A month ago, I attended a lecture on social media for entrepreneurs. The most surprising piece of advice Ben Theis said during the lecture was to not use your facebook page or other social media page to constantly sell your product. Why spend time maintaining a page if it is not to sell your product? Defining the flavor of your brand is one of the most artistic parts of starting a business. People don’t want to see ads constantly show up in their facebook feed any more than they already see ads. What people do want to see is insightful, funny or just novel information. So use your facebook page to broadcast information relevant to what your business does. Try to build a following of people who will come back time and again to see what new insights you have for them today. Then when your company is having a sale, you have a following of people who might get excited about supporting the business that has given them so much information.
Advertising on the internet is often referred to as a pay to play game because you cannot achieve the highest levels of success without paying Google, Facebook, ect to give you preferential treatment but moderate levels of success can be achieved without spending a penny. In a little over a week I am hosting a Makeathon designed to help people learn 3D printing and other cheap fabrication robots. I have done everything that I can think of to get the word out there. My target audience is teachers and librarians because they have the most potential to help kids get access to 3D printers (my mission is to get kids access to this time expensive but resource cheap technology). So I started by posting flyers in the teacher breakrooms of schools that I substitute teach at.
But then school ended in May and I had a long time to prepare for my Makeathon and promote it so I started focusing on how to use the internet to spread the word. I thought that going to websites teachers use (Edutopia and TPT) might be a great strategy but it didn’t pay off for some reason. However content that I put on Twitter and Facebook did reach a lot of people.
If you are still reading this post, you are really interested in my story, or you are thinking about starting a business and looking to me for information. I am not an expert. My business is not making money but I can connect you with the people who are helping me become an expert (for free).
I was at the gym and a Business magazine caught my eye. Inside the article titled: Go ahead, be evil. I found this advice-If being ruthlessly successful even at the risk of being evil helps you get through the dark nights of starting a company then do it. If being a force for good is what gets you through the dark nights of starting a company then do that.
Certainly not the advice I would give an entrepreneur but then I don’t profit from that entrepreneur’s existence the way that Inc.com does, so I am not motivated to help the evil ones exist as much as I am motivated to help people who believe they are a force for good. I made an existential choice a couple months before I dropped out of graduate school. I had spent a year on an experiment that was not going to be publishable and my advisors were putting a lot of stress on me to come up with something publishable. My advisors did not know that my data was not publishable yet and I could see a clear path where I could falsify data and have a much better life (at least for a year or two). I spent a couple days contemplating if I wanted to build a career in science on a lie eventually came to the conclusion that I would rather perish than publish false results. There may be times where you look at things that I say and feel that I am a horrible salesman. Odds are good that I saw a way to say my sales pitch in a more compelling but less accurate manner. I make deliberate choices not to be the best salesman that I can be. I would rather run a company that never turns a profit than run a company that succeeds by being a snake oil salesman.
2/11/17 update- Did you know that facebook hands out coupons? They gave me a $10 coupon to post an add on Facebook so I shared a heartwarming video that only marginally promotes my business but definitely builds my brand.