Leveraging the platforms by sharing the real deal
By Carolyn Culbertson
Modern business wisdom tells us that if a business doesn’t exist on social media, it might as well be non-existent. Some businesses, like this eclectic Columbia-based curator, use social media as an integral part of their model. Many large firms, ranging from engineering to law, consider it a worthy investment to hire a social media specialist.
Social media is a valuable tool for building brand awareness, getting to know customers or clients, driving web traffic, and generating leads. If a business sells products directly to consumers, social media can be its marketplace. If a business wants to reach other businesses, social media is the place to network, especially in the age of social distance.
But for small business owners, the cost of staying relevant on social media — a mostly free way to market a business — can be their own well-being. How can small business owners strike a balance between feeling beholden to social media and leveraging it for their own gain? The key lies in tapping into brand authenticity.
Be authentic (enough)
According to a study done by Stackla, 86% of consumers say that authenticity is important in deciding which brands they like and support. At the same time, more than half of consumers think that less than half of brands create content that feels authentic. This is where small business owners have the advantage. While faceless companies have to work extra hard to literally personify themselves, a small business’ brand
can be as authentic as its owner. This doesn’t mean laying bare your soul on the Twitter timeline or trading in a professional branding style for a confessional approach. But for small businesses more than corporations, a brand can show an authentic version, even if just a sliver, of a small business owner’s personality. In that way, they don’t have to reach very far to come up with social media content.
Make social media followers feel good
Social media is famous for making its users feel bad. People go on social media looking for connection and validation, and come back with FOMO (fear of missing out), envy, anxiety, and depression. However, a 2019 study done by researchers at Harvard found that some forms of social media use can be beneficial. People who check social media as part of a regulated routine are more likely to reap the positive social benefits that we all need to survive — positive mental health and social well-being — than people whose social media routines include an emotional component. (Think the 18-year-olds who check Instagram every 7 minutes to alleviate the anxiety that they’re missing out on something.) “These findings suggest that as long as we are mindful users, routine use may not in itself be a problem. Indeed, it could be beneficial,” said Mesfin Awoke Bekalu, one of the study’s co-authors.
Business owners can’t control the usage habits of their followers, but if a brand consistently leads with authenticity and, dare I say, empathy on social media, it’s more likely to become a positive and engaging voice in a sea of picture-perfect influencers.
Small business owners are uniquely positioned to give their followers more of what they want, which is authenticity, and more of what they need, a true connection on a medium known for its facades. In return, they can earn credibility, loyalty, and trust (all of which lead to sales) from followers — without having to phone it in.