Whether you’re content with keeping your side hustle on the side or want to turn it into your full-time job, you need customers and a strategy. And you know where the customers are: Scrolling Instagram and sending TikToks to their friends TikToks. But how do you get their attention on social media?
Think about how you use social media as a customer
You’re not just an entrepreneur or a hustler; you’re also a social media user and a customer yourself! What do you look for in brands’ and companies’ social media posts? Think about how you already use social media and how you experience your time scrolling the apps.
Katherine Young, who owns breakfast restaurant Mister Bagel Westbrook with her husband, as well as the Modern Chandler Candle Co., shared her social media strategy with Lifehacker: “We didn’t establish Mister Bagel. We bought it. So though it had all of the standard social media accounts, the previous owner did basically nothing with them. So really, one of the first things I did was spread the word about new ownership online, and that is sort of where our social media following came from.”
Young looked at the existing social media accounts for her new business from the viewpoint of a customer and social media user and realized instantly that they needed an overhaul. So she invested time and energy into promoting the business online in a way that would appeal to her if she were looking for a new place to get a bagel.
Focus on authenticity and simplicity on social media
You may have the urge to put on a little front for social media and present yourself and your business in a buttoned-up way, but remember that customers like to see you be genuine. That’s why some companies hire influencers to promote their business across the influencers’ social media channels: Seeing real people use a product is really helpful—and fun—for a potential customer. Focus more on sincerity than you do on getting the most beautiful, well-composed shot.
“My social strategy is authenticity and simplicity,” Young said. “I don’t have any time to curate a fake persona and I’m pretty ‘What you see is what you get.’ Every time I try to have a grid aesthetic, I find something I really want to post that doesn’t vibe with it, and I end up posting it anyway. I actually think my customers respect that and like that about me. I’m exactly what you see, and I don’t pretend to be anything different.”
You have interests and a personality, so show them off and give people a reason to want to support you, not just your product. Similarly, your potential buyers and clients have interests and personalities, so work on getting to know them.
Joseph Heller, CEO and founder of Supplied, said, “As a solopreneur, your key advantage is your passion, your personality, and your understanding of your customer. Unfortunately, a website is a very static approach to selling online, which doesn’t allow you to accentuate these key advantages. In fact, you are at a disadvantage because your larger competitors can do a much better job of getting traffic to a website or having a website with a better experience. However, on social media, especially with Facebook Live, you have the advantage of talking directly to your customers and interacting with them in a way that a larger competitor can’t compete with.”
He added that in his opinion, the biggest mistake small business owners make is not knowing who their customers “truly” are: “We encourage our customers to lean into who their target customer is and have seen nearly all of our customers successfully generate revenue through selling to their specific niche,” he said of Supplied, which is a wholesale marketplace that lets solopreneurs choose from products with no minimum order requirement.
He recommends using Facebook Live to communicate with existing and would-be customers in the most authentic way, but play around with various platforms to see where your target audience spends most of their time.
Don’t forget about the social part of social media
Social media is just that: social. You can’t just post a picture of your product to your Story and call it a day. Leaving the “social” out of social media also leaves the “hustle” out of your side hustle.
“Don’t be afraid to slip into direct messages of people you want to collaborate with, or don’t be afraid to talk to the people who message or post,” Young said. “If someone tags one of our bagels in their Story, I don’t just repost it. I thank them for their business or comment on the pic. And I can’t tell you how many business connections I’ve made just from being chatty or friendly or just myself. I’m never afraid to let people see the person behind the profile and that has always worked in my favor.”
While she owns the brick-and-mortar bagel store, her candle company has no physical HQ. All of her advertising and sales take place online, but Young points out that social media is how all of her wholesale accounts found Modern Chandler Candle Co. Thanks to social media, Young’s candles are available in other business owners’ storefronts.
“Social media is my main way of communicating to candle customers, so I certainly see upticks when I post specific things,” she said. “For example, I made custom candles for a bachelorette party and when I posted them, two brides reached out, and I booked two more bachelorette parties for this summer and a wedding.”
Stick with it
You might not see amazing engagement right away or get an influx of orders, but having a strong social media presence will help you in the long run by giving potential customers something to look at when they’re making their buying decisions. You know the old saying: You have to spend money to make money, so promote an Instagram or Facebook post here or there. Consider paying an influencer to pose with your products. Run a discount special for anyone who references your social media at checkout or gives your account a follow.
But whatever you do, never stop posting.
“My biggest tip is don’t give up,” Heller said. “All of our customers that stick with online selling and actively seek out knowledge and support end up being able to at least supplement their income, with many able to turn it into their full-time job.”