Having started a separate software and consulting company (apart from this movie company) a few years ago, one of the things I explored was building my social media and web presence. When it came to sales, I found the only value gained from social media was in keeping in touch with past individuals with whom I had already connected. Before you cast aside this thought, let me explain why and what I did.
First, I built out sites on some big social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Then I paid for commercials on Facebook and LinkedIn. I 'reached' my audience of around 100,000 C-levels with LinkedIn and about 150,000 other relevant individuals for a grand total of around a quarter of a million impressions. Or at least that's what the stats in my advertising dashboard with LinkedIn told me, and who am I to question that people didn't see it. But was that really seen or did it just appear on the page while the viewer looked at their account, completely oblivious to the advertisement? I also did some advertising on Facebook as well. The impressions didn't seem to flourish as I had hoped. I wasn't 'impressed'.
I gained absolutely no business leads from social media in the end. My leads came from allies, face-to-face meetings and real people. To be fair, I did use LinkedIn to reconnect with a past acquaintance and set up a meeting, and this meeting led to another meeting and a couple of conversations around what could have been some lucrative deals that didn't transpire, because that company was acquired by another company a few months after we had begun talks. Yet, this left a good flavor in my mouth regarding LinkedIn. At least, it was an easier way of keeping your contact database updated without having to continually ask for the latest contact info to set up real live face-to-face meetings. Some of my best leads were:
An ally's referral of a consultant gig for a national ad firm
A face-to-face with a bank CIO regarding their tech needs
A phone call that resulted from a direct mail campaign
The number of mailers sent and the number of responses received in this last option was fairly disappointing. If you choose this option, just know that your response could be as low as one potential customer from every five hundred pieces of mail. That doesn't necessarily equate to a real customer though; just a potential customer.
On Twitter, I found myself following many companies and individuals that seemed relevant to my business, perhaps hoping that some would follow me back if I followed enough. In the end, I learned that gaining follows on Twitter usually requires that you follow others or write exceptional content. In addition, here are a few more lessons learned on Twitter:
Don't follow 'verified accounts'; they seldom notice you exist
If you are already following 'verified accounts', unfollow them
Only follow those who notice you or who followback
Follow mostly small biz, individuals, and those you know
On a weekly basis, unfollow all who refuse to follow you back
Make comments and see who responds; build relations
Overall, I found social media to be only useful as an enhanced email in which contact info is updated by your contacts, saving you the work; thus, the real work of sales involved face-to-face meetings. All of this being said, YouTube and similar video platforms are more of a hybrid between social media and face-to-face. Face-to-face can cost more for a company to put flesh-and-blood sales people on the ground, while social media is fairly free. However, videos that tend to give a bit of both may be a good compromise, but keep in mind that a poorly made video may do you more damage than good. Therefore, you are probably wise to add a company who makes quality video commercial ads for reasonable prices to your contact file or social media contact list. Our companies offer this service at www.ethosmovies.com or www.mindlum.com, and I've learned to never be shy about self-promotion when it's appropriate.
It's probable that my company brands have gained exposure over the past couple of years from social media or social media advertising, but if you are looking to gain sales and thus increase profit, social media seemed to be trumped by face-to-face encounters primarily and videos secondarily. This said, brand awareness can prep potential clients before you actually make contact, so target potential clients about a month before you reach out to them. A great way to prep them is by mailing them memorabilia and by using a video presentation linked from your website which you can send via email before you physically contact them. A month of slow dripping brand awareness to a targeted focus group that you plan to contact with face-to-face is a valuable way to open doors. Just don't annoy the client to death.
Ensure your video presentations and other brand awareness campaigns are located on your own website. This will increase your site traffic and bring SEO value to the site as well. Isn't this better than bringing value to another giant company's social platform?
You could even create a social network on your own website as several possibilities exist for doing so, ranging from simple shared chat sessions like Spot.Im to complex-coded platforms like BuddyPress with traditional social media offers. However, be aware that BuddyPress is associated with WordPress, which isn't the best or most valuable website to use in my opinion.
Speaking of which, another huge 'lesson learned' that I experienced from that start-up two years ago is that I should have gone with Wix.com instead of WordPress and iPage. WordPress took forever to get loaded on to iPage, in my assessment, and required extra time for CSS coding to create a professional website with the capabilities that would make your site appear very professional.
