Category Archives: business

Inspiring women

One thing I miss most about working for people is working with people. Yesterday’s training session was just a reminder of how much I miss that. It’s sometimes kind of strange to have been in just so many female-orientated places in my life, from school to English departments (often with their token male teacher) and it does seem, especially here, that women are winning the networking wars, should there be a battle of the sexes. With LIFT, with social media, with Dames de FER, it certainly seems that women have got bags of initiative.

I particularly liked one lady’s bemused expression as she reenacted her day at the bandsaw (maybe that is what it was… or a table saw… I’m not well up on my saws to be honest, though I can tell a band saw from a jigsaw) as she was saying ‘I certainly didn’t think I’d be doing this…’ cue bandsaw movements. I think that is true for many ladies who were there yesterday. They just never thought that they would be running a business in rural France. Some of them had not the faintest inkling that they would move into such unusual fields as they have.

We had a very good discussion about why people ‘like’ stuff on Facebook, especially when it comes to businesses. It would seem that we do it for four major reasons.

One is that we intend to use the business in the future and we’re liking them to add to our little black Facebook books. It’s like we’re making a personal directory. We find things we like and we ‘like’ it as a way of keeping a tag on it. It’s like circling it with a highlighter for future reference. Thus, I might like a fosse septique business because I just might want to use them in the future. I don’t want to bookmark their website and a like is a nice way to keep them somewhere I can access later. It’s like a unique Yellow Pages. I wonder if Yellow Pages could get in on the act and allow you to bookmark things? Maybe they already do and I’ve not been paying attention. However, Yellow Pages entries are dullsville. At least Facebook is pretty.

Another reason we like things is post-purchase. We like it because we’re showing our appreciation and thanks for a job well done. I just liked the Café Portebleue and that was as much about the fabulous food we were served as it was anything else. I’m just saying thank you.

Then we also seemed to ‘like’ stuff because we’d been invited to by the person who runs the page, and we didn’t really want to say no. We might not buy anything from them, but every time we interact with them, our friends see. In a world where 6,000 English people live (Charente), that’s not a bad thing. If my friends interact with my page, their friends can see that they have, and they might like my business too. Hiking our likes with strangers might not be effective, but if I can reach friends-of-local-likers, I might find some custom. Heaven only knows, my friends have got me most of my business out here. Between three women, I bet I have at least half my local business through them. Word of mouth is more powerful out here – not less. Sure, that means I need to wear my smiley-happy business face every time I show my face online or in public, but I’m used to that. Being a teacher is like being a mini-celebrity and you run the risk of causing gossip in exactly the same way in rural France.

Finally, we ‘like’ stuff because it in some way reflects who we are, like having a badge or a bumper sticker. We like their values. Ethos is a funny thing in the world of purchasing, and it’s why Pepsi Cola kick themselves every time their sales figures come out in comparison with Coca Cola. Sure, Pepsi wins in taste tests. Logically, we should be a world of Pepsi drinkers. But we are not. Despite Coca Cola’s inferior product, they’ve got us by the proverbials. Something about Coca Cola’s ethos makes me a Diet Coke girl and not a Pepsi Max girl. Ethos is an amazingly powerful tool – it’s why people smoke expensive cigarettes. Bingo fags (the cheap, super king size menthols) might be the logical purchase if I fancy a bit of tar in my lungs and a bit of poison in my bloodstream, but Marlboro are always the brand kings. Ethos.

That’s what Facebook is about. Business pages are about signing up to someone’s ethos and values. It’s about identifying with them. It’s about saying “I’m a JD girl and proud of it”. Long before business pages, they were ‘fan’ pages. That’s kind of what a business page still is, in a way. A fan page. We are constantly looking for ways to define ourselves to the outside world, and that mentality of t-shirt-wearing, badge-sporting, bumper-sticker-showing behaviour allows us to define ourselves. According to my own likes, I seem to have a preference for animal charities, dogs, sad dogs, funny things, environmental stuff, homesteading stuff, local businesses I have been to and would recommend, and then my friends’ businesses. I would say that’s about right.

Anyway, that neatly summarises why people like stuff on Facebook according to 20 women in a café in France. Given the demographics of Facebook, it was pretty much us!

