Tonight I presented at Commonwealth Bank’s CBD branch on ‘Effective Use of Social Media for Microbusiness’. It was such an honour to be chosen by SpringUp Australia to demonstrate how social media and online branding can grow your business and how to create content that engages your customers.
Below I have shared a large portion of my speech and I hope it can help some of you too!
Effective Use of Social Media for Microbusiness
To me there is no question of the growing importance of social media. It has become our norm, changed the way we connect with others and given us a new outlook on what is socially acceptable. It has altered our expectations, behaviours and relationships.
Without knowing it, everyday you are cultivating your own brand. And if content is the fuel for your brand, social media is the engine.
Hi, I’m Samantha Hall, Senior Graphic Designer and Photographer by day, blogger and social media enthusiast by night. Tonight I am here to give you some insight on how I create content to grow my following and build rewarding partnerships.
But first, a little about me.
I started Instagram in January 2014 when it was still appropriate to use a different filter on every photo that was taken in a dim, pixelated setting. Boy have times changed. My picky designer side eventually took over and I began creating styled shots of my everyday life. Now I’ve grown that little account to more than 38 thousand followers.
As soon as I sat down at the breakfast table, or came over the ridge to see the view on a holiday, I knew exactly how I wanted the photo to look. My Instagram feed was always presented just for me, just the way I like it. Id be lying if I said I haven’t had moments where I’ve deleted several photos in a flurry of distaste of what my past self had created. But at the end of the day it was all for me. And the followers just came… slowly but surely they grew. Then more and more companies would share my photos and it grew faster. Later businesses began contacting me to create content for them. It grew even faster again.
Here is a list of all the brands that I have worked with/shared my photos.
Topdeck, Flight Centre, Canon, An Organised Life, Uniqfind, The One Social, Blog Society, Logan & Mason.
Health & Fitness: Goodlife Health Clubs, InspireCycle, Yellow Willow Yoga, Muscle Coach, Pressed Juices, Forste, Sportitude Women, Femshaper, Lurv Sportswear, Fit Life Tea Co.
Beauty: Gerard Cosmetics, Garnier, SkinfoodNZ, BlackOut Mask, Nip & Fab, La Belle Collection, Nakd4Youa, Eye of Horus, Opulent Cosmetics, My Scrub, Chintai Island, My Coco, Essentials Oil Guide, Active Hair Australia, BX Earth, Alive Skin + Hair, Ooh Fabulous, Buddy Scrub
Restaurants: Vue Lounge, Youfoodz, Eagles Nest, Kettle & Tin, Limes Hotel, Willow & Spoon, Shouk Cafe, Eat Street Markets, Picnic Cafe, Cocoon Beach Club – Bali, Tiger Palm – Bali, Pearl Cafe, Fullfilled Co., Infnite
Fashion: Lioness, Boohoo (& Boohoo Blog), Little Lace, Runway Scout, ThePeachBox, Marc Bale Watches, Eliya The Label, Atarlo, Effie & Lola, Little JC Boutique, Love Storey Boutique, Miss Rosa Boutique, Famous Footwear, True Love Cartel, Bonnie & Clyde Clothing, The Weekend Edit, Willow & Hunt, Clora Boutique, Elyza Online, Sophie Robertson Scarves, Nouveau Riche Boutique, Unleashed Jewels, Never Twice Dress Hire, Bye Bye Bella Sunglasses, Established Eyewear, Apulsbclothing
But I’ve always stayed true to myself, to my brand. I know that my flatlays do not gain me as many likes nor comments but they are something I enjoy.
In October 2016 I launched my blog, which I use social media to promote. I’ve had thousands of views and every month it continues to grow. This is my current focus at the moment, which I also use Facebook and Pinterest to promote. Accounts, both of which have had a makeover. Since then they have also both started to see growth.
This is why building a personal brand has never been more vital for the success of an individual or business. It is the process of managing and optimizing the way that you are presented to others. By building a strong brand, you become more visible in your industry, leave a lasting impression and achieve more sales.
The wonderful part about it is you have the power to design how you and your brand are seen by the world. You just have to figure out where you want your brand to go, who you want to attract and then creating content to make just that happen. Define and capture what makes you different. Then be consistent.
Traditional & Digital Setup
Before you even start looking at creating content for social media, make sure you have nailed each of the items I have included here.
Without all of these being strong and cohesive you will never have a professional or popular presence. Start at you logo. A logo can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. But it needs to reflect your brand perfectly. If not, it’s time to enlist in the help of a designer. Then continue this audit through the rest of your traditional media. Business cards to invoices. These should all match and reflect the same values as your website or blog and social media accounts. This will display the best aspects of your brand, build trust and create a quality reputation and following.
