This is a big topic; a course in itself. So I’ll just cover the basics. It’s worth thinking about social media handles (your name on social media) when coming up with your business name, because you don’t want to choose something that’s already been taken. Make sure that whatever name you choose is consistent across all your platforms. So I have @annieridout on Instagram and Twitter.
Originally, I had @theearlyhour on both those channels and on Facebook and Pinterest, but after writing my book – and starting to do more journalism for other publications – I decided my own name was better for recognition. So you can change your handle but it’s not ideal, as you will probably lose followers. If you’re launching a business, get the handle for your business name. If you’re launching as a freelancer, use your own name. If it’s already taken, try adding your line of work to the end. Or perhaps add in your middle name.
Instagram and Facebook (both owned by Facebook) are still the most popular social media sites so are worth getting started on. You could set up both accounts but just focus on one, initially. Grow an audience, and then start using the second platform – sharing content across the two – and take your ready-made audience with you.
Instagram, as you probably know, is very visual but the captions matter too. You can ask questions to get your followers engaging with your posts. It’s about creating a community of people who like you, and are loyal. Write about your industry, and your life (if you’re comfortable with that, and it feels right/relevant) with the occasional post about what you’re selling. If every post is asking them to buy, people may drop off. They want to know the woman behind the brand.
I’ve written an article about how to grow a loyal Instagram following that you might find useful.
On Facebook, you could start a page – which you then want people to ‘like’ and ‘follow’. This is generally open to the public. Or you could start a group. Closed groups work well, as people feel safer posting. Again, this is about building a community. Asking questions, sharing relevant articles from other websites, your own blog posts. And getting other people to share their ideas and questions too. If you haven’t already – join my Facebook group. It’s just for people on my courses. And you can see how it works.
Once you’ve set up your social media accounts, make sure you have an icon on the homepage of your website – and all pages, actually – with a ‘follow me’ style indicator. You want people to be able to visit your website then click through to your social media accounts and start following you. This is all part of you and your business – as well as websites, your clients/customers will expect you to be on social media. An online presence – in both respects – is crucial.
If you’re launching a website on WordPress, you can get a plug-in for the ‘follow me’ social media buttons. It’s simple to install, or you could get a developer to help you. It’s an hour’s work for them, so don’t pay more than £50. In fact, think of a few different elements you’d like added to your website and get them to do it all as once, as you’ll end up paying less this way.
Make sure people can comment under your blog posts (again, it’s about building a community online, and is good for SEO – the Google algorithm picks up on people engaging with your articles and decide that you are worth boosting). And have a pop-up box asking if people would like to sign up to your mailing list. Then, you will start to build a database of people you can update with your news, new services, products.
Set up a pop-up ‘join my mailing list’ box on your website, as well as a static one (Mailchimp is great for collecting email addresses, as you can then send out your emails from their website for free – up to a few thousand subscribers). A good newsletter is about giving. Be friendly, warm, open. Ask questions. Teach them something. This isn’t about direct sales, it’s about building trust. It works well to share other websites, social media accounts, articles, podcasts you find inspiring too. It shows that you’re open-minded and engaged with the culture and trends.
PR and spreading the word
As Emma Merry said in module 1: tell everyone what you’re doing, and speak about it like the proper business that it is. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your first client or product on the shelves yet, you need to be in the mindset that this is what you’re doing now; this is happening. The more people you tell, the more likely it is that someone will say: oh, I need help from someone like you. (Or they’ll know someone who does). Announce it to friends, family, on the nursery/school run. In the coffee shop, dog walk, with the local shopkeeper.
And use social media to your advantage. Personally, I’m pretty bored with Facebook as a means of sharing photos and staying in contact with people I know. So I’ve taken down all my personal photos and info, and instead use it for business. I share articles I’ve written, courses I’m running, do call-outs for case studies. I use the community of friends and family I’ve built on there over the years to get more work. In fact, this is more beneficial than the business page I’ve set up, as the Facebook algorithm favours people over businesses – so shares personal content more than perceived ‘work’ content.
Once launched, a great way to secure more work is by getting press coverage. To do this, you need to develop your PR ‘story’. Think about what makes your journey particularly interesting; is it that you were made redundant and launched your business while looking after a baby? Were you working in a very corporate environment and earning good money but felt it was time for something more holistic? Whatever it is, write it out and start pitching your story to press: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, podcasts. Seek out journalists and editors on social media, follow them, engage with their posts. Make yourself known to them. And then pitch your story (and include a link to your website and social media channels).
If you’d like more help with PR, I also run an online for this – it’s very in-depth. That will help you to write your story, teach you who to pitch to, how and when. Grow an online profile. And become the ‘go-to’ in your field when the media are looking for comment on a story that’s just broken. The idea is that once you’ve learn this stuff, you can control all your PR – rather than paying someone else £350 a day to do it for you.
Where would you love to secure press coverage? Who would you like to be interviewed by, or to write for? Which publications would be most relevant to your business? Or perhaps there is a specific section within a wider newspaper or magazine that would be well-suited to what you’re doing? Give this some thought and note down your ideas.