How Senior Entrepreneurs Can Leverage Their Business Using Social Media
Here are some tips for senior entrepreneurs on how social media and whatsapp can help leverage a home business.
Senior entrepreneur Madhu Mehra, who runs a home business of knitted products called She Who Knits, is never shy in giving out her visiting card. “I usually hand out my card and quite shamelessly ask people to like my page,” says Mehra. “Because, only when people will like and follow my page, can they see what new updates I have put such as new products.”
Like Mehra, Senior entrepreneur Jayashree Chakraborty runs The Sari Show. She creates hand-painted sarees and dupattas. She posts photographs of her work on the page as soon as it is done. “It helps to keep people updated about my work, otherwise they would lose interest as there are many pages.”
If you are an entrepreneur running a home business and want to look at free and innovative ways to market your product through social media and tools like WhatsApp, here are a few tips.
Spread the word about your page
Always set up a Facebook page for your business. Share your page and get your family and friends to share the page on their timelines.
Put a few relevant posts on your page to get it started. It could be your latest products with good photographs from various angles. It could be a story on how you started your business, the motivation and the idea behind it. Personal stories which talk about struggles and people realizing their dreams, always work.
Make sure that the product prices or an email ID or phone number where people could find out more about the product are clearly displayed.
Don’t be shy and get your family to chip in. In Mehra’s case, her son-in-law and daughter, both designers, have helped to set up her page. Her daughter models the products while her son in law shoots the pictures. Her family also shares the page and invite their friends to like.
Chakraborty’s children too have helped spread the word about her Facebook page among their friends. In fact, some of her best customers have been friends of her daughter. Through them she has been able to reach out to and develop a wider network.
Keep your page active and interesting
Entrepreneur Radha Kunke, who runs The Soapnut, a handmade soap manufacturing business in Pune shares her tips for Facebook marketing. “I have kept my friends in the loop with stories of struggles and triumphs.” Kunke also makes it easy for visitors to her page by putting up a pinned list on how to buy her soaps. What also works in her favor are the wonderful photographs of the soaps that she puts up. For example, one of the recent pictures shows a soap called Bliss in the making. Other pictures focus on gifting ideas as well as naughty things you could do!
Mehra’s page has a section called ‘They who bought’ where she features customers who bought her products modeling them. “It not only keeps people interested in the page it also keeps my customers happy and engaged.”
If you are able to figure it out, remember to watermark all your pictures with your brand’s logo and name. More than stopping people from copying your product, it also gives people an instant recognition of your product. You could use applications like Canva or Befunky to do this.
Become part of relevant groups
There are several groups that encourage home entrepreneurs, crafters, as well as people doing one specific type of work such as hand embroidery, crochet, or fabric painting. Becoming part of such groups on Facebook or otherwise not only gives you access to the variety and quality of other peoples work but also helps to spread the word about your product.
For example, Madhu Mehra sold several Ajrakh neck warmers after her work was featured by A Hundred Hands, a community that celebrates handmade and holds a popular exhibition in Bangalore each year. Mehra’s work was part of their ME To WE initiative and once her work was featured on their Facebook page, it was much noticed.
Food writer Asha Satish Philar’s book on Konkani Saraswat Cuisine sold several copies after it was talked about in various Facebook groups and blogs run by the Konkani Saraswat community.
Creative artist Girija Ravindran started posting her artwork on Facebook recently. She has then shared her work and received feedback from other artists. She has also participated in an exhibition of which she came to know only via social media.
“I was encouraged to share my work by fellow artist Asha Shenoy, who said unless you share your work no one will come to know about it.”
Popularising one’s business on FB involves posting regular posts that are tailored to audience interest, says Manjul Madampath Menon of Bead, a social enterprise that makes skirts and quilts.
“The insights section of the page provides an understanding of what posts work for the specific audience for the page.” For instance, posts with photos or videos work best for my business,” says Menon. “It is also important to understand at what time of the day to post, what is your audience as defined by demographics and location and how frequently.”
Read up on your page insight
Page insights are an analytical tool that you can access via your Facebook page. Learn to read and understand it to know what time your audience visits your page, what kind of posts get you the maximum likes and what is the best time to post about a new product. Also not all the posts need to be related directly to your product. You can share those that are relevant to your creative idea or in someway links back to what you do. For example, a senior entrepreneur who loves making pickles could also share a post on the various masala mixes that different parts of the country has to offer.
Should you advertise your page?
Menon thinks advertising or promoting a post to a selected audience can help occasionally. If you have a product promotion coming up, or a new collection that you wish to reach out to a selected audience, it does make sense to spend on Facebook advertising. But unless you are sure of reaching a specific audience, avoid spending big amounts. Instead select the right product and group, and spend a minimal sum just to see what kind of response you get. Depending upon the results you could always increase your budget or the duration of your ad.
Is Facebook your only option to market your business?
Not really. Many home run businesses use Whatsapp quite effectively. In fact a recent report in a The Times of India mentioned more than two million homemakers selling products through Whatsapp and doing business worth about $8-9 billion in gross sales! Madhu Mehra uses WhatsApp to send out a blast messages when she has an exhibition. “I create a WhatsApp group where I can post updates about the exhibition and once it is over I can delete the group. Not everyone is on Facebook very actively and this way I am sure that they do not miss out on any messages at all!
Recently Chakraborty started reaching out to her customers through WhatsApp. She adds customers to an existing WhatsApp list and when she has a new product available she sends out a blast message to all of them. The response is immediate and often she can have a more personalized chat then she can have on Facebook.
What are the other ways to grow your home business?
If you wish to stay the online route, you could look at sending out regular newsletters to your customer base. Make sure that you only send them once every two months or less or, depending on your product availability and usage. Example, tribal carpet collector and senior entrepreneur Danny Mehra uses his newsletters very effectively to spread the word about innovative exhibitions and new collections. Remember not to spam your audience with too many newsletters, email updates or WhatsApp messages.
Menon thinks to grow a business off-line, it may be useful to either secure a mention or advertise in neighborhood periodicals. You can also distribute leaflets with the local newspaper guy, or participate in local or popular fleamarkets. You could also connect with ventures like Granny’s Love, which encourage senior citizens to contribute their work.
Finally, here are some suggestions from Mumbai based Social Media Trainer, Ami Savla Hemani, who runs the Socialize Store:
1. You could use cross marketing with another business that is complementary and is also on social media. For example, if you run a jewelry business, you can cross promote it on a friends page if they are running a complementary business like clothes or bags.
2. Influence marketing can work very well. These are groups with a large number of members where they have special days when you can post about your business. Some of them charge a fee, but in exchange you get to spread the word about your business to thousands of group members.
3. Your Facebook page should always be the right mix of promotion and value-based posts. For example, you should ideally have 25% promotion and 75% value-based post to retain your audience interest.
4. Live videos work very well on Facebook. If you are able to do, create a video or a live video demo of your work on Facebook, such as a video of you creating a painting, cooking a recipe if you are running a food page, or doing the demo of some creative craft if that’s your business.
5. Get in touch with popular bloggers to write about your product if they like it. You could also give your product as a giveaway on your page or through a blog. This creates audience interest and popularity!
Photographs courtesy: She Who Knits; The Sari Show, Girija Ravindran