Small Businesses, Facebook, and sales – My Take On This Whole Malarky

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When you start that amazing – and hugely scary – adventure that is owning your own business, you might decide that setting up a Facebook page is a good way to let people know what you, and your entrepreneur idea, is all about. You want the entire world to know who you are and what you do, so you can start selling your wares and make a living, right?

Well… if you’ve thought about it for a while, your answer should absolutely be ‘no’ to the ‘entire world’ part. Here’s why.

If you started your own business, chances are, you’re a passionate person who wants like-minded people to like what you do – the key expression here being like-minded. Think about it: if you sell vegan lip balm, would you be interested in having bullfighting aficionados raving about your product and brand? I’m going to take a chance and say you’d be shocked and appalled for such attention, even if it brings home the bacon (pun intended. Sorry.)
What you want, again using the vegan example, is for people who also think about animals in a compassionate way to buy your products. You want the right kind of customer, because they are the ones that will resonate with what your message is all about, and that, more so than the revenue (maybe), is what drives you to keep going every day, even when your pocket is as empty as a dry well.

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However, when you’re in the early stages of your start-up, you might struggle to get anyone to see your products. I know I did. After I set up my Felt Buddies Facebook page, I had to mass-invite all my Facebook friends to ‘like’ my page, so I could get that minimum of 50 Likes they require to finally start sharing my content to a broader audience. Did it matter at the time whether my friends were that into what I wanted to show, or even if they understood what it was? I sure didn’t care, all I wanted was to be seen – at the time, that was more important than to be understood. I can assure you I have friends who have liked my page and still have no idea what needle felting is. I love them to bits, but they’re not my target audience.

If your journey is/was anyhow similar to mine, you would have soon after start perusing other arts and crafts business pages. There would be so many wonderful things to look at, so many talented artists out there. Some pages would look more successful than others, for various reasons. Some would look nonchalant and cool, just sharing great stuff they made and occasional lovely third party content, while others would look more like they were desperately trying to get people to like their pages, no matter what, more so even than to worry about sharing what they did. The latter, I found, relied heavily on other pages dedicated to ‘hiking’ crafty pages, meaning their sole purpose was to make page owners interact with each other and go to each other’s pages, and like them, therefore upping those total page likes and, the end purpose, reach more people (and hopefully customers, I suppose.) Did I say ‘pages’ enough in this paragraph?

Before I go on, let me just say that I have nothing against hiking pages per se, nor the page owners who use them to their benefit. Some of the former are quite keen to help small businesses out, and make it a point to ask users to only like page contents if they, indeed, do like them. I myself have participated in some events in the past, but I’m just trying to point out why I have, for a long time now, felt this not to be the thing for me, and maybe not for some of you, either. So, put down that stone, grab a biscuit, and allow me to continue my explanation.

Facebook Hiking pages, as I mentioned, share small businesses and ask that we page owners like and share each other’s contents. In theory, that is a wonderful way to increase your engagement, because the more people see your page, the more likely they are of purchasing something, right?

Well… again, not really. Here’s why: most people who go to hiking pages are there to promote their own businesses, and only go to other pages in the hopes that the visited will repay the favour. And although I’m sure a lot of them do, their interest will also most likely be to promote themselves, not to rave over your stunning work. It’s a little like opening a craft fair with only stall owners, and no customers. “Come see what I do, it’s amazing!” “Oh yeah, sure, but have you seen my stuff?” Lots of sellers, no buyers!
Also, a little fact: did you know that Page Likes don’t count towards your total likes? This means only personal likes do, so you have to pop over as yourself, Jane Smith, and not as your business, Jane’s Sparkling Lip Balms, for it to count for the page you visited. Another little fact: the best pages I’ve ever encountered were either shared by non-business owners, or by other pages simply wanting to show their followers new work by people they admired, no strings attached.

So. You want to increase your Page Likes so you can be seen more. Hiking pages might not be the answer. Would paying for Facebook to advertise your page be a better option?

You know where I’m going with this by now, right? The answer is… probably not. I’ve tried this once before, and the results were very poor indeed. Turns out, I got a few new likers (not many, to be honest) but no sales, and even worse, my page engagement got lower than ever. Why is that? The people who clicked ‘Like’ on my advert probably never bothered going to my page in the first place, or did, but never liked a photo or commented on anything, so the mysterious Facebook Algorithm just decided they weren’t that interested in my page, and then probably decided that it must be my page’s fault (not engaging enough), which in turn made Facebook withhold sharing what I wrote to those who might indeed be interested. I lost the people who matter in the midst of some who didn’t.
If you’d like to hear a much better explanation for this phenomenon, watch this video and this one.

Remember what I said about like-minded people? They have things in common with you, genuinely enjoy reading what you write, like your business and are interested in you as a person and business owner. They don’t have to be buyers, they can be other sellers, people who also own their small arts and crafts businesses and know what it’s like to try to get Facebook to share your stuff. They can be people who can’t afford to buy your items, or have no immediate interest in owning something you made (gasp!), but who still care for you and your business enough to comment on a post or like a photo. These are the people who can (and, if you’re lucky, will be) your friends over time, and maybe even your customers. These are the people I think you should really care about, because if you are genuinely interested in those who visit your page, chances are, those people will be kind enough and help you spread the word around and bring more people to your page, more future acquaintances and friends, more customers.

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Personally, although I do own a business and would just love to make a really hefty revenue from my creations, I choose to put the people before the money. I’ve been fortunate enough to make new wonderful friends and customers, and I enjoy interacting with them. For me, my work is my passion, and if I get to share that passion with other wonderful people, regardless of the sales, then at least I know I’m happy and enjoying my Art Path. I still worry about revenue, I just don’t make it my main purpose.

