The working mums’ guide to
making the most of social networking for your business
Everyone knows that social networking matters if you’re in business - but how do you make it pay? Does Tweeting about what you had for lunch make good business sense, and where is the boundary between socialising online and making money from it? We gathered some working mums together - virtually, of course - and picked their brains about how to make social networking work for your business. Here’s what they had to say...
Chetna Parmar, 40, is a mum of two who runs an online retail business from home (www.BlueLotusCakes.co.uk). She says as a free and easily accesible tool for promoting your business in tough economic conditions, Twitter is invaluable. But don’t just tweet about what you had for breakfast - Chetna recommends using sites like http://www.twellow.com and
http://search.twitter.com/advanced to seek out people who might be interested in her products based on keywords and location based information. For Chetna, the beauty of social networking is its ability to connect her with paying customers. “I’ve already seen results with followers purchasing from the website and then recommending me to others,” she says. “I ‘ve also found potential suppliers and got a real insight in to what customers are looking for.”
Chetna says Twitter also enables her to show a personal side to the business, which can be valuable long-term too. “There are opportunities to engage with followers and to pass on information - someone recently wanted to know how to make a dairy-free soya-free cream and another person was looking for a dairy-free powdered milk.” You never know what those connections might lead to.
Linda Jones, 42, is a trainer and director of a communications agency (http://www.passionatemedia.co.uk), as well as being mum to twins. With a reputation for being something of a social media guru, Linda says she still encounters business people who are suspicious or scared of getting involved in social media. She thinks this is in part down to their level of knowledge or understanding of what it's all about, or concerns about negative connotations. “They want to know how much time it needs and what their return on investment will be,” she explains. So top of Linda’s tips for demystifying social media is the reminder that Twitter quite simply a way of communicating. “It’s really as simple as that,” she says. “But you can also find contacts, learn interesting stuff and generally talk with pride about your products or services. Crucially, you can also listen to others and may even do them the odd favour. The end result? People know you and your company, you build a community around it.”
Linda acknowledges that it can take time to build up a meaningful presence on social media, but she says the benefits can be huge. Most important of all, she says, give people a reason to follow or engage with you. “That’s what counts. Relax, be yourself and be interesting.”
Remember social networking begins with a single step. You don’t have to conquer it all in one day. Kate Butler is a Personal Development Coach and a mum of three. She turned to social networking - despite initially avoiding it - when she realised that her business wasn't going in the direction she wanted it to. “Nobody new what my business was and I was starting to lose momentum and confidence,” she says. “I took the brave leap of making a comment on my status on Facebook, and was inundated with well wishing friends and acquaintances telling me how great it was and that they would pass on my details to other people they thought I could help.”
A whopping ninety percent of Kate’s work now comes from referrals via her networks on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “Moral of the story is your mouth is your 'shop' and telling people about it on places like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn etc are free and easy ways of marketing yourself,” she explains. “Never be afraid to update your status and tell everyone what you have been up to with your business that day!”
Louise Northwood (@louisenorthwood) 31, is a mum of two who runs three web-based businesses from home with no advertising budget. Ninety percent of her business also comes directly from social media, and she thinks it pays to plan your presence carefully. “Embracing social media was a necessity for me as I’m not in a position to spend thousands on advertising or SEO,” she explains. “Social media gives me a great online presence and digital footprint that I could not buy. My main tip for businesses new to social media is to plan first and tweet later. Spend half an hour deciding who, what, when, where and how you will use this tool to best benefit your business. Use lists and other applications, don't sell, and do try to add warmth and value to your interactions.”
Carol Smith, 30, is the mum of one behind the blog New Mummy’s Tips (http://newmummystips.blogspot.com). She says social networking was her ticket to self-employment “I started blogging when my daughter was 12 weeks old but almost two years later I run several successful blogs that bring me a good income every month, and I freelance as a blogger and social media consultant. As a working mum, social networking allowed me to build up a support system and a business at the same time.”
Heather Townsend, 35, is a mother of two, and a performance improvement specialist and social media expert. Heather, who blogs about networking at ‘Joined Up Business Networking for busy professionals’, left corporate life because she wanted greater flexibility to be with her children - but was keen not to compromise on her career. “In the first six months of starting my business I didn’t have a clue about marketing my business and ‘fell’ into social media by accident. After two years of learning how to use social media, I have built up a business which is turning over more than £100k and off the back of those achievements I was asked to write ‘The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking.” Heather says eighty percent of her income can be tracked back to a relationship which initially started via social media.
Kate Pietrasik is a mum of one who has just launched her own childrenswear label, Tootsa MacGinty (http://www.tootsamacginty.com). She says she’s seen a lot of negative press about social networking, mainly focused on how it will drain you of precious time that could be better spent actually running your business, but she disagrees. “If you understand the dangers and the etiquette then social networking can be an invaluable tool.” But Kate also advises maintaining a boundary between your social life and your business. “When you're self-employed and working from home the boundaries between your personal and professional life become blurred. I think because of this, when posting on Twitter or Facebook it's always best to keep a more professional hat on. I'd recommend setting up a Facebook page rather than a profile for anything professional, and always carefully word your updates and tweets; you never know who is reading.”