We are so excited to share this guest post all about social media as a social and community building experience from Sal, of Ducky Zebra. Using social media like a human is, unsurprisingly, something we’re very passionate about so without further ado, over to Sal!

Are you a product based business? If so, I’m sure you’ve been told many times that social media is for “relationship building, not product selling”. We get it. It makes sense. But it’s not always that easy. Especially with the pressures of sales targets and limited time.

I’m not a social media expert. But I do have experience of running a product-based business. I’m Sal, founder of Ducky Zebra, and I’m going to discuss how I’ve moved from ‘building relationships’ to ‘making friendships’ on Instagram

To help with this article, I spoke to Em (@twin_toddle_nhs), a down to earth, eco friendly twin-mummy with an awesome sense of humour. It’s been great to hear her opinion, as someone who regularly interacts with small biz brands on social media.

But first, a little scene setting. Ducky Zebra creates colourful, organic clothes for kind, confident kids. And our mission is to inspire kindness and confidence in children, no matter what their gender, through colourful, sustainable clothing. We launched on social media in April 2021, hoping to build awareness ahead of our product launch in June 2021. Inevitably we experienced delays, and our product launch has been pushed back to September. 

When I first realised I had a three month delay, I panicked. How embarrassing to ‘fail’ so publically. How was I going to maintain regular social posts when I had nothing to sell? What was I going to tell my followers about the delay? But, it has been a brilliant eye-opening experience. Without the pressure to sell, I’ve been able to focus on value-sharing and friendship making. 

Here are 10 ways I’ve moved from a corporate mindset of ‘relationship building’ to a more relaxed, small biz mindset of ‘friendship making’.

1) Don’t talk about your product.

We know our products (and their benefits) inside out, and so it’s very easy for us to talk about them. But, with the delay I realised I had to talk about something else. Luckily, we already had a clear company mission and 6 core values. And so I’ve used these to create relevant, consistent posts without a mention of our products.

I also share ‘behind the scenes’ to give a better insight into who I am and what our brand is all about. People buy from people. By removing our products from the equation, I’ve been able to meet like-minded people who share my values. This is a great foundation for friendship, and for creating brand loyalty.

2) Be yourself and show your vulnerability.

The experts encourage us to be honest, authentic and transparent. But we’re human. Which means we also want to look good, be on top of our game and appear professional. How do we manage the two? Well, we can’t always. The experts are obviously right. We need to be honest and transparent, even if this means exposing our vulnerability. I’ve been blown away by the support I’ve received, as I’ve shown (what I perceived to be) my weaknesses during updates on our delays. 

3) Spend less time on your grid and more time on others.

Do you get a warm fuzzy feeling every time your Insta post receives a like? I think it’s only natural. It makes us feel good, instantly. It can be a little addictive though. So, recently I made a conscious decision to not spend as much time on my grid. Instead, I try to give as much love and support as I can to other people’s grids. We can’t control the Instagram algorithm or whether people will stop and like our posts. But we can control how much we support others. 

4) Be genuine, read captions, watch reels and get to know those that follow you.

It’s not just about ‘liking’ other people’s content, it’s also about getting to know them. Read their captions, watch their IGTV, comment, ask questions and start conversations. Yes, it can feel a little awkward to start with. But, creating friendships can take time. And this is a great way to start. 

5) Use empathy to spark friendship and engagement.

We need to put ourselves in the shoes of those that follow us. How might they feel first thing on a Monday morning, or in the run up to a bank holiday weekend? Are they likely to be bombarded with serious fact-filled posts, or photos of cute, smiling babies? Should we do the same or offer something different? What’s going to make them smile? Or help them overcome a problem? By being empathetic, we can tailor our content and captions to suit those that follow us.

6) Friendships need looking after.

All friendships need looking after. And that includes the friends we’ve made on Instagram. Liking and commenting on someone’s post and then neglecting them after they give us a follow is not cool. 

“Small businesses quite often over engage, and then once they’ve captured you, they just disappear off the face of the planet. They just want the numbers.”  – Em, @twin_toddle_nhs

7) Collaborate with like minded businesses.

I recently joined Power of The Flock, hosted by Katie from @littlegreenduckpond and it was amazing. It highlighted the importance of connecting with other like minded businesses. Working together is much more fun than competing with one another. I’ve loved making new friends, celebrating one another’s successes, sparking ideas and engaging with their content. 

8) Lay your cards on the table.

Initially I gave sneak peaks of our Ducky Zebra clothes to build a sense of anticipation. This was fine for a short while. But as time passed, it felt like I was holding something back. I’ve felt so much happier since I’ve let go of the ‘sneak peaks’ and just shared our photography. It also feels more equal. It gives people the chance to look at our clothes before launch, and if it’s not their thing they have the chance to unfollow.

9) Keep it simple.

Some of my most engaged posts are the shortest and most simple. It’s always worth remembering this.

10) Use your Stories to have fun, and test and learn.

Stories are a great way to show our personalities, to have fun, ask questions and engage with others. They’re also very handy for testing out new content. If the story performs well we can pop it onto our grid. And if it flops, it only lasts 24 hours, or can be removed altogether. I love engaging with other people’s stories as well, and getting to know them better.

When chatting to Em, she gave some fantastic advice. Keep it ‘honest’, ‘real’, ‘normal’ and ‘fresh’. You don’t have to be crazy, or reinvent yourself on social media. As a small biz owner, the best thing you can do is “be you”.

Sally in front of a wall mural. She is bending slightly and has her hands outstretched in a welcoming and excited motion.

Sally Dear (she/her)

Sal is a coffee-fuelled mum of two, and founder of Ducky Zebra.

Ducky Zebra is a small start-up with a big plan: to inspire kindness and confidence in children, no matter what their gender, through colourful sustainable clothing. 

Connect with Sally on
Instagram | Website


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