Are you a small business owner feeling overwhelmed by social media? Me too!

I got a degree in communications well before anybody had smartphones or Facebook friends, and the word “content” was mostly used to describe somebody who was pretty happy with their life. I’ve learned everything I know about digital marketing on-the-job over the course of my career, so I was intrigued by the idea of learning more about digital marketing in a more formal setting.

Digital Marketing Essentials is a workshop designed for you if you’re feeling overwhelmed or not getting the results you expect from your Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a recent workshop I attended at the Small Business Development Corporation offices.

What’s the collective noun for a group of business owners?

After checking in at reception on Level 2, we were guided to a meeting room overlooking the Perth city skyline. There were around 35 to 40 participants and it seemed we represented a wide range of businesses, from osteopath services and hair removal to business broking and jewellery sales. We sat in a classroom style set-up, ready to pick up some tips on how to make digital marketing work for our businesses.

Meet Mark Kostner

As the workshop got underway, our facilitator Mark Kostner introduced himself and welcomed everybody. Mark has more than 25 years’ experience running a range of online and bricks-and-mortar businesses across Australia. Technically, he started his first business around the age of nine, selling keyrings he made from coins – and his passion for business and digital marketing was clear.

Throughout the workshop, Mark shared stories from across a range of industries. He emphasised that every business is different and not all digital marketing strategies will work for every business. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but if all of us went away with at least one tip or strategy to try in their business, our morning at the workshop would be worth it. It was.

Strategies and takeaway tips

Among other topics, the workshop covered six steps to create a digital marketing strategy, an introduction to analytics and a review of the most popular social media platforms. Mark offered plenty of content planning and research tips, including how to create and test a Google Adwords SEO advertisement for the first time, what we should consider in creating a content calendar and where to find providers to outsource projects to as part of a digital marketing strategy.

Here’s just some of my takeaways from the day that I thought would really benefit a range of business owners:

  • Think medium to long-term. Digital marketing is not a short-term solution and it takes time to build a tribe of engaged fans, friends or followers.
  • Don’t ignore questions on social media. Just as you wouldn’t leave a customer standing at your counter for a month before you responded to their question or issue, you need to be responsive to your online audience. It’s all part of delivering great service.
  • Don’t buy followers. Higher numbers of followers might seem impressive at first glance, but successful digital marketing is not about the number of followers you can amass. Your focus should be on engaging with your followers. Building your followers naturally is also better for your Facebook analytics, which could mean more opportunities to promote your business.

I left feeling inspired, with pages of notes and strategies to try. All of us received a Digital Marketing Essentials course booklet filled with practical tips to help connect with potential customers online.

Investing time to apply new strategies

For an investment of just $50, this is a fast-paced workshop which presents a lot of ideas and inspiration in a short time.

Ideally, after attending the workshop, you could take the rest of the day to go through your notes, read the course booklet thoroughly and invest time in committing to even one new strategy to try. If you can’t manage the rest of the day away from your business, it would be worth scheduling some time for yourself to work on your digital marketing strategy within a few days of attending the workshop while your inspiration is fresh!

I went on a Thursday from 10am to 1pm – but there are weekend workshops available too. During this time there was one 10-minute break. There was a catering trolley outside the workshop room where many of us grabbed a free tea, coffee, water, green tea, Milo or a biscuit to take in to the workshop.

Next steps

Once you have attended Digital Marketing Essentials there is a range of follow-up workshops available which focus on specific digital platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Google Ads. To get the most of these sessions, Mark recommended we put some of the strategies from Digital Marketing Essentials in place for at least a few months first. He also encouraged us to use the SBDC's business advisory service, a free service where you can make an phone or video appointment with a small business adviser to get your questions answered.

29 August 2018