Wix.com already offers the hosting you need, so no loading needed. Plus, it gives you incredible capabilities without any real coding. Wix.com was very intuitive to use, and in no time I had my site up and running. I believe even a young child could create a website with Wix.com and have a blast doing it. Plus, JetPack was always tattling on my WordPress hosting provider iPage, who always seemed to be going offline. With WordPress being on iPage, I was constantly having to manage plug-in updates, while with Wix.com, they took care of all of this for me. Furthermore, the SEO and capabilities to build your following was very, very limited on WordPress. I realize some of this could have been corrected in WordPress with avoiding iPage to start.
When I first started WordPress, they allowed me to follow many other users on WordPress with seemingly no limits which was one of their few advantages, but that changed. WordPress got to the place that I could only follow a handful of other users each day (I estimate about fifteen). This type of capability is like being on a desert highway with no people or stores in sight, and being told you can only travel five miles an hour for ten minutes each day to build your business.
I also felt they were always filtering my website to such a point that I couldn't even find my own website using a popular search engine if you were looking hard with all the right keywords to find it. This was a great help I'm sure to my competitors, many of whom were multinational corporations with giant footprints and established customer bases, but this did nothing for my company. I'm not sure if they had some grand purpose or agenda for filtering down users and only highlighting those they seemingly liked, but I found their SEO quite impotent. Perhaps they were after advertising dollars before extending extra SEO allowances? I had a paid account, and all the accompanying high maintenance, so this seemed ridiculous for me to invest any more money in their company's services.
One of the last annoyances they did was to request that we as clients complete some special process to ensure our sites were ready for 'https' changes and a new Google policy affecting the access of sites. That was the last straw; well, besides the fact that I couldn't even access my site many times and even had a friend tell me my site was down again. I've had none of this with Wix.com.
Was it the fault of WordPress or iPage? I didn't care. I just wanted good service. Both WordPress and iPage weren't very intuitive or helpful in that they wasted many of the hours and even weeks I needed to get my business off the ground due to their non-intuitive setup processes that seemed infinite, their constant maintenance, and the end results of having very poor uptime, too much downtime and very slow performance. All of this with a paid account. If nothing else, WordPress and iPage turned me into a huge Wix.com fan.
In fact, I loved that Wix.com allowed me to have free pictures to use for my website and my blog, all easily accessible with one click. No more running around with a camera or looking for free pictures online. In fact, for this very blog article that I'm currently writing, I used their free pictures entirely. They had a vast array of them - all free. No, I'm not advertising for Wix.com. I just really felt they were such a breath of fresh air after the nightmare of WordPress and iPage. Furthermore, in searching for photos (beyond paying for their template's handful), I had to sort out the truly free stock photos from the web stores that only said "free" but charged you for stock photos. What a nightmare! Save yourself the headache!
Contacting WordPress was a nightmare too. You had to wait forever for someone to respond on a forum regarding code questions. I contacted iPage repeatedly. I called them to see why my site was always down. They said, I would have to contact them right when it went down for them to see. Is that even possible for any hard-working business owner? I finally did catch it down one time, and they seemed to have no real answers after all this angst, anxiety, and the downtime taking place before I could find a time to resolve this. Even then, they didn't resolve it.
One time I contacted them to find out why my costs soared exponentially and found it was due to my price being only a one-year promotion. I was about through with them. They refunded a few dollars for me and promised to help fix my issues. Did they? No. What's wrong with the service at iPage? If I knew, I'd tell you. However, I was stuck with them as they draft your account for an entire year or two for various services. I called iPage again to see why my site was down after a friend told me he couldn't access it. They said I had too much traffic, but that they had upped my bandwidth. I looked at my analytics and saw the traffic that day was in the single digits. Incredible!
I had been patient long enough. I had gotten to the point where having my site down most of the time was normal. Why? I was too busy with business to worry, but when I had a moment, I began moving to Wix.com after learning about their company. What a welcome relief! I could rest easy after the nightmare I had experienced from WordPress and iPage.
With WordPress and iPage, I had to look all over the web for free stock photos or use the handful that come along with a lousy, hard-to-use, paid 'premium' template. The template was slow and difficult to understand with all their short code and CSS.
Yes, you learn a lot about coding and website design's 'back end process', but that wasn't my purpose. It was wasted time. My purpose was to build my business not babysit a website.
So here's my summary.
Find a Website like Wix.com where you're set up in a day
Use social media for connecting with people's contact info
Use their contact info to set up real face-to-face meetings
Use video with those meetings as a prep intro or post follow-up
Remember, face-to-face is king. Video is queen. Websites are necessary repositories of knowledge for customers. Few read today. Most like videos or pictures.
One final piece of advice. Spend only an hour or less on your internet activity to ensure you have time to do meetings and the real work of your business. There you have it. Hopefully, this will save you weeks of work and frustration and help you succeed in your business pursuits! Best wishes!