Once you are confident your brand is ready for social media you should determine the potential followers you would like to attract. Creating relevant content and defining your target audience goes hand in hand.
Defined Target Audience + Engaging Content = Your Starting Point
The best brands are those that feel human and authentic. Look at your competitors. What are they doing to attract clients? Are there any gaps in the market you could fill? Can you find a way to demonstrate you have more knowledge, experience or better connections in your field? Differentiating yourself from your competitors and reinforcing a strong personal brand will make it easier for a customer to choose your company over another vendor.
Now don’t overthink it. Social media is a great opportunity to exhibit your skills and talent. By being active and engaging with others on social media alone, you will grow your network. So create a basic social media strategy that includes:
Whether that is followers, sales, revenue, website traffic. Whatever your goals may be, write them down and make sure they are measureable.
Be specific if possible. Demographic, geographic. Even a customers potential interests
Which platform is the best fit for your target market and to achieve your goals. Not all social media platforms will be as strong or as useful. Myself, for example; being a designer and photographer, my content is always going to be visual and not particularly quirky or witty. So Twitter is not the best platform for me. And there is no point in spending hours on Twitter when I could use that time more valuably on another platform. I recommend focus on 1-2 platforms and doing them well before continuing. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, especially when youre starting out.
What are your competitors doing? What have they included in their bio? What hashtags are they using? What platforms are they using and which are performing better for them?
How often do you want to post? How often do you want to engage with your current and potential followers? The best timings for various social media platforms are constantly changing. Since instagram changed their algorithm, your posts are not viewed chronologically in your followers feeds any longer and can be seen hours after posted. It is best for you to do the research on this individually as it will also depend on the time zone of your customer base. Generally I would recommend posting on most platforms 1 to 2 times per day. Pinterest and Tumblr can be up to 20 if the posts are varied enough. There are plenty of free analytical websites online that can help you with this depending on your preferred platform.
However. This I cannot stress enough. Do not post content just to stick to a schedule. Quality is key. Substance counts. You can do more harm than good by posting something bland or badly styled.
Here are some tips for all social media platforms:
Keep them consistent
This includes your name, url, bio and profile pictures. It helps others find you easily and reinforces the strength and memorability of your brand.
Show your personality
Being authentic builds trust and your followers and customers will enjoy feeling like they know you on a more personal level.
Be timely and responsive
Reply to comments and messages in a timely manner. They have taken the time to contact you; it is only polite you acknowledge them or do the same.
Us humans are visual creatures. It’s just the way we are wired. Remember the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. This couldn’t be truer on social media. Every photo should tell a story. It’s not fair but it’s true. Everyone judges a book by it’s cover. So if your images are low quality, messy, poorly thought out and rushed, then what does that say about your business?
Now you are ready to create!
As I’ve already touched on, visual content is much stronger. Visuals are memorable and effective, because they help people process, understand and retain information quicker and longer. A whopping 74 per cent of marketers use mainly visual assets in their social media. Here are some other stats for you…
- 81 percent of people only skim the content they read online.
- People form a first impression in a mere 50 milliseconds.
- Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.
- Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images.
Convinced? But need some ideas for content? I have also added a list of 60 post ideas here for you to download and get inspired. There are always so many things you can post about. You just need to brainstorm!
Finding The Right Platform For You
Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform however it has also become the hardest audience to grow without paid advertising. So something to keep in mind, but it’s not undoable. Most companies with social media will have a facebook page. I also co-run Ozcare’s facebook page. Originally I created an A4 page filled with ideas for posts. Most of the time we never need to refer to it, but it has come in handy. Our most popular post can be seen here. It was only a few months after we started. We hadn’t delved into any paid advertising and only had approximately 1000 people following us, mostly staff. We posted a poem called “Walking with Nana” and it gained more than a million views, 23,151 shares, 2800 likes and 311 comments. So you don’t need a huge following or paid advertising for something to get traction. Just relevant content. You may think but how does that poem help with sales? This all comes down to keeping true to the company’s values. Ozcare isn’t a hard sell kind of company. It’s about building awareness and brand reputation so when the time is right and someone needs more care, hopefully they will remember and consider us to be the right choice.
For Instagram, I use the app Mosaico. It was approximately $10 on the App Store when I purchased it. There is also Planoly. I believe they have worked out all the bugs now, but hadn’t when I tried it which is why I went with Mosaico. These apps allow you to view and plan out your feed and captions before you post it. You can see what works and check you are keeping to your aesthetic. Also make sure you are using your hashtags and location check ins correctly. They can make quite a difference long term.
A good example of someone who focuses on doing one thing and doing it well is the Minimalist Baker. If you haven’t heard of her; she uses 10 ingredients or less and under 30 minutes to create vegan friendly recipes. She has over 576 thousand followers on instagram. She found her niche, stays consistent to her brand and is reaping the benefits for it.
