Melissa Lafontaine is the owner of Earth Within Flowers, an earth-inspired floral design business in Missoula, Montana. She is one of the Featured Business Owners on RTC:Rural’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Guide, a multi-website that was created to help people with disabilities and VR counselors navigate the self-employment process.
Visit http://www.vrselfemployment.org to view the VR Self-Employment Guide, and be sure to check out Melissa’s bio video on the “Featured Business Owners” page. Access is free, but you will need to create a login.
In this blog post, Melissa shares some of her thoughts and knowledge on the use of social media and the importance of a good online presence in growing a business.
Why do you think it’s important to have a good website?
Having a unique and professional website helps your clientele have an opportunity to explore your work and professional background, and have a direct way to contact you. Having a website also increases your chances of getting found online through key word searches through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is basically a tool that helps you use the content on your website to communicate with Google search engines.
What are some important things to include on your website?
I’d say the most essential aspect of a website is sharing some personal information about your background and vision for your business. People really like to put a face to your name. Additionally, having examples of your work, the process to hire you, what services you offer and a link to your contact information are essential components to your site. I have a contact tab on the bottom of each page just in case someone is in a hurry or doesn’t see my contact tab! I also include links to my social media accounts as another option for folks to view my most recent work.
How long did it take you to develop your website?
We just updated our website last spring with the help of a marketing intern from the University of Montana. It took about 2 months to get it up and running successfully. You can certainly do this in less time with the help of a professional.
We use the WordPress Flothemes platform, which is a wonderful option for a less tech savvy user. When we first developed our website in 2014, we had a web developer set it up for us on a more basic WordPress template. After it was set up, it was quite difficult to edit our pages and make changes. This made it less motivating to edit content, which impacted our visibility online. Last spring, we had the opportunity to hire an intern through the University of Montana’s marketing department. This is where we learned about Flothemes: a user-friendly platform that can be embedded within WordPress. It is now so much easier to modify our website and I am happy to share we are updating it with new content weekly, rather than monthly!
What social media platforms do you use? How did you decide which ones to use?
We use Facebook and Instagram primarily.
What sorts of things do you share on your social media?
We share a combination of personal and professional content and photos. I’ve learned it is important to share your unique personality through your posts rather than overtly promoting yourself. On our social media feed I share my process as a floral designer, tips and tricks for brides to be, challenges I face as a small business owner or simply what my weekend plans are with my puppy! I used the story setting to share upcoming workshops and promotions rather than placing these directly in our feed.
Do you think having a good website and social media presence has helped grow your business?
Absolutely! I always ask clients how they find out about us on our consultation form or when I check in clients for our DIY workshops. Often clients share they found us online or via social media.
Any advice you’d give to other small business owners about social media and websites?
Be yourself! Allow yourself to begin where you are, rather than getting stuck in the comparison game. For instance, when I get hard on myself for not constantly updating my website and social media, I remind myself that my marketing outreach is a balance of online presence and face-to-face community outreach. This is my unique approach and what I have learned suites my business model. You will find a unique balance that meets your needs as well.
Find Melissa and Earth Within online: