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A significant number of customers will look at the social media profile of a business before making a purchase decision. Is your social media on point? Are you converting? Is it easy for your potential customers to find you?

In this episode, social media expert, Avery Sly, shares the 5 biggest mistakes business owners make on social and what to do about them.

— Avery Sly

Susan Sly podcast interview with Avery Sly

Topics covered in the interview

Social media platforms to use
The power of posting videos
Using hashtags
Bad content
Using Filters
Facebook and Instagram stories

Avery Sly’s Bio

Avery Sly is a recent graduate of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in marketing and a minor in sociology. Avery has been a successful social media coach for business owners for three years. In that time she’s worked with hundreds of people to help grow their organizations and take them to the next level on social media.

Follow Avery Sly

Show Notes

Read Full Transcript

Susan Sly 00:01
Well, hey everyone! What's up? You are not going to want to miss this episode. We're going to talk about five mistakes that small business owners make, especially when it comes to social media. And my guest is an expert at helping small business owners succeed with their social profiles. My name is Susan Sly, if you don't know me, make sure you hit the subscribe button. This is raw and real entrepreneurship. I'm an entrepreneur, I oversee three businesses, I've got five kids and a whole lot of life going on. And in these conversations, when I'm interviewing founders, and sharing tips, it's to help people just like you, because guess what? Small Business is the backbone of the economy. And I want to see you succeed. So with that, get ready for the next episode of the Susan Sly Project. All right. Hey, everyone, I am so excited you're here. You know, social media. Big question, right? And when you are starting a business, when you maybe are transitioning from a career to your side hustle, you got a lot of stuff going on, you're wearing a lot of hats, and it's like, oh, my gosh, I have five minutes to focus on social media. What should I even be doing? Or maybe you're looking at other business owner's social media, and they're crushing it and you're going, I don't know, I don't have the bandwidth, I don't have the resources. Well, my guest today is an expert at helping small business owners with their social media. And she's gonna be sharing the biggest mistakes that small business owners make. And I'll see if I'm making some of those. But anyway, a little bit about her background. Not only is she a graduate of the WP Carey School of Business with a degree in marketing, she is the marketing and brand manager for Agency 8, which is the agency that I founded, and she has worked with some of the biggest, hottest brands in luxury automotive space, she also worked in the food space. And she mentors hundreds of small business owners in helping them get their social media on point. And she specializes especially in helping business owners who are maybe a little bit late to the social media game. Those people who are 45 plus. She's also my daughter, and amazing. So Avery Sly, thank you for being here.

Avery Sly 02:13
Thank you so much for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Susan Sly 02:17
So Avery, I want to just jump in right now. What are, before we get into some of the mistakes people are making, what are some of the biggest trends on social media that people should be taking advantage of that you're seeing for business owners? Yeah,

Avery Sly 02:30
so one of the biggest trends, to be completely honest with you is getting on TikTok. I've experienced a lot of pushback from people I've worked with about getting on TikTok. They're like, Oh, it's just for kids. It's just for you know, dancing and all that. And that's just not true at all. If you aren't on TikTok, you are behind the curve. Businesses from all areas and all industries are already on TikTok. If you go and you look up Ryanair, for example, they have an incredible TikTok, it's absolutely hilarious. Flex Seal, like that tape that you use to fix everything, they're on there. Automotive companies, restaurants, etc. It's a great way to get short form visual content in front of your audience. The reach is unparalleled on any other platform. And it's a great opportunity for business owners to get creative, capitalize on trends and really, you know, connect with their audience in a more personal way.

Susan Sly 02:34
Is there any kind of business that TikTok is not for?

