But first, let me take a selfie, and while I'm on here...how are my site visits doing lately? Should I be posting on IG more? I really need to update these site photos. And check the SEO on all pages. And...-PING-...I just checked my emails, how are they back to that number?! -PING- Right, my Facebook messages too.
-PING- it shouldn't be this hard
If that first paragraph resonated with you, you should take a hot minute to reassess the relationship you and your business have with technology. I often wonder what it was like to run a business in the print era which undoubtedly was a nightmare for our forests, but ohhhh what a dream for us entrepreneurs.
A recent survey found that 37% of individuals use social networks for their purchase inspiration.
Although, this isn't what accounts for all the pressure that comes with the information age. It's also the role websites, emails, and the catalyst to it all - cellphones - play.
After starting BUD + BLOOM my relationship with my laptop and cellphone changed drastically. When I wasn't on them for business purposes, I didn't want to be on them at all. If I spent enough time between them both, I would leave feeling drained of everything. Including my creativity. I started to prefer calls over text messages and ignoring my phone any chance I felt I could. This ruffled some feathers within my personal circles and at one point I was asked how I planned to maintain relationships. A notion that seemed totally ridiculous to me.
If our relationship falters because I don't engage with your online content as much as you'd like, or fail to text you back right away, then it obviously wasn't a very strong one to begin with. I will show you my love via sporadic but hilarious meme sharing instead. Whenever I choose to be online.
And that is the core of this problem. Our cellphones - these amazing devices, created with the best intentions - were purposely made to increase our availability to the world. At first it was for safety - holla at your car & satellite phones! Then it was tailored more towards business - what up, what up Blackberry! Then we blinked and suddenly they became a necessary component to our lives.
However, just because a device was made to allow us to be available at all times, doesn't mean we have to be.
So, overwhelmed by a wave of unpleasantries that compacted over the last few months, I decided to take time during the holidays to unplug. I turned off notifications, put all life-sucking apps in a folder appropriately labelled with three big red X emojis, made a few obligatory "Hey, I'm ditching my phone for a while so kindly put away your pitchforks if I don't answer," then exhaled one of the biggest sighs of relief I ever have.
Of course this was bittersweet because I knew it had to end at some point. Running a business meant that was an unavoidable fact. But after seeing the difference being away for just 5 days made in both my wellbeing & creative output, I decided to re-establish my tech boundaries so that I could at least unplug in the evenings.
Here’s what I looked at to start:
What else can I automate?
What am I comfortable releasing control of and actually automating?
What social hours make sense for me?
Will these social hours create any inconvenience to my clientele?
If I were a client, would I be bothered by a business owner's tech boundaries?
These questions not only brought up ideological inconsistencies that I realized were causing me extra stress, but made me check-in on what it is that I want to achieve through the use of all my online platforms.
Here’s how I answered:
What else can I automate? Quite literally almost everything, good start.
What am I comfortable releasing control of and actually automating? Do you even know me? Nothing. Can we start with some away messages or something?
What social hours make sense for me? 9AM-6PM with Sundays "off" AKA time to catch-up on any backlog from the week.
Will these social hours create any inconvenience to my clientele? Not if I get back to them promptly the next day.
If I were a client, would I be bothered by a business owner's tech boundaries? I might be at first, but I'd understand it and maybe look at my own habits afterwards.
Automation is preached as if it were the second coming in the business world, but it has never sat quite right with me. It isn't just the lack of control that bothers me, it's the lack of genuine engagement. Scheduling social media content and newsletters is one thing, but as soon as you get into the bot world - see ya later! As a consumer, I know I've been turned off of companies with fantastic branding, products, and 'presence' solely because of how heavily automated their businesses are. The irony kills.
I don't care if you reply within a millisecond, or if you engage with my stream of online bullshit that is largely cat photos and selfies, but I do care about there being a real person with a consciousness on the other side of the screen that understands human interaction, rather than a creepy AI algorithm looking for a keyword prompt like 'services' to respond with a generic list of what you offer. That's why I prefer the notion of social hours.
Social hours allow you to communicate business hours in a more specific manner.
Especially when your actual business hours are all over the place in a creative field like floral design. Having social hours means you're not only conducting business during these times, but available to respond and engage as well. Outside of those hours? You're focusing on your creativity, distraction-free, obligation-free, and doing regular human things like eating and sleeping (hopefully.)
Will you annoy clients by not being available to provide a list of services at their 10PM whim? Potentially. But if that's the case, they aren't your people! Just like the bot-run businesses aren't mine.
Try this perspective shift. If you go to a store outside of business hours, are you outraged that they had the audacity not to know you were coming and stay open just for you, so you swear them off for eternity and ever more? Or do you remember their business hours and make it in on time for your next visit?
Why should it be any different without a storefront?
Set a timed away message on all platforms that lets your clientele know you only respond to inquiries within a set of social hours. State those hours. Try to stay within them for all business related tech needs (admin work) and communications. Give clients an option for urgent inquiries if applicable to your business. Schedule posts but focus on quality not quantity. Automate with care.
Now release that data driven ball & chain from your ankles!
The laptop too, boo!
And enjoy life - real life - again.
THAT'S IT. YOU A FREE BIRD, MY FRIEND! ...until 9AM tomorrow, anyway.
What are your thoughts on tech boundaries within business and do they differ from your personal ones? Comment with your tips and tricks for maintaining both!
BUD + BLOOM IS A CUSTOM FLORAL DESIGN STUDIO, SOCIAL HOURS ARE 9AM-6PM MONDAY TO SATURDAY & STUDIO VISITS ARE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.