Running your own business is hard work. Making sure you have a continuous flow of orders from your current customers and from new customers is one of the most challenging aspects of running the business for many apparel decoration professionals.
One solution to this challenge is a bit of a good news-bad news situation. The good news is that there are vast, thriving environments where you can interact with your community and entice them to do business with you, for zero dollars! The bad news is that these environments are commonly known as social media, which includes online platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Here are some tips to help you engage with your community in a way that encourages them to connect with you the next time they need a logo on some shirts or want to personalize a gift or product.
- Tell stories instead of sell products. Generally, people are not on social media to buy things. They are there to see what people are talking about, to see what their friends and family are doing, to kill time while they are sitting in a waiting room or waiting for their kids to get in the car after practice. When you post something, make your post about the story behind the order, not a pitch for someone else to place the same order. If you just finished a varsity jacket job, congratulate the student on their achievement. If the order is a gift, congratulate all the graduating students in that school that lettered, and show a photo of the jacket that does not identify the individual. The story should not be too long, and the image needs to be interesting and clear enough to catch someone’s attention as they are scrolling by on their phone.
- Be aware. Engaging on social media can quickly become a black hole, eating far too much of your most valuable asset-your time. Posting an image and a story at least two times a week (once a day would be fantastic) should take no more than 5-10 minutes per post. A photo and a few sentences are all that you need to post. One way to keep yourself on task is to set a timer on your phone. Create your post, load the photo, and then see what else has been posted. When the timer goes off, close up your social media and get back to making and selling your decorated apparel. Otherwise, the next time you see the clock, an hour or more could have slipped by as you watched cute baby goat videos or cool car videos.
- Make it a habit. Like many things we know we should do, it is hard to fit it into our lives, as there are so many things we want to do instead of the things we should do. Spend 10-15 minutes every day or every other day scrolling through your social media. If you see a post from someone that is celebratory, post a note of congratulations. If you see that a customer or friend is struggling, let them know that you are thinking about them. Even if you simply click the button to like something they posted, it shows that you are paying attention to them on some level.
- Be an adult. What you post on social media reaches much farther than any of us really understand and at speeds that are mind-blowing. If you post a rant about something on social media, know that somewhere, someone is going to read it and take it in such a way that they decide that they will not do business with you. The saying goes that politics, religion, and money are conversations best avoided at the family table. These same guidelines are good to keep in mind on social media. You do not have to agree with anyone, and it is prudent to refrain from being disagreeable.
- Be deliberate. Ask your customers what social media they use. Are they on Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest? Send them an email asking them and offer a coupon to five random people that respond. Figure out where they are, and then create your profile on that platform. If none of your customers are using Instagram, you would be wasting your time posting there. Once you create your profile and start posting, invite your customers to post photos of themselves wearing or using your products. Post a fun photo and invite them to create the caption.
Social media is exactly that-social! It is not a sales tool, yet it can be an effective environment to increase awareness of how you serve your community. Our customers and our potential customers are on social media daily. You cannot afford to ignore this new reality. Instead, embrace it and join the conversation. Show up, participate, and occasionally offer a solution to someone online by mentioning how they could meet their need with [insert your product suggestion]. The more you can engage with the community like a person and not just like a business, the better.