Some facebook for business observations

I’m running a session today in Verteuil about using Facebook for small businesses. I’ve got a good few things planned with a washing line and post-it notes, and speed-dates for business owners. I miss running training sessions. Training adults is just as fun as teaching children.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few observations about the wherefores and hows of using Facebook in a micro-business.

What do people ‘like’?

People are herd creatures. They like what their friends like. They like what their colleagues like. They share. They like things that are funny. They share things that are either amusing or useful to someone. I might share something a friend will find funny on their wall, or I might share something they might like. They sometimes share things that are controversial. I share to the general public when it’s something I know a lot of my friends will be interested in. I share special offers or money-saving offers if I think someone will be interested in it, but I don’t do that very often. People like questions. They like personal things that cross over from professional. People like interaction. They like to be able to talk to the chief of the one-man band.

What do likes mean?

They’re in indication of popularity, of course, but they do not necessarily mean customers. In fact, you’re more likely to get custom in other places and then a like afterwards. The fact is that your business page will only really be seen by people who like your page already. It doesn’t go to everyone. So you need to keep your existing likers happy. And that means entertainment, not just information. It also does not mean endless advertising of your own wares. They’ll just unlike you. If I visit a new business page, it’s nice to see interaction, humour and a friendly professionalism. It is not nice to see ‘hike those likes’ because then that makes you look desperate. I want to know that a company is genuinely liked. I want to see that they are genuinely interested in their subject and they are genuinely interested in their clientele. If they are not, well, I’ll find things elsewhere. Likes from genuine likers, not just your mum or ‘hike those likes’, means that you are probably a good business. Sure, you can move up the Google Rankings if you have a very general term like ‘gites in France’ but most of the general terms are long gone.

What else do I want to see?

Pictures. Photographs. Photographs. Pictures. Relevant news stories, snippets of information, new stuff. Helpful things. Blog bylines so I can pick out which of the blogs I want to read. Contact information (not in the header!) Important things. Links to other things so I can get lost in the internet for a little while and put off doing the things I was doing before. Events if they’re near me. Links to your website and blog if you have them.

What don’t I want to see?

Unprofessional stuff; from badly-taken photographs to inappropriate content. Desperation. Endless in-your-face offers. Endless examples of your own content. If you post more than two things in a row, it will hog my newsfeed and I won’t be able to see any of my friends’ stuff. I don’t want to see too much. A barely-alive page is much less irritating than an excessive poster. Arrogance. A total onslaught of stuff with no real interest in whether or not people are actually interested. Very personal stuff, like your child’s birthday. Bad spelling. Bad grammar. When there are ‘likes’ on the page that are purely for ‘like me back’ reasons. 21% of people ‘unlike’ a product because it is too promotional.

So how do you get ‘likers’?

Link up to Twitter, your website, your blog, your linkedin. In short, anything you have in the real world or the virtual world. If people find you elsewhere, they might visit and like you here. Treat it as a sidewalk amuse-bouche. You want to put out lots of tasty tidbits that hint at the rest of your content and business, things that whet the appetite. Be funny and be original. Share things that you have wanted to share. Comment on other professional pages in a genuine and interested manner, using your business page profile. If you want people to interact with you, you have to interact x 50 with others. Don’t sweat it. A facebook page is just another tool in your self-promotion belt. It does pictures, which Twitter doesn’t. It’s slower than Twitter, and has less content, but it is more engaging content. It is less rewarding than a blog in terms of a reading experience and it is less permanent, so keep it fresh but not too often. It should be a diverting resource, with a good balance of useful and interesting.

Look at other popular local facebook pages. Make a list of the things you like about their content and do likewise.

Then look at other popular pages offering the same service you do. What content do they post?

Ultimately, though, it is not a popularity contest. Okay. It kind of is. But it is based very much on genuine reviews, genuine interaction and genuine word-of-mouth. Likes spread between friends.

Disclaimer

Facebook could die. The internet is a fickle, fickle world. One minute we’re all over Myspace and Bebo, the next we’re Skyrocking and Instagramming. Likes do not mean sales. I love Grammarly’s page. It’s fun and I totally agree with all of their values. I share a lot of Grammarly stuff. But I’m never going to use them. Not ever. UNICEF have issued the bold statement that Facebook likes won’t save children’s lives. The same is true for your core business. Likes do not mean sales and Facebook has to be part of other things as well. Well-rounded is best. Having your fingers in plenty of well-linked pies is certainly a good way to spread your presence.