The ins-and-outs of social media marketing for retail business owners. Learn how to leverage social media to best reach customers and promote your products.
When thinking about social media marketing, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Not only are new social networks popping up each day, but just the thought of posting regular status updates can make a lot of Labor Contracting business owners nervous! Don’t be intimidated though, with a few simple tips and a bit of strategy, you’ll have a much better understanding of what social media marketing is and why it’s not so hard!
Why is social media so important? Let’s start by asking the obvious question: why is social media marketing important? Even more specifically, why is it important for a plumber or gardener or mover? Whether or not you personally use social media, your customers most likely do and that includes using social media to find products and services such as plumbers, gardeners and movers. Here’s a great video, put out several years ago, which shows the amazing culture shift caused by social media.
When people find a business on social media and see pictures of friendly employees, quality work, satisfied customers, and maybe even a “like” from a friend, they’ll immediately develop a level of trust for that service. With an active social media presence you’ll be able to find potential customers, offer advice and valuable information to your current clients, and positively portray your company.
Where do I start? With so many social networks out there, it can be confusing when trying to decide which ones to sign up for. The big social media sites today are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram with each network having it’s positives and negatives. The rule of thumb here is that fewer well managed social media profiles is much better than a lot of neglected profiles. Nothing looks worse than a social media page that hasn’t been updated in months.
A one-man show should focus on one social networking site. If you are already active on Facebook, and don’t mind mixing work with pleasure, then by all means, go ahead and use your personal Facebook profile to promote your business. This works since you essentially are your own brand and may become quite friendly with your clients. Just make sure to update the “Work & Education” section of your profile to reflect your business’ information. For further information on using your personal Facebook profile for business, check out this article form Social Media Examiner: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/personal-facebook-profile-for-business/.
Finally, before you start using your personal profile to promote your business, you should review your past posts and make sure there is nothing up that can give your business a bad rap.
With privacy settings, you can decide which posts are public and which are private that only your friends can see. You can learn more about Facebook’s privacy settings and tools here: https://www.facebook.com/help/325807937506242.
If you’re not keen on the idea of mixing your personal profile with your business life, then open a page for your business on either Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/business/products/pages), Google+ (http://www.google.com/+/business/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/).
While Facebook has the advantage of being the largest and most popular network, Twitter and Google+ have great things to offer as well. Twitter, for example, can be used as a great search tool to find potential clients right in your area. All you have to do is enter a few search terms on Twitter’s Advanced search page. You can do a search for the word “Plumber” around Chicago and might find someone asking for a plumber due to a burst pipe. One of the major advantages to Google+ is that information from local business pages can be seen on Google Maps. Which means people in your neighborhood searching for a plumber will potentially find your business on Google Maps.
If you want to learn more about Twitter for your business, take a look here: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-use-twitter-for-business-and-marketing/. For reasons why you should be using Google+, you can read this: http://socialmediatoday.com/ubersocialmedia/1632481/google-plus-why-your-business-needs-it.
If your business is comprised of two or more employees, you should consider signing up for 2-3 platforms. In addition to the platforms we discuss above, you’ll also want to look at LinkedIn and consider another picture-based network.
LinkedIn is best known as the “professional social network” and is more B2B focused (or in other words, you won’t see too many pictures of cute kittens on LinkedIn). One of LinkedIn's best features is groups. LinkedIn Groups are great places to network, stay informed and connect with other like-minded business owners. If you’re a Landscaper for example, you can find a dedicated group of thousands of Landscapers discussing trends, pricing, techniques, etc. Another great example of a LinkedIn group is our EZBZ Business Network group with small business owners from all across the nation sharing relevant information and tips. To set up a company page on LinkedIn, simply go to: http://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/company-pages.html and click the yellow “Get Started” button.