Avery Sly 03:30
You know, honestly, in my opinion, everyone can utilize TikTok in some way, shape or form. If, for example, you don't have a tangible product and you're a service provider, for example, maybe you're a lawyer, I've seen so many people, so many lawyers, teachers, chemists, etc. just educating people on TikTok and using that platform as a way to educate others. So for example, if you're a lawyer, you might make a video, and like a selfie video just kind of like this, and say, Here are my five top legal tips or if you're an accountant even, Hey, you know, tax season is coming up, have you done these five things? Or have you done these three things? Or here's how to do a tax return. Educating people, if you're a service provider is in my opinion, one of the best ways to utilize TikTok because then people begin to see you as an authority. And you know, maybe it's like an 18 year old kid who doesn't need legal or accounting advice at the time, but when they do, they remember you from TikTok and they might reach out to your agency, your you know, law firm, your accounting firm and want to work with you in the future. So I don't, personally I cannot think of any industry specifically. I've even seen the waste industry on TikTok. So there is absolutely everything out there.

Susan Sly 04:45
Well, Avery, that's- I, you know, I think when people are looking at some of these social media platforms, there's a lot of confusion. Should I be on LinkedIn? Should I be on Instagram? Should I be on TikTok? Should I be on Pinterest? I mean, Twitter, Facebook, and it really ebbs and flows. And if someone has maybe just enough time to focus on one, do you suggest they try and just focus on one or should they try and have a presence on all of them?

Avery Sly 05:12
So this is a great question and one that I actually get a lot from my clients. And, you know, in my personal opinion, I think having two is the sweet spot. Two is manageable, in my personal opinion. And for many business owners, I recommend using Facebook and Instagram, because they're owned by the same company, Facebook. You're able to post your Instagram content to your Facebook, you can post your Facebook stories to your Instagram stories, or Instagram stories to your Facebook, etc. So it makes it a lot easier if you don't have the time to just create one piece of content and distribute it on those platforms. Now, maybe your avatar isn't on Instagram. And in that case, you know, maybe you want to check out LinkedIn. It really does involve doing a little bit of research and just figuring out the age demographics. Every time I you know, teach a course or work with a new client, I like to bring them statistics, it's like I got that from my mom. And I like to give them some information and also include age demographics. And so that's important to look at, it's very easy to find on Google. But just knowing where your audience is, and being sure to capitalize on those platforms. Like for example, if you're you know, selling a product to people in their 50s and 60s, then maybe Snapchat isn't the best place for you to try to reach your audience. Or maybe even Instagram isn't the best place for you to reach your audience. But Facebook is an option, and so is LinkedIn. So it's just about knowing where your audience is, and being cognizant of who your target audience is, which is absolutely critical and very important in business. Well,

Susan Sly 06:41
Avery, hat's powerful. And I know it's a relief for a lot of people, because they're thinking, Oh my gosh, like, Where do I need to be? And a confused mind is not a productive mind. Let's jump right into these five big mistakes. Because I know just before we went into recording the show, we were talking about what some of them are. And sometimes people just aren't aware that they're not doing something. So I want to disclaim this in saying, the very fact you're listening to this, you're watching this, that is a great move as a first step, right? And and whatever you've done in the past, you can totally clean it up. It's not a big deal. Avery, so what's the first biggest mistake people are making when it comes to their social media?