“But Leonor, I’m here to make money, not chat with people,” I hear some of you say. Fair enough. I’m not saying you shouldn’t think of the financial part of your business, just that it can’t be only about that, or your passion will die out. Again, this is just my opinion, feel free to disagree, but if your main goal is money when you do what you do, then you probably don’t have the right job in the first place.

As far as I’m concerned, I think that if you’re passionate about what you do, if you offer quality work at a fair price (that means, to the most of you, ‘don’t underprice yourself’), and worry about sharing that passion with the right people, then you’re on the right path. Some of you may be lucky enough to make a very good living, but if you only manage to get by I think you still have the right formula to be happy and keep making, because that will fulfil you.

 

 

 

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23 responses to “Small Businesses, Facebook, and sales – My Take On This Whole Malarky

  1. You are a smart lady Leonor. Trying new things is always part of growing a business even though not everything works for every business. You have a nice ability to connect with people and make them smile. Yes, not everyone buys, but they’ve been exposed and may pass it on to someone they know would love to buy. Word of mouth, very powerful. As always, wishing you the best just hang in there.

    • Thanks, Marilyn! You just turned me into a blushing, taller woman with your words…

      (by the way, I’ll be pestering you for news soon, I want to know how you and your family are doing!)

  2. For the pestering? Give it a few days, my friend – I’m now in the midst of having my mother remove her cast and start to walk again, very exciting (and nerve wracking) 😝

  3. Hi there, I can relate yo just about everything you have said here, and agree whole heartedly with your outlook. Loving what I do first, having like minded people like and/or appreciate my work and if folks purchase, that’s an incredible reward. Very well written – thank you xx

    • Thanks, Michelle! I’m not an expert by no means, but I find loving what you do just makes way for everything else. Thanks for reading! xx

  4. You already know we’re on the same wavelength but I’ll say it anyway – agree with all you say! 🙂

    Just to add a little to the ground you’ve covered so well here, imagine starting out with practically no friends on Facebook… Before starting my making business, I didn’t use FB at all – just wasn’t my sort of thing (and actually, I don’t use my personal page much at all even now, although I enjoy my business page tons). This did make it super slow to get things moving on my business page, but rather than getting on the like for like bus or taking a hike (groan), I got on with getting to know the people behind the business pages I found, liking what I genuinely liked and engaging with the people who interested me. It isn’t a quick way to do it, but I think it’s much more fun, fulfilling and meaningful for you as a person, as well as a solid and long lasting approach for your business page 🙂 x

    • I cannot agree with you more, Debbie! Slow but steady does it, and it’s genuine, because you’re not doing “a like for a like,” you’re really getting to know all the great people out there. I didn’t even talk about the messages I sometimes got that went like this: “I’ve just liked your page and some photos, go to my page and return the favour.” I am always baffled by this 😳

      As for Facebook for personal use, I could also do without, to be honest. Part of me is sorry that Google + didn’t take off, because it might be a good alternative… x

  5. I agree with you. Building a loyal base has to be worth more than a million likes. It’s like in blogging – what with all those fellow bloggers who sign up or just like you with the expectation of you visiting their site and reciprocating? But then no one reads anyone else’s post. What is the point?

    • Absolutely. Bloggers might each have their own reasons to write, but if it’s just to build an empty followers base, what’s the point? If I like something, it’s because I really like it, and that’s that 😊

  6. couldnt have said it better myself, when i started my page i joined a lot of the crafting community groups and found it quite supprising how everyone seemed to think these like for like ladders could possibly be of any benifit to their pages, although those posts seem to alternate with the moans about poor reach! ive enjoyed making a slower but more meaningfull growth, seems to be working well… so far!
    fab page by the way, loving the toadstool 😊

    • Hi, Donella! Thanks for reading. Yes, I too found myself wondering what a “like for a like” might do in terms of reach and, most of all, sales – it won’t reach potential customers, only other crafters, who are not there because they like what you do. Organic growth is so much more meaningful 😊

  7. Personally I long ago stopped looking at reach and likes on my page as that stripped the love of my craft right out of my day and took hours away from crafting. now having the gentle organic word of mouth feeling to it is so much better for my heart and mind.
    Having only just really starting to find that happy mix of work and social media after finding i was terribly wrong about some crafters intentions its all very much a work in progress and have found this article a breath of fresh air and very timely!
    You always have such a brilliant way of looking at situations that helps me see thru the fog, I am very honoured to call you my friend and I’m so glad that i found you, even if it was thanks to faceache 😉
    Thanks again for the thought provoking article! Nikki x

  8. I’m not quite sure why I’m holding a stone in the first place, but this was a fascinating read. I’ve been playing with the idea of maybe trying to sell some of my stuff(for ages now, it’s probably not going to happen!), and this made so much sense to me, thanks!

    • Stones are here to render me comatose, should I say something so despicable that I deserve to be put down 😀 (Seriously though, I didn’t want to offend anyone with my opinions…)

      I’m glad you found this useful! And… ahem, if you haven’t opened up an Etsy shop yet, I can give you free listings, let me know – maybe this will be the little push to get you started?…

  9. Pingback: In which I set myself up for failure (or, a shawl to keep you distracted) | Felt Buddies (and stuff)·

  10. Ooh how did I miss this post Leonor, it’s brilliant. I agree with you about the like for like people, I’ve now learnt to try to ignore them.. And expect new likes to disappear occasionally 😳 false likes are no use to anyone really. xxx

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