One of my key values is community: I love connecting with other small business owners and get inspired by how they run their businesses and live their lives. Before the summer I reached out to Jo Dymock of Ochre&Flax, which sells candles, stationary and more to help you add more slow and self care to your days (this blog post on creating moments of slow is a favourite of mine). Many of our values are aligned: like me, Jo is also looking for ways to use social media in her business that fit better with a slow and gentle business. In this conversation, Jo shares how she uses social media in her small business.
Jo lives on the coast in South Devon, after a circuitous route involving growing up in Wales, financial journalism in London and a fabric shop in Sussex. She owns and runs Ochre & Flax, an online candle and lifestyle store that celebrates and supports self care and the slow moments in life, through simple daily routines, planning, and journalling.
She is a big believer in living life on purpose, and making tiny, simple shifts towards a life you love.
How has the way you use social media in your business changed from when you first started out? What did you use to use it for, and what about now?
I’ve been using social media for my work for around a decade – I had a (very small) business previous to Ochre & Flax, which I feel served as my ‘warm up act’, so I’m no stranger to either growing a business or using social media to do so.
However, my reliance on it has shifted significantly over the years. Whereas five years ago I was reliant almost entirely on social media for each sale, and posting had a direct correlation with sales, these days I view it much more as a showcase, and I rely on a combination of SEO, Pinterest, my email list and social media to make sales.
As well as the fact that social media (for me this means Instagram in particular) has become less useful for small business over the years, I actually think that shift in how I rely on it less has been partly a confidence thing too.
We (small business owners, largely female) feel quite ‘safe’ posting on social media, as it isn’t this big, scary, corporate thing. Things like SEO feel out of reach or irrelevant for a creative business, or too strategic and even a little cold.
But the reality is that we as small businesses deserve to make money just as much as anyone else, and by not using those tools we’re disadvantaging ourselves.
I feel much less dependent on social media.
My ethos with business is to try to use my time wisely, and focus on what works and where my ideal customers are hanging out. For my customers, that’s a blend of Pinterest, Instagram and googling things, and so that’s where I try to appear for them.
I feel much less dependent on social media. I’m glad I was able to capitalise on some of its benefits when faster growth was possible, but equally I feel like social media becoming less ‘useful’ as a business growth tool has actually forced me to treat my business more like, well, a business.
I view social media as a showcase, curating a beautiful feed that pleases me, without too much concern for what the ‘instagram gods’ think about it.
What do you enjoy about using social media in your business?
That’s really interesting to think about. I consciously don’t get very angsty about social media. I don’t solely rely on it for my business growth, so I’m able to enjoy it and pick it up and put it down as it suits me.
One of the things I love to do is view it as a showcase, curating a beautiful feed that pleases me, without too much concern for what the ‘instagram gods’ think about it. I get huge satisfaction from my profile page looking on-brand and beautiful, and representing everything my business is about.
I enjoy the captions being a showcase for my writing too – I often base Instagram captions on small sections of blog posts, and I enjoy the challenge of capturing the essence of a blog post in just a couple of paragraphs.
I also enjoy sharing snippets of my days through IG stories, and it’s one of my favourite ways to follow other brands too. To be honest, apart from that initial look at someone’s profile page when I first decide to follow them, I might not see that many of their grid posts, but following someone’s stories is a wonderful way to get to know both the brand and the person or people behind it, and it’s probably my favourite thing about Instagram.
Where and how do you set boundaries around social media?
I go through phases of having conscious boundaries with social media, but at the moment I’m in a fairly happy balance with it, so I don’t feel the need to manage it further. I do schedule my grid posts, and very occasional stories, in advance, and do so away from the app (I use Later, a scheduling tool), which means I’m not on it constantly composing posts. I spend maybe 15 minutes a day on Instagram catching up on other people’s stories and occasional grid posts.
That also means that the blending of personal and work on there isn’t really a problem for me. I’m not posting my every waking moment on there. I’ve just been on holiday for a week and I think apart from sharing one or two beach pictures I’ve been silent on social media for the entire time.
In the past I’ve had to be much more careful about my time on social media, because it felt like my entire business revolved around it, which meant it had much more power over my mood and wellbeing.
I’m really pleased that I’ve consciously moved away from that business model, as I don’t think it did me any favours, from a mental health point of view, to be constantly scrolling and viewing the ‘highlight reel’ of other people’s lives, and feeling the pressure to be living my own highlight reel in order to share it.
What would you recommend to someone who wanted to use social media intentionally while still running a slow business and living a slow life?
Find your balance! If you feel like you’re doing too much of one thing, whatever it is, you probably are. I’m a big believer in trusting my gut, and if something feels slightly icky, I try to move away from it.
But I’m also a big believer in tiny changes. As someone who qualifies as an ‘elder millennial’ (such a flattering term!) I grew up in the midst of 90s diet culture. These diets were an all or nothing thing, where you cut out all sugar and fat, cut calories to 1,000 a day, and did several hours of exercise a week too (but not weight lifting – no manly muscles. There aren’t enough eye roll emojis in the world for how I feel about all of this now).
My point is that as women we are often taught that (a) whatever we are now is very definitely wrong, (b) change should be huge and sweeping, and (c) when, inevitably, we fail, we are the failures, not the system.
For 99% of life’s obstacles, challenges or changes you want to make, you can take tiny, safe steps that don’t send your brain into fight or flight mode and have you retreating right back into the middle of your comfort zone.
However, how much easier is it to make one tiny change? Then a few weeks or months later, make another one? And so on, until gradually, imperceptibly, you move towards a life you love even more?
This is how I try to view anything in life that I want to shift. Sure, sometimes you have to take the big leap (quitting a job, leaving a relationship), but for 99% of life’s obstacles, challenges or changes you want to make, you can take tiny, safe steps that don’t send your brain into fight or flight mode and have you retreating right back into the middle of your comfort zone.
All of which is a very longwinded way of saying that if you feel like social media is dominating either your work or personal life, you can make changes without foreswearing all social media for the rest of time. Maybe it’s not going on social media for the 30 minutes before bedtime, or having a book on the sofa so you can pick that up instead of mindlessly scrolling when you sit down for 15 minutes before the school run.
Whatever change feels manageable and easy, start with that. And gradually, when that change feels natural and part of your routine, decide whether more change is necessary. It might be, it might not be, but you have the choice and the control over it, and you have the power to make small changes that add up to a life that feels even more amazing than the one you have now.
Thank you Jo, for your answers! I loved reading about your approach to social media, and feel very empowered by your suggestions!