I find planning your posts in advance to be helpful. I also have a folder of extra visual content and quotes that I can refer to. Dropbox is helpful if there is more than one of you that needs to access it.
Pinterest couldn’t be more visual. Did you know it is the second largest driver of internet traffic after google? Because of it’s layout, longer vertical posts with a combination of a heading and imagery, is the best performing. It takes up more room on the feed and therefore is more likely to be seen. Infographics also do exceptionally well on Pinterest. If you cannot setup these on your own, enlist a graphic designer to get you started or create these for you. It can make all the difference. A ridiculous amount of pins have been repined thousands of times which can all just be one click away from your website or blog. What can be better than that?
I do not use Twitter personally. But I have still reserved my username. If you have the time and a witty sense of humour, twitter is right up your alley. Combine your thoughts with occasional imagery to engage your followers.
Linked In is great for business and personal growth. It has seen a much larger fanbase in recent years and continues to grow. If Linked In is for you I would recommend keeping your personal and business details updated and occasional blog posts.
Tumblr & Snapchat
Tumblr and Snapchat are both great visual tools but be prepared to spend much more time across these two platforms. Once your following has grown, there is much higher engagement.
Youtube is one of the strongest and most influential platforms. It has been found that someone who watches a product review video is 85% likely to then purchase the product. Collaborating with some Youtube veterans would be a great way to get started.
I wont go too in depth into capturing and editing photos, but I believe the essentials for creating captivating visual content are:
If you haven’t got your lighting right, nothing else can save your image. Natural lighting is best but if you must, invest in a decent ring light. Do not use flash, for any reason. It will drown out the colours and depth of field. And if you can help it, turn off lights in the house. I know it may even seem a little dark without them but find another location or get your camera to pick up the slack. Artificial lighting can cause unwanted shadows and colours on people and products.
Equipment & knowledge
You don’t need the flashiest camera or equipment. You just need to know what youre doing with what you have. Yes a quality camera is always going to take better images but knowing the full capabilities of the camera on your smart phone will allow you to gain just as greater following. I use a Canon 7D at work but for my own instagram I use a small Olympus Pen that I purchased a year ago. I had seen several other bloggers use them and it works a treat. Plus I love how compact it is. Sometimes I just use my iphone. And my tripod comes in handy often.
Whether this is the background of your flatlay or product shot or location, it is essential to have this right.There are many different backgrounds you can use for a flatlay, but always shoot on a clean background. Don’t have a white bench, or a marble backdrop? Never fear, neither do I! I purchase cardboard from Officeworks and these marble contact sheets from Ebay. Kept some hessian from some flowers I was gifted and sometimes my wooden backgrounds are just a cutting board. Be creative!
Here you can see what a flat lay setup can actually look like in comparison with the final product that I posted and shared. Can you see how I’ve varied the heights but made sure there are no strong shadows overlapping anything. And even though there are other elements, the products are still the main focus. Another tip is to always have at least one element continuing and cropped off the image.
Here is another example. Quite different isn’t it… But the same rules are applied here.
What if you want your workspace or shop included but want that out of focus look like I’ve done here for Shawty’s Espresso? It can be done in Photoshop but it is much faster and more precise if done with the correct camera lens. Even iphones can give this look a basic go by focusing on the feature in the forefront
Include extra complimentary items – Knick Knacks, food items, etc. These all help to attract viewers and can balance your image
This can range from just brighten and contrast on your phone, to using an app with inbuilt features, or maybe you know some Photoshop! Editing always helps. Even minimal. Here’s an example of some of the extent of the work I do in photoshop to get the image ready to be shared. So asking for help from a retoucher is not out of the question either if your images just isn’t exactly where you need them to be.
Are you ready for my crazy? My pet hate is really yellow washed out photos. You know the ones… Where they’re meant to be white but just didn’t quite make it there. If you have setup your equipment and lighting correctly, you shouldn’t have a problem. If you want to go next level like me, you can use the app Facetune or Snapseed to whiten them. You will notice all of my backgrounds that are supposed to be white, are. There are many stats online that say these are more appealing to the eye… but I think it’s a no-brainer.
Horizontal & Vertical Lines
Heres a super simple one for you all and can make such a difference. Check your horizontal and vertical lines. So buildings and horizons etc. and make sure they are straight. Unless you are going for an extreme abstract image.
Now that you know all the rules on how to create good content, have some fun with it. Become familiar with your subject, equipment and backdrop. Play with editing options and filters. Find what’s right for you and then stick with it. Give it time. If it’s good, people will come. And remember, don’t tell what you can show! Thank you and happy posting!