Avery Sly 07:22
Yes, so the first biggest mistake is not using it at all. That means you have no presence on any platform. Or you know, maybe you made a Facebook page in like 2013, and you haven't touched it since for your business. As a business owner, it is critically important to have at least a consistent presence on at least one platform. Now I mentioned two earlier. And that's fantastic. But if you're really struggling with two, find where your audienc is and really stick to one and do it well. Here's why. In 2021, and in 2020, consumers, they use social media as a search engine, you know? How many times have you gone to purchase something, and you've maybe looked up a video on YouTube? I know I personally do it. I'm really into Amazon athletic wear right now. And so I'll watch YouTube videos of people choosing their favorite athletic wear, like from that as well. And same with Instagram, you know, I might look them up on Instagram and see what the company is posting. And all these brands, they have a presence on social media. It's also an excellent opportunity that you cannot miss to connect with your customers on a more personal level. And for small business owners this is really important. As a small business owner, you're often wearing multiple hats, you're constantly, you know, focusing on 10 things at once. But it gives you a great opportunity to connect with your customers. If you post a photo on Instagram and a customer comments, wow, I love this product, or Wow, you look like such a great coach or something along those lines. You can respond to them and show them that you're engaged, that you're interested, that you care about what they're saying. Additionally, social media gives you an opportunity to get feedback from customers input, and really showcase your products and services in a lot of ways that you can't do otherwise.Like, it's great that you have a website. And if you don't have a website, please get a website. There's a statistic out there, the majority of small businesses do not have a website. So have a website. But also, even if you don't have a website, you need to have a Facebook page then. Because if I'm Googling your business, and I can't find anything about you, I'm not going to make a purchase from you. And I'm going to move on. When buyers go to make a decision, there's a stage of the buying journey called evaluating alternatives. And this is where the buyer is doing research, you know, where can I get the best prices? Where can I get the best quality product? And they may be looking at you compared to other businesses. And you know who's on Instagram, Facebook and other social media? Your competitors. So you need to make sure that you have a presence on at least one of these platforms so that you're able to get in front of your customers and connect with them on that more personal level.

Susan Sly 09:55
Avery, that's powerful. And thinking about this concept of so many people, they're focused on their product, they're focused on just, you know, really, you know, all the different things in business, but they're not paying attention to their social media. And I read a statistic that 70% of buyers will look at someone's social media before they make a decision to purchase, and it doesn't matter what business are in. Alright, so what is the second biggest mistake people make?

Avery Sly 10:23
So the second biggest mistake is not using hashtags when you're on social media. Now, for Facebook, you know, hashtags aren't necessarily as important, but they're still usable. LinkedIn actually has a hashtag feature. So if LinkedIn is your main platform, use hashtags and use industry specific hashtags. Where hashtags really play the biggest role is Instagram. Now full disclosure, I don't personally use Twitter. And it's not that I advise against it, I just don't personally think it's the place to be for businesses, because there's a big emphasis on visual content. And you know, you don't- Twitter is more word based and a little bit more of a fiery location, in my opinion. So I'm going to skip over Twitter, but there's a reason for that. Now, for Instagram, for example, if you're using hashtags now, I have a friend that makes custom pearl jewelry. And originally, when she started posting on her account, it was nothing against her, but she wasn't using hashtags. And you know, she wasn't getting her content in front of people that are going to potentially make a purchase. So if you're using pearl jewelry as the example, something you might include is hashtag pearl jewelry, hashtag custom jewelry, hashtag, etc, etc, you can use up to 30 hashtags on Instagram. The sweet spot that I've personally found is around 11 to 13. And you want to do a mixture of smaller hashtags. Now, what I mean by small is when you're typing in the hashtag in your caption section, it'll start giving you some recommendations. We've got big ones that are all the way up in like the 10s of millions of posts. And we've got some smaller ones, which I consider to be, you know, anything 50,000 or less, which may seem like a lot still, but that's relatively small compared to other hashtags. If you look up hashtag dogs, for example, pretty sure there's like a billion posts on there. So the odds of your content being pushed to the top of that are a little bit smaller. And I often, I run a lot of different automotive themed pages. And so something I'll do is I have my broad hashtags, including cars of Instagram, supercars, etc. But then if the photo is of a Lamborghini Huracan, I'm going to do hashtag Huracan, hashtag Lamborghini Huracan. You want to be specific to the content in the image. And this goes for any hashtag on any platform. TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. You want to make sure that your hashtags are relevant. Now you can take advantage of trending hashtags on TikTok, which I'm not going to get into right now because it could, it could be a whole other episode. But you just want to make sure that you are using hashtags specific to the content. Because these algorithms are so smart, they know if you use hashtag dogs on a picture of a horse, for example, they know that's not a dog, they know it's a horse, and they're not going to prioritize that content as high. But using hashtags helps you get in front of potential customers, it helps you, you can do research using hashtags as well. And you can look up what your competitors are doing. You can look up similar products, similar services, and see what others are doing, and kind of emulate their content as well. So hashtags are extremely valuable for your business, both for doing research and getting in front of customers and increasing brand awareness.

