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Content production, blogging and social media always find a way to fall off of the priority list. The day-to-day reality in business almost always revolves around one objective: Make a sale. Every action is measured by the bottom line objective of “Is this generating income?”
The ROI of content marketing and social media isn’t immediate. Even worse, it’s typically accompanied by depressingly low results. Yet, the reality of the digital era demands that building an audience is the most reliable method to build a modern business.
Social media is not magic — it’s only people and communication. What has to happen for you to get a sale? You have to be able to communicate and you need a person who will buy. Social media just happens to be where hundreds of millions of people hang out daily.
It’s our job as business owners to figure out how to reach them and communicate to them in the way they want to be communicated to, so that we have a chance at increasing the bottom line.
So what happened after my business committed to posting daily for 30 days on more than 10 platforms?
Related: This is What the Small Business Model of the Future Looks Like
Where we started and why we committed to posting
We posted daily on all the major platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok. We also answered daily questions on platforms like Quora and Reddit, wrote weekly articles on Medium, plus posted on niche platforms like Behance, Dribbble and specialty sites.
That meant posting to a minimum of 10, sometimes even 20 platforms, in a day. On top of that, because I’m a small business owner, that meant the burden of content creation and posting was all on me.
Like many business owners, I neglected to build a presence on social media. We started most platforms from zero. Facebook? Less than 100. YouTube? Nada. Instagram and LinkedIn? Neglected for more than three months.
Conventional logic implies focusing on one or two platforms and building from there. The problem is, there’s no way of knowing where we could catch momentum, and we’re already making the content, so we might as well give ourselves the best possible chance to “go viral.”
Imagine this scenario: A blackjack dealer says your total buy-in is $100 (the content creation cost), and for each hand you play (posts) it costs $1 (extra time cost), but they’ll pay you out as if each hand was a $100 bet. What would you do? Play only two hands or play twenty?
Your odds of winning and realizing better results dramatically increase with the more hands you play. Posting on different platforms offers that advantage.
Related: What I Learned from Posting to Linkedin Every Day for a Year
How we approached content production and what types of content we made.
Most businesses believe they have to always be sales-oriented, so they produce self-promotional or service posts about what they do. Problem is, everyone’s doing that. From the get-go, we knew that wasn’t going to work. Instead, we decided to be contrarian: Make zero sales or service posts and have zero intent to sell anyone on anything.
The focus instead became providing value, building an audience and letting sales take care of themselves. No funneling, no calls to action, just value. The theory? If people are interested, they’ll reach out all on their own.
Rather than focus on what we do, we focused on related content topics that people have trouble with or website insights and examples that provided meaningful value. That meant our content focused on things we don’t sell, like content, social media strategy, stories, conversations and thoughts on entrepreneurship and creativity. The thought was that we’d post the content we’d enjoy consuming as the top priority.
At the start, most of the content was writing-based because that’s what I’m most accustomed to creating. However, as we got into the process, video and visuals came to dominate. This came in the form of daily live streams and mobile-first vertical videos. For visuals, we transformed blogs into visual “slides” and “carousels.”
Related: Less Selling, More Storytelling: 5 Expert Tips on Doing Low-Cost PR for Your New Business
Why we ended up focusing on video and visuals.
What we found was that vertical videos (ex. Reels and YouTube Shorts) got the most views and impressions by far, while live-streaming got the most engagement. Our YouTube channel had a handful of videos posted over a year ago and no subscribers. Yet, we got 25 hours of video views based on 15-60 second vertical videos.
A standard Instagram post would get around 100-200 views, but a Reel would often get 1,000+. Normal videos would get a handful of comments, while a 10-30 minute livestream (especially with a guest), would consistently get 10 to 100 times the engagement. On one Facebook Live, we had over 190 comments with a total following at the time of ~120 and a small handful of viewers. Not bad for “Camera on, go live and talk.”
Breaking up a blog post or article into slides or images that had a single sentence (LinkedIn’s slide and Instagram’s Carousels) increased the number of people who actually read the content because it was easier to digest, with the side effect of more people reading the longer written articles.
This might have you thinking: Just do reels, live streams and graphics because they’re “ideal.” Thing is, what’s “optimal” is always changing and people consume content in different ways. So we kept posting as many varieties of content as we could across video, live, vertical video, articles, simple images and carousels.
This comes back to the basic nature of people and what they prefer. Not everyone consumes content the same way. Some like reading, others watching or seeing something visual and another bracket enjoys listening. Rather than catering to an algorithm or having an opinion on how people should consume content, we focused on delivering content in a variety of ways so there was something for everyone and multiple ways for a person to digest what they liked.
Challenges and unexpected results
Time was the biggest challenge. We simply weren’t in the habit of producing content and the first week felt like all that got done was making content. It’s exhausting when you’re one person creating and posting content while interacting with the community on a daily basis. There’s still a business to run after all.
It’s hard to imagine pulling off what we did without at least one or two people to help run the day-to-day tasks of the business. Not a single piece of content went “viral.” We also didn’t get life-changing follower growth. The execution was consistent and countless mistakes were made.
But we did create positive momentum to keep building a strong foundation. It’s important to realize that this is a steady process, and instant growth isn’t going to happen overnight. Small victories are important and even something silly like 20 more followers on a platform is critical to start. All of this was expected.
So what was completely unexpected? We closed five new deals, with five more in the pipeline, all from people who we had zero clue we existed the month prior. All of these deals came from different platforms and all felt compelled to reach out themselves without us ever dropping a single call to action or “funneling” them anywhere.
By week three, we noticed a strange trend. Our business partners, clients and people we knew all started to post significantly more. One client followed what we were doing, took action and ended up beating the pants out of our results — growing from 2,000 followers to 11,000 on TikTok in a week!
That’s a result you won’t see anywhere on the balance sheet, but is every bit as meaningful and inspiring. It’s a humbling privilege when you get to witness the impact and influence your leadership has. Especially when you get to see others get positive results from a simple post you did without any monetary exchange involved.
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