Guest blog: Social media in rural Cornwall

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I looked out my window this morning and saw Autumn leaves blowing around the garden, grey sky, my car on the drive (in need of a wash after driving to Callington in the rain last week…) and next door’s cat strolling along the road. It was quiet and peaceful.

I haven’t spoken to anyone all day (other than some mums on the school run) and probably won’t see another person until I head out later to collect my little one from school. And this isn’t an unusual day.

Yet I work most days with people all over the world. I’ve just had a conversation on Twitter with a jewellery designer in Ontario, and last week I was talking online to another marketer in Denver, Colorado. All thanks to social media.

Here are some great ways social networking can boost your business in Cornwall (without having to get your car dirty in narrow muddy lanes).

1. Reach more customers
Fifty years ago, most businesses sold to people in their local town, but with the growth of social media, you can connect with customers all over the world.  I’ve sold e-books to business owners in Canada, the United States and Germany, all through my website, at no extra cost than selling to someone in Devon.

The potential of social media to feed all aspects of your sales funnel is impressive – generate leads from a wider market, nurture them, convert sales and build customer loyalty.

2. Get support
Being self-employed can be lonely, particularly if you work from home, but social networks are a highly effective way to connect with people in a similar situation.

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn open doors to thousands (okay, millions) of people just like you. Search by keyword to find people in your local area or in the same type of business, and reach out to them with a simple hello. You may be surprised what it starts.

3. Be yourself
Hands up who likes ‘selling’? Anyone? Anyone? Me neither.

The pushy sales person is so last century, but through social media you can get to know your customers, what they like, how they buy, and what worries them, all from the comfort of your own living room.

The professional corporate image is fine for your brochure, but social networking is somewhere people can get to know you. Reveal a bit of your sparkling personality and give your customers a little peek behind the curtains into the real world of your business.

(But only a peek. We don’t need to know what you thought of last night’s Corrie or about your sore hip).

4. Get free marketing
How’s your marketing budget looking? Social media is a marketing tool, sitting alongside press and radio advertising, direct marketing and PR, but its major unique selling point is that it costs you nothing.

You needn’t spend a single penny on setting up a decent Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn account or blog (although there are plenty of companies out there to help if you need it *waves*).
The only cost is the amount of time it all takes, which is where planning comes in….

5. Have a plan
Thinking of things to share with the online world can be one of the biggest challenges of social media, but, just like the neighbour’s cat knows the layout of our street from years of experience, you know the trends in your industry.

Ask yourself these questions: what does your target audience want right now? What about next month? What happens in their lives throughout the year and how can your business give them what they want, when they want it? Know this, and your social networking updates will write themselves.

Bonus tip
You’re probably busy most of the time. You may have a lengthy to-do list, a full in-box, and unopened mail on your desk. And yet you’ve taken the time to read right to the end of this post (thank you), which suggests you’re interested in using social networking for business. But how?

If you take away only one thing from this post, let it be this: relax. Social media isn’t a dark magic. It isn’t the key to solving all your business’s problems.

But it is a powerful tool with masses of potential to help you grow your business. All you have to do is be interesting. How hard can that be?

PS. And next time you’re online, come and say a simple hello to me – I’d love to hear what you worry about when marketing your business – or share in the comments below.

About the author: Lucy Thornton is founder of Perfect Balance Marketing and a social media specialist. Follow her on Twitter here.