Social media is just for marketing agencies and big-budget businesses right? Wrong. Any business, even sole traders, can get a marketing boost online with a little investment of time.
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Social media is no longer just for teenagers, celebrities and digital marketeers; most of us engage with it in some way or another, and for small businesses in particular, it can prove a low cost way of reaching customers and winning more work.
Below, Jonny Lawrence, digital marketing expert for Logic4training, explains how social media can boost business for trades’ people.
As a sector, trades people, such as electricians, plumbers and heating installers, have been slow to ‘get online’, with traditional word of mouth referrals still being the main way new business is drummed up.
‘Word of mouth’ has now spread from the physical to the virtual world, however, and for a chance of those positive reviews reaching further afield, it’s essential that savvy installers make the most of social media – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in particular.
We conducted a survey last year which showed the extent at which the internet has become ubiquitous for our customers – 9 out of 10 trades’ people own a Smart phone or tablet, with ‘sparkies’ the most likely to embrace technology.
Despite this, only 29% of trades people asked had a presence on Facebook, showing that a definite trick is being missed when it comes to effective and cheap (free??) self-promotion.
Facebook is the mother of all social media - is it time to get familiar?
Why go social?
Reach: Social media dramatically increases the amount of people you can reach. On Facebook for example, your posts are not only reaching your friends, or people that like your page, they also may get seen by the friends of those people, and their friends, friends.
Interact: The other big benefit of social media is that it’s interactive. No longer is marketing a single track medium, with a message being fired out in one direction, the audience can now respond and contribute to this message.
‘Real’ people endorsement is far better than advertising spin, so make sure you engage with your customers, be helpful, thank them for kind words, and encourage testimonials through discounts and give aways.
Respond: Response can also help you improve your messaging. By monitoring how many ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ you get between one post and another you can see what works (and what doesn’t).
As a rule of thumb, people like pictures and advice, peppered with a bit of banter, humour or just sharing things that you find interesting. ‘Direct selling’ is not the best approach for social media, its users are savvy and will switch off if you try too hard.
Boost: By linking to your website, social media can also help boost your search rankings, and is another way of getting people to your site.
Engaging with social media can act as a driver to keeping your website updated too – you’ll need to keep content fresh to ensure new things to post; case studies, including lots of pics, client testimonials and blogs, for example.
For image and video sharing, plus end user interaction, Facebook and Twitter are your best bet. Facebook in particular allows you to engage with customers, with options to create surveys, competitions and of course post lots of pictures.
Facebook has got a bit sneaky of late, in that even though you may have lots of likes on your business page, it doesn’t mean your posts will get seen by all these people. Facebook basically wants you to advertise, which can be a worthwhile exercise compared with more traditional print means. Adverts are targeted to your potential marketplace (region, demographic, interests etc.)
Twitter is more instant gratification, with tweets having a short shelf-life. There are quite a few ‘moaners’ on twitter – your best approach is to be as helpful as possible and if that doesn’t work, ignore. A grumbly tweet will soon get displaced in your feed. You can sync both platforms together, so if you’re using one, you may as well use the other.
Keep checking regularly, particularly on twitter, so you can quickly respond to any questions and wade into discussions that could help raise your profile.
Twitter is for quick regular updates - you'd be surprised what people share online
For bigger, more corporate jobs, LinkedIn should be your go-to place. Like Facebook for business, LinkedIn will allow you to reach decision makers, through the creation of an online ‘CV’.
You can also implement a company page, but the most effective approach is as an individual – think of LinkedIn as ‘virtual networking’. You should come across as professional, make sure you list you and your businesses experience and try to get involved in some of the many forums, where you can demonstrate your knowledge.
As with Facebook, there are targeted advertising options available – there is a lot you can do for free, however.
Some final points to bear in mind:
Keep content relevant, engaging and provide only information that is valuable to your intended audience. Too much of a sales pitch will put people off.
Images/videos are eye catching.
Post regularly to maintain an online presence.
Interact with customers, answer questions and reply to comments; even if it is just to say “thanks” for a positive review.
Interact with other tradespeople – as the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Be professional, but show your personality and fun side too. Just keep extreme views to yourself and rise above any negativity.
Many tradespeople are naturally more “hands on” and the prospect of marketing through social media may seem daunting at first. The best way is to start small, with a simple twitter page for example, get stuck in and learn as you go!