How social media can grow your business
It’s time to connect.
Please don’t tell my kids Dad’s written an article on social media! They wouldn’t believe you.
I’m part of that non-techie generation. Heck, surfing the Web and my smartphone are relatively new things for me. But once I stuck my toe in the water, I loved it! I have been doing some webinars where I sit in front of my computer, hit a couple keys and share words of wisdom with folks all over the country.
However, I do have to admit I’m still trying to get my hands around this whole social media phenomenon. Yes, I have a rarely used Facebook page and I’ve tweeted a few times. I am fairly active on a couple industry-related LinkedIn sites, but I don’t use them to promote my consulting business. I guess I’m more social in a face-to-face situation than I am on the Internet. That shows my age, huh? Is that a bad thing?
I am smart enough to know you can and should be using various forms of social media to help market your showrooms. I have researched and read a number of articles and have reached out to some “experts” in our industry that make a living in this area.
This year I’ve been busy rewriting “Kitchen and Bath Business Management,” a book I wrote for NKBA. I didn’t think there would be much to rework. How much have the basic fundamentals of good business management changed in the last five years? In marketing, a lot! When it came to social media I asked my good friend and expert Nora DePalma (a partner in O’Reilly-DePalma, a public relations and marketing communications agency) to write this segment for me. Here is some of what she wrote for kitchen and bath dealers:
What’s up with Twitter? Why would I waste my time telling people I just had a cup of coffee? The Internet and social media have turned marketing upside down for everyone from small local businesses to the biggest companies in the world. You’re not alone if you haven’t the faintest idea if social media is worth it for your business.
In many ways, small local businesses benefit the most from social-media marketing. Strategic social marketing is low-cost and high-touch, especially when you expand your thinking about it to support not only marketing, but also sales and customer service. (Hint: For best results, connect your social marketing to an inbound marketing and lead-nurturing initiative. See the next section.) People buy from people they like and social media supercharges the ability for people to find you and, well, like you.
Done correctly, social-media marketing conveys the business owner’s and employee’s personality, expertise and values. Abrams Research reported in its 2012-2013 Luxury guide that consumers who connect with a brand on social media spend 20%-40% more money than those who don’t. It also states that young, affluent consumers care more about a company’s narrative than its price tags.
“Done correctly” are the operative words. The biggest mistake in undertaking social media marketing is not being social. Social media marketing is like a giant networking cocktail party. Personality counts. Interest in others translates into interest in you and nobody likes a crashing bore who likes to talk only about himself.
Social media encompasses a wide variety of digital platforms that enable creative self-expression while bringing together people with like-minded interests. There are several social media categories:
If you have resources to only do one thing on social media, make it a blog. Blogs can be connected to your website, or can even be your website. This makes it easy to continually post updates on your website, which makes your site more attractive to search engines. Blogs can be created on numerous platforms, from the super-easy Blogger or Tumblr to the feature-rich Word Press where you easily can share design inspirations, images and video. Build traffic by finding similar blogs and leave comments (non-self-promotional, please!). Respond to comments on your blog.
This is the social media category that includes Twitter, where your posts are limited to 140 characters. That’s pretty micro. Twitter can be used to share your blog posts and posts by others, but also is a great place to meet and network with like-minded individuals in a chat-style format. Designers and kitchen-and-bath industry pros gather at regular times for chats, such as #KBTribeChat.
Photo-sharing social media encompasses numerous platforms, from places to upload albums to sharing sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. Photo-sharing sites are magnets for visually oriented designers and also attract a strong female audience that can be helpful to kitchen and bath professionals. The downside is copyright risks. You’re at risk of having your own images used without your permission, and there is personal risk if you share images for which a photographer has not granted you universal rights. Protect yourself by knowing the usage rights for any professional photography and do not use images taken by anyone else. Protect yourself from being victimized by a copyright violation by watermarking your images with your business name, so it becomes a benefit to you for your images to be shared far and wide.
The biggest video-sharing site is YouTube, which also happens to be one of the top search engines after Google (which owns YouTube). Men tend to watch more videos related to home improvement. But interesting content, defined as everything from kitten videos to entertaining ads to “Gangman-”style dancing, can attract women and men of all ages. It’s quite easy to share YouTube videos, so if you upload one you can increase views by embedding the video on your blog or on other blogs. Vimeo has the same embedding capabilities, but with a few more options to improve the visual display of videos.
Social communities include Facebook, LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles and Hangouts, and include design-focused and home communities such as Modenus and Houzz. Participation in social communities is a give-and-take relationship, so this route requires daily monitoring to respond to questions and outreach, as well as reaching out to build your network.
10 social media tips
Doing social media correctly means it needs to be social. Learning how to effectively do social media marketing can take up its own book, but here are 10 tips to help you get started.
1.Start by listening. Choose a platform to try and then watch and read what others do and say.
2.Find your tribe. Most of our industry trade magazines have done stories and profiles on social media leaders, so start by following them and watching their interactions to find more like-minded folks. Make connections through kitchen-and-bath-related groups on LinkedIn and participate in Twitter chats such as #kbtribechat every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern), or the interior designer chat #intdesignerchat every Tuesday at 6 p.m. (Eastern).
3.Be likeable. Provide a fun, helpful and emotionally uplifting experience at every touch point.
4.For content, whether it’s a 500-word blog post or a 140-character tweet, follow the 50-30-20 rule.
- 50% of content you share or create should be of interest to others, although it can be loosely related to your brand message. A kitchen designer might relate stories about local food and recipes or comment on food blogs. A bathroom showroom might share stories about wellness or comment on fitness sites.
- 30% of content can be related to your brand message, but in an entertaining way. Examples include images of past projects, videos of how a kitchen remodel happens and tips and tricks for successful remodels.
- 20% of content is your brand message. Examples are sales announcements, client endorsements or information about your team.
5.Be a person, not a brand.
6.Compliment and recognize others. Profiling someone through an interview or images is flattering and eminently sharable.
7.Think like Hallmark. Greeting card companies create the images and write the prose that makes it easy for people to keep in touch. Create content that people want to share with their friends. Think nostalgia, pets and kids. Post fun quizzes and pose interesting questions.
8.Professional profiles should be engaging and compelling. Build a likeable profile where people researching kitchen-and-bath remodeling will go in your market area.
9.Focus on quality, not quantity. Large social media followings can be beneficial, but small can be as well if you carefully cultivate a following just as you carefully cultivate contacts offline.
10.Use social media to boost your PR. Find local reporters and editors who do kitchen-and-bath stories and follow them to see what interests them. Share and comment positively on their work.
What does social media cost?
Just like PR, social media is free. While you may not pay for the end result, it takes an investment in time. For social media, plan on 30 minutes per day in conversations and commenting, plus a couple extra hours a week to create or curate images, stories and ideas.
Social media also requires a comfort level with written or visual communications. If that’s not your thing, look at hiring some help. Outside expertise typically is based on an hourly rate or a monthly retainer, not unlike a PR or marketing consultant. Rates can be all over the board. As with hiring any expert, check references and request examples of how they have helped small businesses like yours. By helping, we don’t mean the ability to grow a large number of followers. Ask specific questions about how their social expertise has helped clients increase their business.
I hope this helps you understand more about the who, what, where when, why and how of this continually growing phenomena called social media.