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When Gillian and I first started our business, we had heard the buzz about Online Marketing but had no idea how important the internet and social media are to one’s business success.

First of all, no matter what business you own, whether it is a Hair Salon, a Pizza shop, or you are a coach or musician, if you want to market your business you need to use Online Marketing to get customers.  It’s a reality you must accept.  The first stage is having a Social Media Presence.  Let me explain.

In the old days, we would take out an ad in the local Pennysaver and then wait for people to call us.  Some of you may be scratching your head and thinking what is a “Pennysaver”.  It was the local newspaper and I mean local.  There would be one for each neighborhood, particularly in the suburbs of a large town.  In the Pennysaver, you would find out what was going on in your area and you would see advertisements for different businesses.  Believe it or not, we actually read it, because that is how you got your local news.

Nowadays, forget it.  Besides the fact that most people wouldn’t read an entire newspaper, it’s not how people want to receive the news. They want it in bite size chunks and usually they want to be in control of finding what they want to know.  Isn’t that amazing?  Controlling what you want to know.  So, the Pennysaver became obsolete.  With its obsoleteness businesses could no longer advertise.  At least no longer that way.

Fast forward to today.  Your business has to be where the people are….and surprise, surprise, it’s the internet and social media platforms.  News can be had through the internet in a number of ways.  Online newspapers.  Googling.  Platforms like Twitter or Facebook.  People may join Facebook groups where they can learn what is happening in their interest niche.

But how do businesses let people know about their services in this new world of internet and social media?  If you are a brick and mortar store, many people will use applications like Yelp.  They can research lists of hotels, restaurants, bars, health clubs, hair salons, nail salons, hardware stores, plumbers, insurance agents in their neighborhood or where they are visiting.  Plus, they can check out all those businesses before doing business.  They check reviews on Yelp.  Even Facebook that has a “services” type yellow pages.  Besides a business having a Yelp or Facebook Page, businesses can advertise on those same platforms to get first looks.  That might be easy if you are a brick and mortar business but what if you work at home?  What if your business is virtual.  How do people find you?

You certainly can’t sit around and hope they show up. You need to find your own way to these people through the internet.  Once you find them you need to put a stake in the ground so they can find you again and again.  Which means, shudder the thought, you need to use Social Media yourself.  I know, I know, many of you say, well I don’t like it.  I hate Facebook.  I don’t need Linked-In, I am not looking for a job.  Or any number of other excuses you may have.  But the reality is, that is where the people are.  So, if you want them to find you, that’s where you have to be.

The good news is that there are a lot of social media platforms, so you can choose the ones that are best for you.  Just select a couple and then see what happens.  Here are some suggestions for those that are novices to the social media world.  Find the one that fits best into your business world.  By the way, a lot of that decision making depends on your product and your audience.  Facebook for all ages, Linked-in for B2B networking, Twitter for Generation X & Y college grads for short comments.  Snapchat and Instagram for millennials. Pinterest for the hobby stuff.  Now I know I am generalizing here and there will be exceptions to the rule, but this is a good start.

My suggestion is first of all, pick one or two and sign up as a person, not a business.  Watch what goes on in that particular platform.  Find your circle of friends that are on Facebook. See what kinds of things they post.  Do a little research and see if you can find other businesses like yours.  See what they are posting.  See how many comments or reviews they are getting.  They are your competition.  Collect as much statistics as you can.  Secondly, check out the local chambers in your area.  They usually have a Facebook Page.  You may see members announcing workshops or events in the Chamber’s posts.

If your business model makes sense for you to network with others, sign up for Linked-In and then troll around and look up people that you know or people they know.  See what they are saying on Linked-In.  Are they posting articles?  Do the articles have any relevance to your business?  Or if nothing else, you can use it as a conversation starter, if you want to message them to be connected or talk offline.

Lastly, you could sign up for Twitter and then “follow” people you know or who you would like to know and see what they are up too.  If you like the essence of Twitter, which is short messages, you can create your own comments and see who follows you

Follow the same principals I mentioned above for Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Be prepared to share pictures and videos.

Once you have done your research you can decide which platform might be good for you to host a Business Page for your business.  In time, you will develop some comfort and build a network within that platform.  With your research, you should feel more at ease every day about the right things to say.  Creating interesting posts with some eye candy graphics might take a little bit of time but it’s not difficult at all.  There are plenty of free graphic sites to pick from.  Also, if you find a relevant article share it.  You can share other Facebook, Linked-In or Twitter posts on your Business Page.

Once you have a platform presence as a business and start posting consistently, people will get to know you.  As they see what you are posting, they will get to like you.  And hopefully they will be able to trust you.  That is the objective.  By the way, no one is perfect so don’t worry about trying to be a top-notch professional.  Just relax and be YOU.

Lastly, if you are reading my advice and still feel you are kicking and screaming, you best accept it.  With pretty much everyone having some form of smart phone, every day more and more people are joining social media platforms.  I can’t imagine what the future holds. Who knows what that will look like but I can tell you, if you haven’t adapted, expect to be left behind.

You won’t be kicking or screaming.  You will be dead in the water.

So, let’s get social.  Try it, you’ll like it.

By the way, if you need some help with all this, Launch4life offers one-on-one coaching, online courses, and training.  Check out our free stuff and then give us a call or send us an email if you want to learn more.

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist