Women have not always had the easiest path to enter the realm of entrepreneurship and gain economic independence. Fortunately, as innovations such as the internet increasingly become part of the fabric of society, these determined women have found success in business using social media. Women across every ethnic group and industry can learn from their phenomenal example and grow their own businesses with online tools.
If you want to grow your business, social media could be a key factor in your success. Here's what you need to know about how social media marketing can help women-owned businesses reach their key markets.
Women's entrepreneurship around the world
Women who have historically been discouraged from working outside the home or building independent businesses are beginning to find success by building microbusinesses that rely on online tools like social media. Indonesian women, in particular, rely on social media for attracting the attention of new customers – 63% of these enterprises used sites like Instagram and Facebook for promotion.
Women all over the world are beginning to realize their true potential, for a number of reasons. Social media allows female entrepreneurs to connect not only with other women who are building businesses, but with their ideal customers, who are often also women. [Read related article: 5 Feminine Traits That Make Leaders Great]
Because the internet has made entrepreneurship newly accessible for millions of women around the world, we're seeing a welcome surge in women-owned businesses globally. Last year, 163 million women became entrepreneurs and started businesses, causing the rate of entrepreneurship among women to go up 10%. While not all of these businesses will succeed over the long term, many women are creating sustainable enterprises that are continuing to grow.
Looking closer to home at the rates of women's entrepreneurship in the United States, it's easy to see that women are gradually stepping into their power as the culture shifts to be more inclusive. In 2018, women owned 12.2 million businesses. That's huge, especially when you consider that in 1972, only 402,000 U.S. businesses were owned by women.
How women use social media to grow their businesses
Social media is a key tool for many female entrepreneurs for a number of reasons. First of all, it's affordable. On some social media platforms, women can organically reach their target audience and find new clients or customers without paying for expensive ad campaigns.
Women are also using social media as a branding tool. By posting consistently and sharing everything from product photos to testimonials, female entrepreneurs know how to build trust and customer loyalty using social networking sites, often bypassing the need for expensive marketing campaigns. Brands like Flat Tummy Co, Thinx and Glossier have largely built their success with targeted marketing campaigns that feature real women and the struggles they face.
Savvy businesswomen know that social media can serve many purposes simultaneously – marketing, branding and even customer service. Here are just some of the ways you can use popular networking platforms to build your customer base and pilot your business to success:
- Connection and engagement: Use social media to connect with your ideal customers. You can engage with them directly, solicit their feedback and get to know them.
- Customer service: Social media gives you the opportunity to respond quickly to customers' complaints, questions and feedback. Good customer service over social media can sometimes even turn a bad situation into a good one.
- Advertising: Many social media platforms offer inexpensive advertising options that can be very effective.
- Branding: You can use social media to develop a voice and aesthetic for your brand through content like photos, videos and posts.
- Research and data collection: In today's data-driven world, you can gain a competitive edge by using social media to gather customer data and research your competition.
- Trend tracking: In marketing, it's important to keep up with trends. Hashtags, keywords and other trends are easy to monitor on social media.
- Networking: You can use social media to find support and mentoring from other women.
Why you should create and stick to a plan
Nicole Antoinette Smith, assistant professor for Ohio University's online MBA program, said it's critical to lay out a plan for your social media marketing before you start. She named five main reasons a plan is important:
- You'll avoid making up strategies as you go along. With a plan in place at the beginning, you already know what to do first, next and last.
- You'll resist the urge to react drastically to every little thing. Inevitably, while marketing your business, you will have new ideas, exciting input from business partners and colleagues, or the desire to change or eliminate tactics that do not seem to be working. With a plan, you have a clear direction of what you wish to accomplish and how to get there so you do not have to entertain every idea presented to you. Of course, you should remain open to strategies that make obvious sense, but this does not mean you should interrupt your plan to immediately explore each new option.
- You'll develop the foundational reason to keep going when you want to quit. Your plan is the motivation you will need when times get tough and when it seems things are not working well. Refer to your plan often to remind yourself of your goals, strategies, measurements and anticipated results.
- You'll know your expected results. One of the most important aspects of your business marketing plan is the results you wish to accomplish. Make sure they are realistic and measurable.
Women who are most successful in using social media are those who use their platforms of choice consistently and have a clear strategy for each platform's role in their larger marketing strategy. Clearly outlining your actions and goals for social media marketing helps you measure your success and make changes as needed.
Tools of the trade
Women who use social media marketing in their businesses know that they have to be consistent with posting and engagement. Whether their audience uses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other platforms, most businesses eventually need to invest in a social media management tool.
Many, many scheduling and social media marketing management tools are available these days. They make it easier to keep track of all your business's accounts and offer features like content scheduling, analytics, and monitoring. The right tool for your business depends on which platforms you use, your customers' expectations and your specific needs.
These are some of the most popular social media management tools:
- Sprout Social
Although social media management tools often have a monthly cost, they're much cheaper than hiring someone to post for you on a regular basis and monitor your accounts. If you want to use social media to grow your business, you will need to look at the features of different management tools and choose the one that best suits your company's needs.
Networking with like-minded women for success
Women flourish when they support one another. That's one of the most powerful aspects of social media. Not only do these platforms allow female entrepreneurs to connect with female customers, but the sites can also allow them to connect with like-minded women they can learn from.
Building strong networks is key for women's professional success, as a network can provide valuable advice, word-of-mouth advertising and new opportunities. If you're looking to grow your network, particularly in women's leadership and marketing/advertising, the following organizations might be good places to start:
- She Runs It: As an organization that has been promoting women's success and leadership for over 100 years, She Runs It offers networking events, workshops, mentoring and more.
- The Advertising Club: This nonprofit is dedicated to educating and connecting advertising, marketing, and media professionals.
- American Advertising Federation: This organization is dedicated to growth for advertising professionals at all levels.
- Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: Founded by actress Geena Davis, this organization focuses on creating equal representation for women in media.
Leveraging social media to grow your business and become a leader
Even if you're starting your business from scratch as a one-woman operation, it's important to think of yourself as a leader from day one. There are so many wonderful online tools for women who want to grow their businesses and build an empire, but you need to think like a leader before you can be one.
Social media is a great way to promote your business and grow your network. It can also help you grow your personal brand and feel more confident in your professional accomplishments. If you leverage social media well, you could make a much bigger splash than you anticipated when you first started your business.
Step into the role of leader. Own it. For too long, women have had to fight against a glass ceiling for business success. That's finally starting to change, and it's time to celebrate by growing the business of your dreams.