When Social Media Changed the World… and the Quest Towards Business Growth

I remember the days before social media, when ‘snap’ meant a card game, and a post was something delivered by the mailman. When a mobile phone was mainly a device with which to call people or occasionally text ‘U r gr8’.

I wasn’t a huge fan of MySpace, so I didn’t really enter the world of social media until Facebook became popular with my friends in 2007. I remember because my husband and I were married that year and we were in awe that on our honeymoon we could see how many people had tagged us in their photos from the wedding day. It was so cool how that moment was suddenly amplified and shared in a way that had never previously been possible. It was amazing!

And what a thrill in the early days to reconnect with so many people that had naturally drifted out of my world. This was connection and collaboration like never before.

The Growth Potential… Esther’s Story

I watched this popularisation and then mainstreaming of social media, mostly led by the stratospheric climb of Facebook, with interest.

I remember the first time I saw its power for growing a business. My friend Talita Estelle lived in Tasmania, and owned and operated successful women’s clothing stores: one in Hobart and one in Launceston.

She created a Facebook page for her business, Esther Boutique, and took pioneering steps to create a global business by cultivating connections with shareable fashion and travel images, showing her clothes worn by customers and creating fun competitions that cultivated an interactive community. It wasn’t long before her posts start spreading amongst friends, and friends of friends. And she started to get requests for sales from Australian cities beyond Tasmania.

At first, she was amused. But after the demand rapidly increased, she decided to take the brave step of opening an online clothing store. It was a hit! In less than a year after starting her social media marketing, she had closed down the brick-and-mortar stores and was only trading online. She had a social media sixth sense and skillfully created an online tribe on Facebook, and then later on newer platforms like Pinterest and Instagram as they emerged. She didn’t just promote her clothes; she posted an idealistic lifestyle of fashion, homewares, and travel that women were drawn to, and then they would buy into the aspiration with her affordable range of clothing.

Talita went from running a small operation of a handful of people to a successful company with over 20 employees, and a warehouse full of stock that sold out so fast it barely rested on the shelves. Today she’s been operational for 15 years, with a global customer base and followers on social media in the hundreds of thousands. Remarkable!

As she grew, she definitely focused on greater precision on integrated strategies like email marketing, e-commerce, and collaborations with other brands. And yet, the growth of her business was almost entirely attributed to organic growth on social media. You can check out her store at www.esther.com.au or on Instagram @esther.com.au.

Discerning the Digital Pathways

As I began to freelance and consult with SME segments like Talita’s, I became aware of a vast community of businesses that were ready to explore using social media to grow their business. And yet there were a few areas of hesitation that they faced.

Most of the challenges revolved around similar concerns:

It takes too much time. When starting a business or an establishing a personal brand, there were many competing priorities for their time, from researching the market to developing their product and marketing plans to setting up teams or networks to actually going out and selling. Social media felt like a monolithic task and they weren’t sure how to start or how to sustain it.

There’s too much to know. Where did they start? What social platform should they use and how does it work? Who should they connect with? How did they work out what content to share? They needed a solution that would help them get going quickly, and then give them the confidence to implement the approach.

Is it worth the effort? A study from Convince & Convert showed that 41 percent of companies said they had no idea whether their social media efforts were actually paying off. How do you measure the return on investment and the return on effort? It seems it’s not as clear-cut to understand the dollars earned on a tweet or an Instagram post. Just as it’s difficult to measure something intangible like reputation or goodwill, the same challenges arise around establishing the returns from social media.

How do I stand out in the crowd? It seems like there are so many businesses using social media today. So how can their business stand out from their competitors and go beyond the local to the national and even global? What makes them unique? What makes them different? What strategies should they use? What will attract the right audience? How do they have the confidence and the tools to build awareness, and then get a return?

As I listened to the concerns of SMEs, I found their challenges were similar to those the bigger brands were facing, and also those of individuals looking to build a personal and professional brand. So I became curious about the strategy and tactics that the stand out ideas, leaders and brands were doing to successfully grow their positioning and their business; and then I wanted to know how I could break this down into actionable steps that people could follow to do the same.

The Stand Out Effect

What I was doing was helping leaders and businesses to create this Stand Out Effect for themselves.

The big news is that my book on this topic should be ready by November (wooohhhooooo).

In the meantime, if you know someone looking for help to get started my online course with group mentoring kicks off on Monday, 14 October. Click here for more information or DM me for a chat, it’s only $279.

Are you looking for a speaker? This last month I’ve spoken at conferences for SME clients for Australian Radio Network, EON Radio Network, Aussie Home Loans and many more through NSW Business Connect program and the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. I’d be delighted to work with you to create an outstanding conference experience.

 About Kirryn Zerna

I’m on a quest to help ideas, leaders and brands stand out (without selling out) in this age of online influence. I’m a conference speaker, a masterclass presenter and creator of the Stand Out Effect: a modern-day quest to uncover what makes brands stand out without selling out. What’s unique about me is that I understand the nuance of business from a large corporation to a small business and can translate the challenges and opportunities of the power of social media in each context. I draw on deep experience of working within corporate and public sector environments, and I also have had the privilege of working with over 1,300 small businesses and entrepreneurs through state and federal funded programs in the last year.

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