Your site is up, your product is ready to go, and here you sit, like a shopkeeper behind a counter, at your computer awaiting your first customer. Congratulations! The hard part is over… or is it?
Whether you’ve been in the game for a while now, or this is your first few steps into the small business world, you might have already considered advertising for your store. And it might scare you! You’ve put all this time and money into the infrastructure of your store, and now you’ve got to spend more time and money?
Don’t Worry… This Is the Internet!
The world wide web truly is a magical place. It’s where I buy my favorite things, stay in touch with my friends, and avoid confronting real-world things like doing the laundry. It’s also where you, our entrepreneur in question, can explore new opportunities to bring your business to new heights.
Nowadays, most online businesses exist outside just their websites themselves. Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, even Twitter accounts; there’s a platform everywhere to advertise your site for free. The beauty of social media also allows for creativity and a chance to interact with your customers. It allows you to stand out without be pinned down by some of the tropes of advertising: you no longer have to say it all in one ad. And with commenting and likes, the hands-on nature of social media will allow you to create more authentic relationships with your customers, rather than just through customer service after a transaction has been made.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on Facebook. Maybe you have a lukewarm relationship with it like me, but with literal billions of people now using it, everyone and their mother seems to be on it.
Maintaining a page to advertise your shop on Facebook isn’t only just a good idea because of the amount of people on it, but because it allows you to inform your customers of new additions to your shop and other updates without overwhelming them. Much like an email newsletter, Facebook can be used to regularly let your customers know about upcoming events, sales, and other news, but on a more casual, less in-your-face basis.
Additionally, Facebook offers interactivity with your customers not only through likes and comments, but through private messaging as well. Easier than searching for a phone number or email on most businesses’ websites!
Instagram allows you to show off your catalogue through photography and video, allowing customers to see what you have to offer in a tangible and non-time consuming platform. And with tagging and Instagram’s intuitive “Explore” feature, your shop’s Instagram can easily be discovered by potential consumers without putting in all the extra leg work.
Facebook technically has this feature too, but in my opinion, Instagram successfully utilizes its Live and Story features better than any social media platform. It easily integrates media viewing in such a way that doesn’t overwhelm the user with other features (the way Facebook and Snapchat seem to do) and allows for cool opportunities such as the chance for your customers to “meet” your staff, see behind-the-scenes at your shop, and just generally allow your customers to see that your shop is more than just a store online, but a business run by interesting people excited by their work.
Word of Mouth
Now I don’t mean this totally literally… just in the spirit of it! In the early days of your business, you’ll quickly realize your shop won’t be able to go from zero to sixty. This isn’t like opening up a brick and mortar store that draws in customers instantly; unfortunately, there will be some waiting, even with any advertising.
Fortunately, you’ve got access to friends, family, acquaintances, associates… people! Post a humble link on your personal Facebook page informing your friends about your baby. Let them know about your hard work! Casually bring up your store while socializing at a party. Print up business cards, and hand them out whenever someone asks for your number.
We socialize so often, it only makes sense to take these opportunities to market yourself. And with “networking,” as it’s aptly called, there comes the humor of how real world socializing is a “platform” like Facebook or Instagram is. That may be either a good or bad thing, depending on how your personal attitude of social media is, but you’ll soon realize why social media platforms work because of it.