The Importance of Strategy & Your Online Presence


Something I see time and time again when a new feature or a new platform appears online is a flurry of confusion and excitement: Should I join this? Should I do this? Do I need to be on Ello? Do I need to be on here? And on and on.

 Everyone is going crazy about Instagram Stories. They're fun! But are they right for your business? Defining your overall social media strategy can help keep chaos and confusion at bay when new platforms and features pop up.

Everyone is going crazy about Instagram Stories. They're fun! But are they right for your business? Defining your overall social media strategy can help keep chaos and confusion at bay when new platforms and features pop up.

My friend Nicole, of Dear Handmade Life is someone who would choose to not use social media if she didn't have a business. Nicole and I are basically polar opposites when it comes to news in social media. I get excited. Nicole, not so much. But that's not because she doesn't understand or care about the impact that having an online presence does for her business. No, she fully comprehends that it's imperative for a creative businesses to develop an online presence, and she thinks often about this stuff. Hence, how the below conversation occurred.

We were catching up on the phone recently, and Instagram had just launched Stories. Nicole explained: "I don't know, do I need to be on this? Do I have to show people details like this of my life if I don't want to?" (This is the kind of conversation I love, because it gets at the heart of what I am all about within business. Strategy. Looking at the big picture. Making decisions based on what your goals are.) Before I could answer, Nicole said, "Then I realized, I am doing enough. We are doing enough on social media. Adding one more thing to our plate is just going to take that much more time out of my day, as well as the focus off of what we're doing well." I replied: "Exactly! That's where strategy comes in. You have your social media strategy figured out right now. You've asked yourself the right questions with this new option. And currently, the simple answer is no."

I thought it important to share this conversation for a few reasons. One, because when something shiny and new like Instagram's Stories appears on the scene there is always a flurry of excitement. Which is natural. Everyone is talking about *it* and exclaiming about what it's doing for them, or that you too should be on it, and OMG WHY ARENT YOU ON IT.

And to be honest, while I thought it was odd that Instagram literally ripped off Snapchat and gave us the bargain basement version of Stories (because it's called Stories on both platforms, again a little weird), I have found it a really fun new way to add more to my presence on Instagram. But it's not for everyone, I understand that.

It is so easy to get swooped up in it all. It's easy to forget what your goals for your business are or why you're on social media in the first place. And then not to mention the added pressure of more of a focus away from what you really want to be doing: making. It can add a whole new layer of overwhelm.

This is precisely why having a defined online strategy in place for your business is so important. Laying the groundwork of a social media strategy offers you insight into where and what you need to be doing online as a business. If you've laid that ground work for your online presence, then you should have a good understanding about where to dedicate time.

I asked my Facebook Group members (if you're interested in joining the group, sign up for my newsletter here.) what they thought about IG Stories, and how they decided if it was right for their business.

Here's what a couple of them said:

I dove in straight away, I'm using it to share my studio space and works in progress. It seems to be a great way to deepen the connection with your people, it also gets you in front of them in a really accessible way. It's a quick and personal way to share content. - Sarah Golden, Maker Maker

Sarah is an artist that among other things creates and designs gorgeous textile art, on Instagram she often shares her art and what she's working on. What I love about her stories is they really show the inner workings of her business in a real and very inspiring way. She shows behind the scenes - how she's decorating her new home studio, the process behind her work, and even real life stuff like spilled paint!

Most of the time I'm an early adopter with new technology. But IG Stories turned me into a curmudgeon, I'm currently building my online social media strategy (thanks to your amazing CASMS course!), and having yet another thing made me social media fatigued. I watched others for about a week and saw how much fun they were having. Eventually I jumped right in and am loving it. It's way less formal and I feel more comfortable showing not perfect images or videos. - Holly MarshMueller, MarshMueller

Holly is a maker who creates lovely tangible items for babies and the adults that love them. Her brand is quirky and nerdy, and her IG feed is full of her products, fabrics, and designs she's working on. Her stories are a peek into her life as a mom and what she's working on. There's something about getting that added glimpse of her behind the scenes and into her business that really underlines her business' message.

[Tweet "Having a solid online strategy in place offers you a framework to lean on."]

As a business, it's always important to reassess your online presence. Having a solid online strategy in place offers you a framework to lean on. I've said often on this blog and elsewhere that social media is not a set it and forget it situation. It's important to think about new ways to continue to grow your online presence. Having a strategy in place and an understanding of what you want online helps to quiet all of the noise and can really define who you want to be online. It also helps you decide if you should be caught up in a fervor that's currently happening all around you.

I always try to stay curious, and encourage you to as well...but I also know what it's like to run a small business. It can feel like there are a million little things to do. Adding more to that is no fun. So whether you love, loathe, or are somewhere in between when it comes to new options for your online presence, I've put together a few questions to ask yourself next time a new platform or new feature appears and you're at a loss:

  • How will this add to my social media strategy? By adding something new to your strategy, you should think about how it can fill a gap or how it can bring something new to the table for your overall strategy. For instance when I decided to start using Periscope this year, it was because it brought a dynamic new way to share my knowledge and was super easy for me. It actually added something new to my presence, and it was easily accessible: turn the camera on, go live!

  • Do I have time for this? Remember everything takes time and precious energy. Be honest with yourself about making the time for something new. It's important to think about time when you run a business. Time is a finite resource, right? So when you add something new, that means there's less time for something else. But don't let fear take over. If it's something that will add a new level of excitement to your social media strategy, maybe you need to cut back on something else?

  • Will this new feature/platform help me meet my goals online? Every decision you make online should ultimately be working to meet your larger goals as a business online. Being thoughtful and measured about where you spend time as a business online is imperative. Be honest with yourself about this. Sure it's easy to get swooped up in excitement, but at the end of the day you don't want to waste time or confuse people about your business.

Social media doesn't have to overwhelm you or make you feel like you're not doing enough. It really doesn't! If you put things in place now by thinking about your overall goals, defining how you want to present yourself online, and are realistic about your time, then you can carve a space for yourself online that you feel proud of.

Don't over think it, ask yourself the above questions, dive in, make mistakes and have fun. That's how we learn!

Meighan O'Toole

Always all in.