Small business owners all over the world have finally started to embrace social media as a viable tool to attract customers to their business. Be it the local florist or used car lot, chances are any business you interact with has a presence online, and has made efforts to interact with new and existing customers via social media. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, you have seen the growth of popularity in marketing businesses via paid or viral ads and postings. The same can be said of other platforms such as YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest, and all of them are creating a buzz as the new official way to get your message out to the masses.
It’s time to face the fact that social media marketing isn’t a fad. More and more small businesses are leveraging the power of social media every day. Plumbing companies, HVAC shops and even service organizations have made the leap. Chances are you (or your competitor) have gotten on the bandwagon recently, but the question is: are you making the most of your time and money online?
Having a presence on one or more social sites is a great start. Making the most of your time and reaching the most potential traffic to your shared information is paramount to getting the word out. You cannot simply expect high traffic numbers via Facebook, for example, if you’re posting in the evening hours only or very early in the morning. Since your target audience is likely to be local to you, consider this when deciding what time of day to send your message.
One of the biggest challenges with any social site is getting your fans to interact with your brand. Sharing information that is relevant to your industry and niche is where you should start. Remember this: keep it simple and useful. Do not get too technical, you are not trying to train on the whys and hows, but rather you’re sharing information that may help a client avoid a costly service call or reminding them of annual maintenance. Another way to increase the chance of participation is by asking questions. Asking questions on Facebook or Twitter will increase the interaction rate by as much as 20%.
Social media platforms
Generating customers and actual jobs through social sites is a reality for only those who stick with it and are conscious of the content shared under their brand. Having multiple social platforms to contribute to can be a daunting task, but if you consider the additional workload and the potential for return, you can measure your success against others who have seen as high as 57% customer acquisition from a single site such as LinkedIn. Be sure not to spread yourself too thin; it’s better to manage a few social accounts really well than to manage a dozen poorly. Not sure where to focus your efforts?
YouTube: This is the place to be if you plan on sharing video content marketed at showing your customers the types of services you offer, your staff or the simple “how-to” informational clip. It’s a great site for hosting a commercial for your company with the capability of embedding the video right on your own site. Video sells when it is a quality finished product. Look to this platform for the most growth in the future as more and more professional trade contractors are taking a video camera on site along with their favorite tools and materials.
Facebook: This social media site will allow you to have a more pronounced presence. This is mostly true if you follow some guidelines in the way of advertising dollars or promotions. With Facebook you will have your own business “Page” that will allow you to showcase photos, videos, blogging and much more. Like any other social site you will have to build your following from the ground up, but over the last year I have seen many changes in how often page postings are seen by others; making it almost mandatory that at least a few per month be “boosted” via paid promotion in order for them to be visible to the masses. This is a great place to start for the beginner. Facebook is possibly the easiest to use out of all social sites.
Twitter: Thissitehas gotten the lowest ranking from just about every online poll I’ve read regarding small business satisfaction, yet there remains potential for business leads. One thing to note about Twitter is the tendency for your tweets to be pushed down a customer’s feed in a short time, placing them out of site to those who haven’t got time or the want to scroll down their screen. Photos are shareable here, but require a link be followed for on-screen display. Look to Instagram for photo sharing and simple messaging with the capability of brief conversations. With the cross platform capabilities of Instagram on Twitter there exists a pretty versatile combination of possibilities here. It will be up to you how far you take it.
LinkedIn: This site is the “professionals” social site, as it has been called by many people across many industries. The content shared here is more likely to be of a business nature and less likely to fall between a cat video and a political rant from your uncle Gus. While LinkedIn remains to grow in popularity, it is my contention that the information that is most interesting is hidden in various private groups and not seen by the masses. Be that as it may, sharing information about your professional services on your profile can attract eyes your way, but joining groups and starting/participating in conversations is where the most bang for your buck will come from. I still have a hard time getting past the idea that most people on LinkedIn seem more interested in touting their own skills and show less interest in actually “connecting” with other professionals for networking purposes. As with any of these sites, your mileage will vary.
Pinterest:On this site, interaction is a direct reaction to image and content sharing. Sharing something on Pinterest is known as “Pinning” and the more immediately captivating your pin is, the more likely it is to be repinned. No matter what your content, find a stunning image to accompany it. Better yet, utilize charts like infographics. Infographics are insanely popular all across the Internet because of their sleek graphics and the ability to get a large amount of info into a small amount of space. Pictures and infographics are not the only content with a kick on Pinterest though. Video sells here too.
Keeping up with the latest developments in marketing your small business means staying up to date on the world of social media. Simply staying informed of new platforms and changes to existing platforms can be a lot to chew on. Figuring out how to maneuver within the sometimes overwhelming sea of actual socializing to make your company’s presence felt, and not ignored, presents a serious challenge to small business owners and marketing professionals. You can do it, and if you want to stay in or ahead of the game, you’ll have to.
Eric Aune started Aune Plumbing LLC in 2004 and specializes in residential and small commercial hydronic heating systems and service. He is a graduate of Dunwoody College of Technology and Plumbers Local 15, Minneapolis Apprenticeship Training Program, and is currently a United Association Instructor and teaches for the Plumbers Local 15 JATC. Aune is also founding partner and vice president of mechanical-hub.com. Contact him at: [email protected].