Susan Sly 13:33
So what I'm hearing, Avery is that making sure you're using broad hashtags and narrow hashtags, and then being consistent with that. And the other thing I found, one of the hashtags I use is Scottsdale entrepreneur and going in and following other people who are using that hashtag because that does create more collaboration, which is huge. Okay, what is the third thing that the biggest mistake that you're seeing people make right now?

Avery Sly 14:00
The third biggest mistake might also be one of my biggest pet peeves. And this is nothing against anyone that's guilty of this. But you know, today you're here, you're listening, you're watching, this can change. Okay? And so number three is posting bad content. Bad content encapsulates a lot of different things. But the primary thing I'm talking about is bad quality content. If you are a restaurant, and let's say you have this beautiful gnocchi dish, and I'm hungry, so I'm going to talk about gnocchi for a moment, just pillowy deliciousness, and you have this delicious dish. You're not going to do that dish credit if you take it in a poorly lit room where it's grainy, it's blurry, you can't tell what it is, it looks like a bowl of mush. And you don't want to post that on your social media. And so many times I see business owners sacrificing quality for quantity. There's this misconception that oh, I need to, as a small business owner who's growing, I need to post eight times a day every single day. That used to be the case. However, that's not necessarily true. At least once a day is a great time to, or at least once a day is a great posting strategy. However, you can also post three to five times a week. Don't over exert yourself, don't sacrifice quality for quantity. And this is a big thing. Additionally, bad content includes overly political content. I know there's a lot going on in the world, you guys, but your business, in my personal opinion, does not need to take a political stance on these issues. It will affect people that are purchasing from you, okay? If you want to be a part of a cause, then do some sort of, you know, some sort of cause. Choose a non political charity, such as your local Humane Society and donate 10% of the proceeds from your business to that society. And if you want to post quote, unquote, political content, replace it with a cute photo of an adoptable dog that you helped find a phone, I felt, not a phone, helped find a home with your business' mission. Don't get political on social media as a business. It's just not a great business practice, you guys, and you don't want to alienate people that are potential customers, okay? Bad content also includes content that is overly filtered, okay? There's- don't use Instagram filters, there's a lot of editing apps out there that are very simple use. Afterlight, too, is one of my personal favorites. It has a lot of built in filters. There's also VSCO, Lightroom, which is completely free and a little bit more complicated. And Snapseed, which is another free one that I love to use. You can use those. Just adjust the contrast, etc. but just don't overly filter your product, you know. You don't want to, for example, if you're selling a car, by adding this filter to it, it might look a completely different color in the photo than it does in person. And then it's kind of like the person showed up because they thought it was this color, and then they see it in person they're not interested anymore. So just be cognizant of how filters and how your editing is shifting how the image looks. I used to work for a restaurant, and we made specialty drinks. And I would never touch the color of the drink because I didn't want a customer to come in and see this drink and be like, Oh, that's not what it looked like on your Instagram profile. So just being cognizant of that, not being political, and not posting blurry content. Guys, most of us have a smartphone, we have an iPhone or Android with a fantastic camera, you don't need to go out and buy a super expensive camera to create quality content, you just need to hold your hand steady, and take a good photo in good lighting. And that will make a massive difference.

Susan Sly 17:30
Well, and I think that as social media has progressed, Avery, some people who were maybe early adopters, what you know, on say Facebook, right in 2008, you could post that selfie, it was a little blurry and that was okay. But on different platforms, the expectation, especially Instagram, is that it is going to be a higher quality photo or a higher quality video. And, you know, the thing I would say is a little bit of filtering, especially, you know, for those of us of a certain age is totally fine, but just don't go crazy. So you look like a mime. Alright, Avery so what is the next thing that people should not do?