If you’re in a profession with lots of good pictures, such as a contractor or kitchen remodeler, you should consider posting to a photo based social media website like Pinterest, Houzz or Instagram. All three are places people go when looking for ideas and inspiration for their home. Pinterest is a very large network with over 70 million users. It allows you to sign up for special business accounts here: http://business.pinterest.com/. Instagram is a mobile social network (that was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion!) which means you need to sign up using the mobile app. You can find link to the app here: http://instagram.com/. Houzz is a network that is all about, well, the house! This actually gives Houzz an advantage over the other networks because people are there looking specifically for pictures relevant to home design and renovation.
What should I post? After you have your pages set up, the next question is what to post. No matter what network you’re on or the size of your business, you cannot go wrong with posting pictures. Pictures of smiling employees, a birthday cake in the office, satisfied customers, and quality work are all relevant! Social media is about storytelling and relationship building and these images will help tell the story of your business and build relationships with your followers. Remember to always include a brief caption describing the image.
Beyond the photos, any type of coupon or sale is great to post as well. So if you’re a Pool Cleaner and offering an “early bird” special to anyone who signs up for a pool cleaning by a certain date, make sure you blast that out on your social networks. Your followers and customers will definitely appreciate it.
Professional advice and DIY tips are also always welcomed. If you’re a plumber, share advice on preventing pipes from freezing during the winter. If you’re a mover, let your followers know some safety dos-and-don'ts when moving heavy furniture. You can also share links to relevant articles if your readers will find them valuable.
Other types of posts can include trivia, funny pictures (something like this picture for all you movers out there and this picture for the plumbers), and giveaways. You should definitely have fun with your page but still be professional. The most important tip to remember is to be real and true to the culture of your business! That’s what consumers expect today in 2014.
How to post?
There are 3 ways to post on social networks:
a. Using your computer. Navigate to the social network’s website, sign on and write an update. Double check to make sure you’re logged in to the correct profile before you post. Someone could have been logged in on that computer beforehand or you might be on your personal profile as opposed to your business page.
b. Using the mobile app. If you have a smartphone or tablet, go to your phone’s app store and search for and download the app for the social network you’re using. This will make posting pictures super easy as you can upload them straight from your phone to the social network. Using the mobile app also gives you the flexibility of posting while out in the field or out on a job.
c. Using third-party sites. These are different websites that make posting to social networks easier, especially if you’re going to be sharing to more than one social network. If your business is comprised of two or more employees and are posting to 2-3 social networks, you should seriously consider using a site called Hootsuite (https://hootsuite.com/). With Hootsuite, you can send posts to several social networks at the same time and even schedule them in advance. So for example, if you know Fridays (or Sundays or Tuesdays) are slower days for you, you can sit down on those days and schedule all your social media posts ahead of time for the week or even the month.
How often should I be posting?
You want your social media pages to be current and up-to-date. That’s the most important element. As to exactly how often you should be posting, you’ll find many different answers from different people. A lot also depends on who your followers are and how many people are following you. A good starting point though would be once every two days. We also recommend you schedule one post over the weekend (on either Saturday afternoon or Sunday) because that is pretty much prime time for social media!
Hootsuite, the website we mentioned above for scheduling posts to different social networks, will really make planning out your posts much easier!
It’s also very important to point out that once you begin posting on social media, people can start following you and commenting on your posts. Be prepared for questions, recommendations and even criticism at times. You should think ahead of time of how you’re going to respond to each one. The key though is to always respond in a timely manner (within 24 hours) and try to use as real a voice as possible! Take a look here and see what happened when the CEO of Liberty Bottleworks responded to a complaining customer! Spoiler alert: it brought them record sales and not to mention thousands of new likes on Facebook.
How to promote your social networks?
A great way to promote your social media pages is through your own personal social media profiles! Post a link to your new page and ask your friends to give it a “like” or “share”. You can also send you friends a link directly to the social media page.
Additionally, it’s a great idea to put links to your social media pages on your website, in your email signature and even on your business card.
Finally, what shouldn’t be done on social media?
That would probably be a long list but here are 9 things not to do as suggested by Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/capitalonespark/2012/12/20/9-things-businesses-shouldnt-do-on-social-media/.
Have questions about Social Media? We’d love to hear them! Send them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn where we are always listening!