By Kevin Coughlin
The internet provides powerful tools for networking. But using them to promote your small business can be challenging– especially when the big kahuna, Facebook, keeps changing its operations without any explanation.
Still, with a little determination and lots of experimentation, it’s possible to get good results, according to three social media mavens who shared tips with the Morristown Women in Business on Monday at the Hyatt Morristown.
“Marketing is no longer about what you make, but about the stories you tell,” Kim Pearlstein of Pearlmark LLC said, quoting entrepreneur and author Seth Godin.
Pearlstein and fellow panelists Kendra Arnold of Fiddlehead Social Media (and an occasional contributor to MorristownGreen.com) and consultant Julie Bernardini stressed the importance of knowing your customers, posting regularly to the social networks that they frequent, and following the “80/20 Rule.”
“Don’t always try to ‘sell’ people,” Arnold said. Ideally, 80 percent of a business’ social media postings should be items that inform and entertain. The remainder should relate directly to the business, she said.
First and foremost, “people are on social networks to be entertained,” echoed Bernardini, former creative director at Revolution Digital in Morristown.
Bernardini also advised companies not to hide negative comments posted by customers. Businesses will earn more respect by responding forthrightly and trying to set things right, she said.
Moderator Michele Reinhart asked how often businesses should post. Consistency is key, whether it’s a few posts a day or a few per month, said Pearlstein. It looks bad if you haven’t posted anything fresh since Christmas, or if you never respond to questions from the public.
While it’s wise to stake a place for your business on multiple networks, Bernardini said, “I don’t think it’s valuable to be active in every single social media channel.” Facebook spans the broadest demographics, and is a good place to start for many small companies. Instagram and Snapchat may be better choices for reaching 20-something audiences, she said.
All three panelists touted LinkedIn and its online discussion groups for cultivating contacts. Make sure you have a professional-looking profile photo, and add as many connections as you can, said Pearlstein.
“It’s not who you know, but who knows the people you know,” she said.
Don’t give control of your social media to an intern, advised Bernardini. Your brand is too important.
“And make sure you have your passwords,” Arnold said. Otherwise, she said, you could be in a world of hurt if your social media person leaves in a huff. Change the passwords often, too, the panelists said.
Monday’s luncheon was co-sponsored by attorney Carole White-Connor, who offered information about legal issues surrounding online advertising, and by TransOptions, which is promoting Morristown’s Street Smart campaign to improve pedestrian safety.
Attendees voted for the best new business–you can read here about nominees South + Pine America Eatery, b. jones Organic Spa, Sabrina’s Art Studio and Lucy’s Gift LLC–and for this year’s Melody Whitelaw Community Service Award.
Nominees are Abby Gallo of Grow It Green Morristown, Kadie Dempsey of Morris Arts and Allison Larena of the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
The award is named for the late Melody McGinley Whitelaw, co-founder of the Morristown Women in Business. Better known as Chef Melody, she catered numerous charity events.
“Melody touched so many of us, in so many different ways,” said Mary Dougherty, also a co-founder of the Morristown WIB.
“She called herself the ‘Caterer to the Stars.’ She is missed very, very much. But we keep her alive in our memories with our award.”
This reporter was honored to win the first annual Melody Whitelaw award last year. The Women in Business will present this year’s awards on May 24, 2016, during a cocktail hour at the Mayo Center.