In 2009, with businesses closing all around us, day and night, I went out on a limb. Though I was officially the Office Manager, I, being me, couldn’t just sit at my desk and do nothing.
Start now. Start with something.
There is a Chinese Proverb that says,
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best is today.”
Here are some lessons I learned while building the online brand for Riggins Construction & Management, Inc. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Also, it’s long. But this is as short as I could make it.
1. Something is better than nothing.
When I started working at Riggins Construction & Management, Inc. as their Office Manager in 2006, they had a one-page website with a single image.
I took enough classes to be dangerous at HTML and rebuilt the site in Dreamweaver. No, it was not awesome. But it was better than what we had before.
In 2010 I started our blog on wordpress.com. Was it ideal? No. But something is better than nothing.
In 2015, I rebuilt our site in WordPress. I tell that story here.
Is it better than if we’d hired a professional? No. But something is better than nothing.
2. If you don’t try, you’ll fail.
The year 2009 was scary. I was driven to find a way to let people know we were still in business. So I started the @RigginsConst Twitter account and Facebook Page. I was sure it would fail, especially Facebook (which, honestly, has way too few likes). But you learn. Twitter is better for B2B relationship building.
I talk more specifically about how I started it all in my presentation, “You Are What You Tweet.“
By January of 2011, we had over 3,000 followers. We passed 10,000 followers in April of 2013 when my mom signed up for Twitter to become our 10,000th follower. We reached 20,000 followers August 17, 2015. It took six years. Ya. Social media is a long game (but that’s Number 9).
The more followers you have, the more you’ll get. People are impressed by numbers. I’m not sure that will ever change. Slow and steady growth, listing people along the way, and keeping my ratio as close to 1:1 as possible, has been the key to my success.
Waiting until perfect conditions appear is foolish. Start now.
3. Everyone matters.
People often ask why I follow so many people. I believe that everyone matters. Everyone has value.
The advice is often given to only follow relevant people. What does that even mean? Do you know right now who’s relevant?
The truth is that a lot of people don’t fill out their Twitter bios. I just found out, six months later, that one of my followers is a friend I met at WordCamp. If I had judged him just on the fact that his profile wasn’t “relevant,” I would have missed out on six months’ worth of tweets.
When you believe that all people matter regardless of their occupation, trade, or geographical location, then you treat them all with respect. When you have the mission of being a people curator, you will look for similarities between people and make introductions. This is how every business runs.
With so many brands being managed by independent Social Media Managers, you never know who is behind an account, which brings me to the next point.
4. Social Media Managers are the people brokers of the Internet.
Getting to know the people behind the brand has been invaluable. You can connect with peers on Twitter for professional support and even migrate and grow those relationships.
Relationships aren’t born out of ways to solve the Middle East crisis. We talk about Dancing with the Stars, the commercials during the Super Bowl, and how cute your cat was to bring you a dead mouse. We all bond over small talk.
Small talk is how we slowly begin to trust one another. Bonding over a shared past time can evolve into virtual networking groups or think tanks. You can have a mentor if you want one. They’re online. Many people I know are more than willing to share their knowledge, especially when you’re willing to help them. This is humanity.
Let’s not forget the worlds that SMMs can open up to you. Many social media managers handle a half dozen or more accounts. They can connect you to more people than you can imagine, just like commercial real estate brokers. They may not be a direct client, but they can (and do) refer work to you. These are people you want to know and whose content you want to share.
5. Surround yourself with smart people.
I’m not talking MENSA here, people. But learn from everyone you can. Learn how they think.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle
You don’t have to have completely overlapping Venn diagrams to make friends and mentors — you just have to listen and learn.
Be it a meetup group, tweetups, offline meetings, photo walks, conferences, or even WordCamp, go. Meet people. Listen to them talk. Learn. They don’t all have to be geeks, either.
Everyone is a geek in their own way. Everyone is an expert in something. Listen. Learn.
Did I say, “listen and learn” yet? I am emphasizing this point because it’s been the most difficult challenge for me by far. There is no right way to do social media — there are only effective ways. And effectiveness depends on utility and purpose.
Okay. The horse is dead. I’m moving on.
6. If you don’t have content, write it, photograph it, film it.
Sure, it may be outside of your scope of work, but if you need it, do it. Our content marketer retired. My boss was way too busy estimating and running projects to write project profiles.
How do you eat an elephant?
One piece at a time.
So, I started with one. I read all of the subcontracts, took notes, looked at the photos, and submitted a draft. After a few revisions, it was ready to be uploaded to our website and blogged about. That’s how I write all of our project profiles now.
If you notice repeated questions, address them.
Whether it is job photos, a video about epoxy injection, or spending a month documenting the process of replacing a tilt-up panel, do it.
Only have a point-and-shoot camera you got for Christmas five years ago? Do it. Only have an iPhone? Do it.
Remember, something is better than nothing.
7. Share content everywhere, but mix it up.
You should share educational, helpful content on all of your social channels. But you’ll want to mix up the method and timing of your sharing.
Tailor the presentation to the audience. Twitter and Facebook have entirely different cultures (with different expectations). Instagram is about photography, for example, not memes. LinkedIn is about professional achievement. Pinterest is about curation of beautiful images.
8. Be helpful.
Do you see a new person on Twitter? Nudge them along and give them some tips.
Who doesn’t appreciate help? Being helpful produces gratitude and loyalty. Be someone’s mentor. Even a few tweets can affect someone.
Being helpful demonstrates leadership in the community you’re trying to build. This cannot be understated.
Everyone is at a different part of their social media journey. If you’ve been there before, you have insight. It’s not “off-brand” to be helpful. People will see you reaching out and remember you as someone they can trust. That goes far.
9. It’s a long game.
Make no mistake, social media is a long game. It takes a while for content to be recognized as helpful and as Pam Aungst noted in her SEO presentation recently, it can be a year before you see a spike in search results. Even Google needs time to trust you.
Social media is not a quick-fix for sales nor does it produce instant results like Sea Monkeys. It also does not replace face-to-face meetings. It does take time to build an audience and a result and attention. But if you are faithful and endure, you won’t be sorry. I promise.
Real World Example for the ROI People:
In 2015, we got a new client who watched our (three-year old) video (recorded on a point-and-shoot camera on a tripod) on how epoxy injection is used to repair concrete cracks in tilt-up buildings.
How did he find us? Google. He did a search on fixing cracks in concrete panels.
The gross profit from that one project paid my salary for half a year. The video project would have been more than worth it even it it wasn’t the only time it brought business in the door. But it wasn’t.
10. Everyone has time.
Everyone has time. You decide how you use it. You’ll make room for anything that you feel is important. Maybe you should start with five minutes in the morning and five minutes after lunch.
I cannot tell you how many times I’m sitting at my desk, finished with my work, just waiting for the boss to sign checks, or for a subcontractor to give me paperwork, or for approval on a blog and on and on.
Instead of wasting time playing Scrabble or Texas Hold’em, I’m interacting on Facebook with other brands. Instead of reading People Magazine, I’m tweeting out content. Instead of shooting the breeze around the water cooler, I’m writing blogs or hosting a Twitter chat.
You get the picture.
What are your tips?
How are you maximizing your time online?
* A previous version of this post was originally posted on LinkedIn as “Seven Things I’ve Learned Building Our Brand Online.”