I know it sounds harsh and you think I’m being overly cynical…and I probably am, but hear me out. It is my experience that unless your friends and family are already interested in the product or service you’re selling, your new business venture won’t obligate them to care. Sure, they may feign interest. As you post on social media they will probably like and share those posts. Hell, at the beginning a few may even throw some business your way, but it probably won’t last and it probably won’t be much.
If they are already interested in what you’re selling, chances are they already have a brand or vendor of choice. If my brother opens up a Burger King, it doesn’t mean every time I want to go out to eat I’ll head his way. It doesn’t even mean every time I want a burger I’ll go buy from him. Now, if I already love me some Burger King and it is convenient and I’m used to eating there, then sure, I’ll go support him. But only because it is convenient to me and my totally healthy, rational obsession with fast food.
So what do you do? You’re trying to start a business, build a brand, or even get a blog going. Your family and friends could really be a huge help in this new endeavor.
You cannot depend on them to support you. If they do, well that’s gravy, but you need to be prepared to build this thing from the ground up, without their help. You need to build an audience of like-minded souls who will support you because they want what you’re selling. You need to find your tribe.
You may be thinking, “You’ve got a real crappy attitude, man. My family and friends totally support me. You must’ve had a bad experience.”
I’ve got great family and very supportive friends. But over the years I’ve learned this: they are pretty busy living their own lives. Just like I’m pretty busy living mine. I used to get resentful when everyone I knew didn’t drop what they were doing to share my Facebook and Instagram posts. I used to think there was such a thing as a familial obligation when it came to starting a business. But then I noticed that I don’t really go out of my way to share their posts or buy their products either. If it is something I genuinely want and see value in, I’ll buy it, but otherwise nope.
So what do you do? Here are 3 ways to create an audience without depending on friends and family.
Invest in Social Media
“Duh. Of course, you’re supposed to be on social media.” Yes, using social media to build a business is pretty much the status quo. We all immediately start a Facebook and Instagram page (I know I did) and then immediately hit up every one of our followers and ask them to “like” your page. And most of the time they will. They will never interact with your page, but they will like it.
And then you proceed to blast your page with self-serving promotional posts. Every time you write a new blog post BAM! it goes on your Facebook page. Pictures of yourself working at your new business BAM! straight to Instagram. Inspirational quote? Check! Motivational video? Got it!
That isn’t the investment I’m talking about.
I’m talking about genuinely and purposefully using your various social platforms for networking, not just self-promotion. This may sound like a daunting task to take on. Who has time to go from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook to Instagram? It is overwhelming! I agree. If you look at the social media accounts for this blog you’ll see that I haven’t done much. My focus has been on building out the blog and I don’t want to spend too much time bringing people to something that isn’t ready. You need to figure out where your audience is most likely to reside and then invest your efforts there. For example, if I am trying to build an Etsy empire, my main focus is going to be on Pinterest and then Instagram. If I am trying to establish myself as an authority in the business world, LinkedIn and then Twitter. If I am trying to do nutritional supplements/ fitness stuff, then Youtube and Instagram with a splash of Facebook.
From there, the purpose is to interact with other people, you know, be SOCIAL. Weird concept, right? You want to educate your audience, not only about your business and product but about your industry. Reach out and comment on other people’s posts, but not in an effort to get links back to your site or to use their page to talk about yourself, but be genuine.
Spend Money to Make Money
Now I’m talking about a more literal investment in social media. It is not a bad idea to budget ad spend as part of your initial expenses, especially at first while you are building your tribe. This is my next step. I haven’t paid to promote a post on any network yet, but I am planning on it in the days/ weeks to come. My biggest hesitation? I don’t have a way to make that money back at this point. I’m not selling anything. But that shouldn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you. I will start out small, maybe create a daily budget of something like $5 to run an ad on Facebook. I will probably go with Facebook because it has such sophisticated targeting, giving you the ability to choose a very specific demographic to which Facebook will show your ads. No point in just blasting it out to the whole world, I don’t want people clicking on the ad who have no interest in what I’m doing.
If you do have a product or service you are selling, then make sure the ads link back to a landing page or offer of some kind. You don’t want them coming back to your blog just to get traffic to your blog. If you have questions about landing pages check out this webinar from Sprout Social. Not interested in creating a landing page? I get it. In that case, I would direct them to my store front (Etsy or if you are doing network marketing, then your dealer page). At the very least, you want to collect an email from them by asking them to subscribe to your blog. With these emails, you can create an email newsletter and market to these people when you have offers or sales.
Talkin’ Bout OPB (Other People’s Blogs)
Last but not least, try to “borrow” the audience of other, more established bloggers. Now here’s the thing: DON’T BE SPAMMY. Google will shut you down if all you do is go around pasting the link to your blog or site in the comment section of other blogs and sites. Just like I mentioned above, be authentic. Make serious, meaningful contributions to the conversation. You can’t expect someone to click back to your site if all you do is comment, “Great blog” and then link back to your page over and over again. But if you make an educated, sincere comment or question you are more likely to elicit a response from the other readers as well as the author. I know if I were to get someone making actual attempts to have a thoughtful conversation on my blog I would for sure go visit theirs and link back to them in a future post.
Ok. That’s it for today. Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section. I promise I’ll reply.