We're on month 6 of this business being open. Which is like 1 year since the journey began, or 2 years since I started working on it in my head. And we're finally starting to gain some momentum and get our groove in this whole small business thing. However, I recently reached a mental plateau. Is it too soon for burnout?
I noticed I have been getting jaded with our awesome community. Complaining about the traffic and attitudes and so on (we all do it, admit it). And I feel bad for it, because I know I live in frickin' paradise. But I was in that bitter headspace and it affected the positive energy and momentum I need to grow this business.
A wise friend (hi Karen!) pointed out that it's likely due to my increased social media activity. She's right, as usual. Networking, although rewarding at times, exposes me to "the worst" of people: negativity and superficiality. That stuff is powerfully toxic. When I'm not mindful of it, I have a hard time identifying why I'm suddenly so agitated and disgusted with humanity.
We could all probably use a regular evaluation and re-set of our social media usage. Maintaining both relevance and emotional health is a tough balance, since the social media rule is "interaction is how you stay visible". Here are some of my observations on social media, with tips for other folks who have to use it and don't want to become hateful scrooges:
Facebook: I have a separate "business owner" profile to promote my store. Basically this means I friend anyone (who isn't obvious bot/spam) in the local community to network with. WOW. It didn't take long for me to remember why I created a nice, warm echo chamber on my other facebook page. There is so much ugliness, anger, and noise on facebook. To protect myself and keep my feelings about my fellow citizens positive, I consciously try to do several things:
1. Post minimal pictures of my family. I want to show that I'm a real person, while still protecting my space and the privacy of my kids and husband.
2. Keep political/religious opinions (mostly) to myself. This is a hard one for me, but it really helps prevent people from hating me and vice versa. It also helps prevent some of facebook's algorithms from filtering things from me.
3. Avoid scrolling beyond the first 10 posts. Generally, the top posts are the most relevant and engaging. After I make my own post, I touch base with a few other folks and then scram.
Hey look! I just saved myself 2.5 hours and all my sanity!
Twitter: This one's easy for me to navigate. It doesn't have the same addictive or agitating factors for me and it's simple enough to protect myself from the noise. For business owners/promoters specifically:
1. Find a common topic and post about it regularly. For me, it's the daily food observance. I make a quick post and get out. It could be your weekly special, sale, product spotlight, or educational information. Whatever it is, be consistent so folks know what to expect from your account.
2. Follow all the local accounts you can. Interact with ones that are relevant and communicate a little, but try to get in and get out without too much back-and-forth.
3. Twitter is ideal for daily posts that are short, sweet, and to the point. Think of it as an simple way to do some marketing each day, without the concern of being too over-bearing.
Pinterest: Another tool that is low-maintenance for me. It's quick and easy, and although there is a lot of junk and noise, it has by far the least amount of agitating content of social media options. I consider this one an easy way to develop your brand/area of expertise, without too much work. Like Twitter, you don't have to worry about being obnoxious. Find some relevant articles, ideas, etc and pin them to your boards once in a while or even daily. It isn't the best tool for visibility, but it's free and simple and a space you can direct people to learn more about you.
1. Create a balanced set of boards. Information, ideas, funny things, etc and categorize pins accordingly. People like Pinterest's organization component best.
2. You will interact with other pages while looking for your own content, but there's no need to endlessly scroll. Find a few relevant pins and be on your way. It really doesn't need to be a time-suck.
Instagram: WOW again. This is the epitome of the image-curating, superficial, popularity-contest side of social media. How many lifestyle and wellness "professionals" would you guess there are just in our small community? Although there is a place for them (kuddos to them for making a career out of this) and they probably help a bunch of people in their own ways, it is gag-inducing if you follow them all at once. You will hate humanity and start to hate yourself for being part of it. So, just like any other thing in life, evaluate your priorities and sort out the baggage.
1. Pick a (very) limited amount of popular profiles to follow. Preferably ones relevant to your business/interest, who most inspire your creativity and IG posting. This will help to give some guidance (they obviously know how to get followers) without overwhelming you with ultra-curated content.
2. Follow some fun popular instagram profiles for their beauty or humor. My favorites are:
- @food_glooby -Beautiful food submitted from all over the world. It'll inspire you to eat prettier.
- @aviewfromaloo -Literally just pictures of amazing toilets from all over the globe.
- @shoppainted_bird -Really crappy thrift store items, posted and sold for ridiculous prices. I don't really know why, but I find this one to be hilarious.
- @pleasehatethesethings -A new favorite (thanks, Sarah!). Pictures of absurd home design with snarky captions.
3. Engage locally! But again, not with everyone or you'll hate the town you live in. There are some great local pages that produce interesting and relevant (to you) content. I personally prefer other small businesses that keep it genuine and authentic (i.e. no need for professional photographer credits). Some suggestions are:
- @knowthydog -Their Dog of the Day is the cutest. Every single one.
- @foodworkslivingston -Interesting wholesome recipes, products, and nutrition information.
- @amaltheiadairy -A local, organic farm with fun pics that remind you of what this valley is all about. There are a lot of great IG profiles of the local farms in our valley! Check them all out.
- @mimi.matsuda.art -There are a lot of local artists in Bozeman, too. This is just one, but she's a good one. And she's a new mama to twins! It's fun to see her juggling so much awesomeness!
4.Remember, when it comes to followers, quality over quantity. If you just try to get a ton of followers, you'll end up with a bunch of brand ambassadors that will never be customers, and you'll get lost in the mess.
So there it is. Sometimes I have to teach others before I can follow my own advice :)
Social media is a friend to any small business, but you must be mindful to use it effectively and to protect your mental health. Be efficient so you can get back to your real life.
I hope your agitation is low and your relevance is high. And good luck out there!