeds and show people that you are someone who engages. If you network consistently with someone in this way, they will start doing the same with you.
2 Who to do Facebook networking with.
Some ideas are; other similar businesses, local businesses, any other businesses you already know, common interest groups.
A) – other similar businesses. This might depend on your business type. For me, I’m a Independent Phoenix Trader so to raise the profile of Phoenix Trading on Facebook then it’s a good idea to interact with each other. It also means that if I post once a day on your page, and regularly interact with say 2 others who do the same, then my friends could see 3 posts a day that are linked to Phoenix cards (when I am only posting 1)…it shares the workload. Most customers are loyal and it won’t matter that they’ve seen something they like on someone else’s page, they will probably still come back to you to ask to buy whatever they have seen.
I am part of a fabulous Phoenix Trading comment buddy group.
There are 3 of us who comment on pretty much every post we each do. We have set up a secret group on Facebook just for us, makes it easier to talk to each other if we need to, which we don’t have to very often. We’ve also (I think) got to know each other quite well and our interaction with each other has encouraged us in many aspects of our Phoenix business, not just Facebook. We deliberately chose three of us who weren’t part of the same team or in any way connected through our uplines, except very distantly. We don’t benefit financially from each other and we don’t live near each other.
I definitely saw my reach improve as soon as we started doing this and we’ve been doing this about a year now and it still makes a difference to how many people see my posts.
Idea – why not find two other similar business pages who post about the same amount as you and agree to a strategy to comment on each others posts. You can set limits (in case one of them goes a bit post happy and posts 20 times a day!)…that you comment on up to 3 posts a day, say. You can be as flexible as you like as to when you comment and you don’t have to comment the minute you post, you can always catch up on their posts a day later.
B) – Local businesses. Most of our customer base is usually built in the local area. It makes sense to have local customers, delivery is easier, you can make face to face contact and build meaningful sales relationships with them a lot easier than you can online. Facebook networking with local businesses can lead to new contacts for baskets, sales or even Traders.
Where I am there were no local business networks on Facebook so I started one!
We have both a page and group. On the page we share and comment on local business posts (it is a lot of work and I don’t do it on my own anymore!). The page is Western Isles Emporium if you want to see it. I set up the group so that we could find out about events in the area – ever feel you’re always the last to know what’s going on, after it’s all booked out??? That was me – so I started the group, turns out every one else felt like they didn’t know either! As a result of this we started a new monthly craft fair that I coordinate and we now have monthly small business networking lunches.
Since the page started sharing my posts, I’ve seen my post reach jump from 1-200 to 5-600 on a regular basis. It’s taken a couple of months to get it going but it’s been worth it and I certainly feel more connected with other businesses locally.
Idea – find out what local business networks already exist on Facebook and join in. Bizmums have groups in various parts of the country, here we have ‘Business Gateway’ and there are lots of other individual local groups. Maybe you already know of a group from craft fairs or events you’ve been to. Support the other businesses on there. Click ‘get notifications’ on their FB pages so you can like and comment on their posts.
C) – Other businesses of a similar genre, e.g. craft businesses if that’s what you do. I suggest this because this is the group of people I’ve found most interested in Phoenix. On the whole the crafty people appreciate the design/artwork of Phoenix and seem to respond positively to our products.
There are lots of networking sites out there and many of these will share your posts for you if you share a link from your page to their wall.
To do this go to your page and click on the picture that you’ve already posted on your page, that you want to share. Then copy the link and go to the page. Where it says ‘write something on this page…’ paste the link and add an extra comment if you wish. If you don’t add a comment then it will come up with whatever comment you’ve already put on the post on your page before. I should say it’s a good idea to post to these sorts of walls from your page – this means switching to your page, not using your personal profile.
Idea – find two Facebook networking pages on Facebook and post to their wall. Tip – They will appreciate it if you also comment on some of the posts they have already shared (remember it’s not just about you!). See if they share your post. If you get some engagement back then try and share with them from time to time.
D) – Common interest groups. I’m part of a #WednesdayNightBakeOff group – we only post once a week with that #. Always at the same time/day, we tag the pages that are taking part each week. (It’s not compulsory so it can be different each week.) We all comment on each other’s posts. It’s only a once a week so not demanding, quite fun and means once a week I know what I’m posting about!
Idea – find something you enjoy doing that you could share on your page once a week. Start a common interest group and agree to post something interesting once a week with your made up #. (# makes it easier for you to find each other). This doesn’t have to be related to your business, it’s only once a week and it makes you look human as it’s a personal side of you.
3 Comment Buddies and Networking Groups
So we touched on comment buddies already. I mentioned my Phoenix comment buddy group of 3. It doesn’t have to be the same business as you. Perhaps you already have friends who are running business pages on FB. Why not make an agreement with a couple of them to comment on each other’s posts.
Facebook networking groups can be bigger than comment buddy groups. I guess my #wednesdaynightbakeoff group is more of a networking group. Another I’ve been involved in does one or two different things each week. E.g. they’ll do a ‘photo experiment’ where you post a link to a photo that you’ve already published on your page, as will anyone who wants to take part. They agree that on whatever day everyone who’s taking part will visit each post and leave a like and comment. Or they might do a video post, or a one up one down where you comment on the person above and below you in the list on a certain day.
Idea – who do you already interact with on Facebook? Why not ask them to form a networking group? You may find that other business pages are grateful of this, most of us want to improve our Facebook reach!
4 How much time should I spend on Facebook networking?
Only what you can and ideally no more than 20 minutes a day.
Of course it depends how many groups you get in to but you probably don’t want Facebook taking over your business. There are so many other ways to develop your business, Facebook is only a part of it.
Try to be disciplined. Once you know what ‘groups’ you are going to be networking with, stick with them and try not to digress. Spend 10 minutes at the beginning of the day catching up on comments/likes, responding to comments on your posts. Then 10 minutes at the end of the day. Or longer if you need to but set yourself a time limit and stick to it!
Schedule your posts on your page. If you can you can schedule your whole week’s posts in one go. Then you just need your 20 minutes a day with the comments/responses.
5 What if someone never comments back or engages with me in return?
Stop wasting time on their page. They clearly don’t understand how Facebook works and could therefore learn a thing or two from you. You need to find someone else to engage with. Facebook networking, like any networking has to be 2-way.
Finally – Top tips!
When someone comments on your post or your page – always reply.
Schedule your Facebook page posts as much as you can.
Limit your time Facebook networking and stick to it!
If someone doesn’t engage back – move on.
PS – If you’ve found this helpful please comment and add your tips and strategies for others to see!
For people who run small businesses, it can be hard sometimes to stand out from the crowd. Competing against big multi-nationals who may sell similar things to you, at a fraction of the price – how do you make yourself different?
Changing what you sell doesn’t make you stand out as much as making sure the service you offer is better than everyone else’s.
How often have you bought something from a multi-national and received a personal ‘thank you’?
I don’t mean an automatically generated message, which cleverly has your name on it to appear personal but you know is the same message they send to every customer – I mean a real personal ‘thank you’ written just for you.
Be different, offer that extra personal touch and send a personalised ‘thank you’, if possible hand written.