Avery Sly 18:09
Before I jump into that really quickly, it's, of course, if you're taking a selfie, it's okay to put a filter on it. It's okay. It's totally okay. I was more specifically talking about products in that photo. But if you are a service based business owner, don't be shy about you know, putting your face out there. And with Facebook, you know, you can have your personal page and have your business page. So post what you want on your personal page, I'm not going to tell you what to do over there. But on your business page, keep it clean, keep it professional. You can always use different, and this kind of transitions into our next point here. But you can also use social media to show a more intimate look of your business. And so that's number four, which is not taking advantage of stories. Now Facebook and Instagram. This is what I'm specifically talking about here. They have stories. Stories, for those of you that may not know, are 24 hour bits of content. So you put it out on your story. It's up for 24 hours and then it's gone. So this is a fantastic opportunity, you guys that I see a lot of business owners kind of missing out on. Now here's the different things you can do with stories. There's a stickers option. And on that stickers option, you can do things like polls, you can ask questions, you can do quizzes, you can ask, and you know, you can do rating bars where people can show how much they love something. This is a huge opportunity if you're a business owner. For example for my dealership client yesterday, we have multiple Rolls Royces in so I created a collage using an app called InShot. I like to give you guys my apps, you can use it for free, there is a paid version, I just use the free version, but you can make collages and you can set them to the aspect ratio of an Instagram story. So I had a Rolls Royce Wraith on top and a Ghost on the bottom and I had our followers guess or vote which one they preferred and which one they would rather have. Our story views doubled and our engagement was about half of the viewers which is absolutely crazy. Using these features on Instagram, Instagrams, like, Hey, you know, this person knows what they're doing. They're asking questions, they're getting people engaged, they're keeping them on the platform. The algorithm will then reward you. It's going to push your content in front of more people. Additionally, if you're a business owner, again, you're wearing a lot of hats, you may not have time to post every single day and take the time to write out a thoughtful caption. So this is where Instagram stories come into play, Facebook stories come into play, because you can show less formal content. Behind the Scenes content is fantastic. If you are a small business owner, making things by hand, show your process, film you shipping out orders. If you are a service based business, maybe share what your office setup looks like, do a behind the scenes, a day in the life like, hey, I'm about to hop on a coaching call. So excited to you know, work with someone new. Different things like that, and taking advantage of stories, it gives you a chance to get feedback from your audience with things like polls, quizzes, questions, etc. You can even ask as a business owner, for example, you know, maybe you're changing your logo, which logo do you like better, top or bottom? You can have people vote, they feel fantastic, because they feel like they're a part of the decision making process in your business. And again, stories just gives you that opportunity. You can post a quick selfie. For me, I'm in the automotive space, but I just post memes on my stories, which are just funny jokes.

Avery Sly 21:18
And you know, I

Avery Sly 21:19
had someone today who is like, I always have to double check when I watch your story, because I don't know if it's you or a meme page. And that's totally fine, because I get lots of engagement from that. So even funny content, silly pictures, etc. That's fine for stories, it doesn't have to be as polished as something like a feed post. Therefore it takes less time, and therefore you should be taking advantage of it.

Susan Sly 21:41
Thank you, Avery for that. And I see a lot of people are not taking advantage of stories. And stories are, like you said, it's that glimpse into your life. It's the person behind the brands, behind the business. And if you did take that selfie hiking, it's a little bit blurry thrown on your story. It's all good. All right, the fifth and final mistake people are making.

