Social Media is defined as all the websites and applications that enables users to create and share content or network online. Creating and sharing content is usually around ideas, thoughts, things, places, events, and people, that users like or dislike. Networking online is usually for professional developments. Social media allows users to stay connected with his or her interests, virtually.
Popular social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Snapchat are inspiring stories of Entrepreneurial success in themselves. And over the years these platforms have generated a huge registered user base, attracting many entrepreneurs, startups and businesses to market their products and services through these platforms.
However, even with a huge user base on any platform, it does not guarantee immediate success in terms of customers buying one’s products or services. It requires time, effort, money, and a lot of patience to develop business out of these platforms, and then despite that sometimes one may not find the success out of them. Apart from the online presence and regular news feeds and posts that one must carry out, there are many applications and tools that have been developed to help one to automate their social media activities. But it is no shortcut to generating business out of these platforms.
Gaining from Social Media Presence
Businesses not only need to have a website to ensure a digital presence for people to look you up on the internet, but they also need to have social media presence as lots of users are glued to the social media platforms and like to check out on businesses through these platforms as well. Entrepreneurs also maintain profiles on these platforms, enabling them to connect with prospective or existing customers. Besides finding users or customers on the social media platforms, entrepreneurs also like to network with likeminded people and fellow entrepreneurs.
These just launched startups and entrepreneurs look up to connect with or follow profiles of successful startups or entrepreneurs on the social media platforms. Big name businesses, brands and individuals find it easy to generate a following for themselves on these platforms, as they carry the advantage of having loyal fans through offline and traditional mediums. It is just as hard for a startup that has just launched or for an entrepreneur with no success stories.
The Social Media Etiquette
Big or Small, in any case it is important for entrepreneurs or their social media managers to adhere with basic etiquettes on the platforms. Just as in a brick and mortar business the customer is to be treated with polite, courteous, and professional behaviour of the attending staff, users expect similar behaviour online. Basic etiquettes would include having polite meaningful conversations, not provoking subjects, respecting users, or follower’s privacy, posting non-offensive content and so on. Having the right etiquettes helps in steadily growing the following and encouraging conversations. One bad episode can ruin the image on social media and send back many followers. Hence of all the things that Social Media provides entrepreneurs to benefit from, it requires the right etiquette on behalf of the account holders to operate the account.
My Social Media Experience
As an entrepreneur I have not yet leveraged social media for my products and services just yet. I use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram extensively for things I am passionate about, that mainly being Entrepreneurship. My tweets are usually around ideas, startups, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial stories, strategy, sustainability, eco-friendly, trends, I use LinkedIn to connect with Entrepreneurs, and my posts on Instagram are usually around books and magazines I read. I follow startups, businesses and entrepreneurs that I idolise or find interesting, and I do not think that I have ever got someone from that group following me back. And that is ok. The idea is to learn from their lives and experiences, hence following them is more important than them not following me.
The biggest advantage of Twitter and Instagram is that you don’t bother about the other person to permit you to follow him or her, one is free to follow anyone as far as is one is not blocked for doing so. LinkedIn has a connect as well as follow feature, and certain profiles will require you to know the person you wish to connect with, but to follow them, there are no such requirements. While trying to connect with someone on LinkedIn you are prompted to add a personal note as a connection request to that person, and then it is up to the other person to accept or decline your connection request. In terms of following someone on any of the other platforms, you are not required to send a personal note, its just a simple click on the follow button and you are on.
I have over 500 contacts on LinkedIn, over 1000 followers on Twitter (I follow many more than a 1000) and a couple of 100 followers on Instagram as I got active on it much later in comparison to the other platforms. In most instances on LinkedIn while trying to connect with someone I have most certainly added a personal note that dictates the reason I would like to connect, and post connection I may have returned a thank you note as well, sometimes engaging in to a conversation and sometimes it does not. On Twitter I follow people I find interesting, and when I see someone follow me, I like to check the profile, if it is interesting I like to follow back and send them a thank you note. In case I am not following them back, I still send them a thank you note for following me. This has been a habit for ages, although I have never witnessed a thank you note in return from someone whom I start following. Again, it has not really mattered or demotivated me. I continue to enjoy using the platform. On Instagram I post my travel pictures, family events, book reviews, thoughts, brief digests of interesting magazines that I subscribe to, and I connect with interesting people, just like the way I do it on the other platforms.
Maintaining the right etiquette has kept me motivated to continue using these platforms with my intended purposes for the same. Rarely I may come across some provoking message, which I choose to handle appropriately. Like very recently I had someone follow me on Twitter, a young entrepreneur, and an avid reader. I looked up the profile and noticed that he has only joined recently and has not shared much on the platform yet. Although his interests are like mine, being entrepreneurship and reading books, I chose not to follow back just yet, but I did send him a thank you note for following me. Immediately I received a reply from him saying that I do not need to thank him. I felt offended, as it is my will and wish, whether to be or not to be thankful to someone. I replied politely that it is just a basic etiquette I practice. Again, another provoking message from him, clarifying that would not that etiquette include a follow back. This time it was blunt rude, especially when the person has just joined the platform and is dictating behaviour. It felt intruding my privacy and I simply had to be harsh with my message to him, that its really a choice that I make when it comes to following someone on Twitter or not, if he wants to unfollow me because I am not following him back, please do unfollow me. I wished him Goodluck politely and discontinued the conversation.
Thoughts Around Social Media, Traditional Media, Online and Offline
Social media platforms are free to get registered with, but to enjoy the power of social media, it has a cost attached to it. The costs are monetary and nonmonetary. To use advance features of the platform you are expected to pay some additional fees or subscriptions and follow the basic etiquettes. To use the free version, you are expected to follow some basic etiquettes else you get reported. It is always exciting to start something new, even if it means joining a social media platform. But patience and perseverance are required in constantly building and maintaining it. In a brick an mortar environment any rants or negative interactions with customers are momentary and visible to the people in the store and in more serious ways it could get blown up to the extent of a traditional media reporting about it, however in the online space, comments are visible to anyone, anytime and easily accessible for users to browse through reviews or comments and form an impression towards the business or entrepreneur. In a brick and mortar environment any negative episode with a customer gets lost over time, even if it got reported by traditional media, but in the online space the reviews and comments always remain for the users to access it as and when required.
For startups and entrepreneurs, social media channels will always be easy to get on to, but to build and maintain a strong positive presence is a challenge and will require a certain code to follow.