Avery Sly 22:02
Yes. And the last thing about stories too is it gives you that opportunity to not just be a faceless small business, right? Do you know what the person who is, you know, the CEO of Lululemon? I mean, maybe you do know what they look like, but you don't see them on their Instagram. Whereas a small business, you have a bit of an advantage, like you are the CEO of your business, and you can talk to your customers directly, they can get to know you, get to like you, and that's going to make them want to make a purchase. Another opportunity to do this is our fifth one. Our fifth mistake that I see small business owners making is not using video. Now believe it or not, I was actually, I like to continue my education on social media at all times. And I was in a situation where someone was educating others and telling them not to use video, because it's too hard. Let me tell you something. As a small business owner, you would not have made it to where you are today, if you gave up when things got hard. And you're, I'm sorry to say this, but your business is not going to be successful if you give up when things get hard. My mom has made it incredible lengths in her life, because she didn't give up when things got hard. So if video is hard, let's fix that for you guys. In college, we had a class and it was a sports marketing class, and I absolutely loved this class. And one of our assignments was that once a month, we had to review a current event that was happening in sports and we had to talk about it on video for two minutes. Do you know how many takes it took me? It definitely was not done in one take. I took maybe 150 takes, but I got that video done. And here's the thing, is that when I was doing those takes, and also sorry to finish about the project, we also had to respond to two classmates using a video. So we had to show ourselves to our classmates, etc. So here's how you can apply that in your own life. First is that when doing those 150 takes, I got pretty good at figuring out what angles worked best for me, how my talking style converted on video, and I got practice. Practice makes perfect. And this is the exact same advice I gave to my brother recently because he has a similar project in school, but it works for business as well. We all have a camera roll on our phone. So just take out your camera and start talking about something you're knowledgeable about. You don't have to do it with the intention of posting. But just start talking and get comfortable looking at the camera, looking at yourself while you talk, figuring out what works and what doesn't work. Watch it back and just learn, hey, you know, when I blink like this the whole time, it's a little bit creepy, you know, you might go through and change some things. So just practicing. Another thing is potentially finding an accountability partner. So this is something I recommend to my clients as well. We have a community that we've built, and I encourage them to find an accountability partner. If they're uncomfortable with a video, someone they're comfortable with, who you know is going to give them positive feedback that you can maybe send a video too. So for example, you know, you can say hey, Susan, you know, how are you doing? And just practice sending them a video. Practice sending videos instead of text, sometimes. I received an email, I was talking with someone over email and he was sending me video emails. He's like, I don't like to type, so he was sending videos. LinkedIn, for example, I have a client, every time he connects with someone new on LinkedIn, he sends them a personalized video saying, hey, it's so lovely to connect with you. I'd love, like here's a bit of information about me, I'd love to get to know you. Video shows the personal side of you, of your business. If you have products, take videos of your products, take videos of people using your products. For example, my friend who makes necklaces, take videos of them wearing the necklaces in different you know situations. Having proof of customers wearing and using your product, for example, makes for an excellent tool in terms of having people want to make a purchase from you, and it's an excellent resource you can use. So if you aren't using video, if you're shy, if you're scared of video, practice, practice, practice. Because with TikTok and with the rise of Instagram reels, video really is the preferred content, and 8 billion videos are watched every single day on Facebook. So video provides a massive opportunity and I would not want for you to miss out on that chance to increase your brand awareness, connect with your customers, and show that more personal side of you but also show your products and services in action.

Susan Sly 26:25
Well, Avery, thank you for those tips and the mistakes people are making and yeah, it's about getting out of your comfort zone and just saying hey, you know what, I am uncomfortable, I you know, I'm releasing this need to be perfect and just getting your message out there. Anyway, and so for everyone, if you want to connect with Avery, if you'd like to hire her as a coach or consultant, just go to That is where you can find her. She does one on one social media coaching. She also does consulting to businesses. And with that, Avery, any final tips and words of inspiration before we wrap it up?

Avery Sly 27:03
Social media, it's a crazy place. It's constantly changing. But it can provide so much opportunity for your business and investing that time to just get to know the basics, posting content, having a frequent presence on at least one platform can do a world of wonder for your business and help you increase brand awareness, connect with customers, and show a more personal side of you that you may not get to show on your website, for example. So you guys can do it. I believe in you. If you want to work with me, I would love to work with you. I hope you all have a fantastic rest of your day and get posting.

Susan Sly 27:38
Alright, thanks so much, Avery. So with that, this has been another episode of the Susan Sly project. And if this episode has helped you in any way, we'd love a five star review on iTunes, on Spotify. And so with that, God bless, go rock your day, and we'll see you next time.

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Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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