Social networking sites have been around for over 20 years; Classmates, one of the earliest social media sites, was launched in 1995. Interactions via computer gained in popularity as PCs became commonplace in households. Since then, there has been no shortage of social networking sites, with MySpace launching in 2003 and Facebook shortly behind it in 2004. According to Wikipedia, there are over 200 different social networking sites around the world, ranging from those with a general focus and audience, such as Twitter, to the extremely niche, like Epernicus, a place for research scientists, or even those only available in certain countries, like the UK-based Friends Reunited.
It’s increasingly evident that companies dare not ignore social media. People are spending hours a day on social media websites. It has displaced traditional media, such as television, radio and newspaper, become the new way to advertise, and is now a primary form of communication. As a business, if you’re not on social media, you could be losing out on potential prospects and relationship-building opportunities with current clientele.
“Social media humanizes your brand, it puts a face and personality behind your brand,” says Susie Erjavec Parker, owner of Sparker Strategy Group, a Winnipeg-based social media and public relations agency.
But with so many social media platforms, it can be hard to navigate through the sites and determine where you should be to attract and retain customers. The key is to figure out where your core customers are and be there too.
“With small business owners, you have to focus your attention on what can get you the most bang for your buck,” says Erjavec Parker. “Pick one social media platform that you’re comfortable with and rock it out on that social network. You don’t have to be everywhere, but where you are going to be, focus and really specialize in that area then.”
It’s crucial to remember that your social media page is not about you or your business, it’s about what you can do for your customers. Erjavec Parker compares it to a cocktail party – you don’t want to stand beside the person talking only about themselves. You want to hear what’s important to the other person. You want to ask them what’s happening in their lives and how you can help them. That other person is your customer, so listen to what your customers are telling you and find ways to weave a brand story around those needs; solve problems for your customers; tell them stories; offer coupons or promotions; give them new information.
Now, more than ever, social media is also becoming the preferred advertising medium in most every industry, from big name brands to mom-and-pop shops. The general public’s belief in traditional advertising (i.e. television, radio, or print) is decreasing, and peer-to-peer recommendations are becoming the norm thanks to social media.
“If you and I are friends, and I recommend a snow clearing company to you versus you seeing an ad on television, you’re more likely to feel comfortable taking my personal recommendation because you know me and you trust my recommendation,” says Erjavec Parker. Building relationships with your existing customers on social media can help to increase those personal recommendations, thus expanding your clientele.
To help get you started or even if you’re already out there, Erjavec Parker offers tips and suggestions on each of the main social media sites. Find out which platforms are a must, those that are nice to haves and which you can skip altogether. Regardless of which sites you are on though, Erjavec Parker says “don’t waste any more time.”
“The platforms and networks may change, but social is here to stay. Facebook might not be around forever, but the social aspect of communicating with your customers in real time is only going to get bigger.”
And as any good business owner or manager knows, you don’t get successful by ignoring opportunities to get to your customers.
Why you should use it
Facebook is today’s Yellow Pages according to Erjavec Parker. “It’s the must-be smart place for a business to have a presence. Nineteen million Canadians log on to Facebook every month. To have a Facebook page for your business is just smart.”
Facebook is now reaching a slightly older demographic than its early days as a college website. Think Generation X and older, with more and more older adults coming onboard.
What to post
Most anything can go on Facebook, but you want to post things that your customers or prospects will find helpful or interesting. It could be celebrating an award or welcoming a new team member or talking about a new piece of equipment that is helping to speed things up.
Use your personal profile to promote your business. Don’t be afraid to share posts from your business profile to your own, but don’t go too crazy. You want to keep those close to you informed without feeling like you’re selling 24/7.
If you’re not already on Facebook, you need to get on it. Now. “There is zero excuse as to why you’re not on Facebook in 2016,” says Erjavec Parker.
Why you should use it
While this platform still seems new, it has been around for six years. It lets you show what your company does and how you do things differently by telling your brand story with images and videos. Because sometimes a simple post is not enough in our meme-crazy, cat video-loving world.
Maybe it’s the visual aspect or the slightly higher learning curve with photo filters, but Instagram brings in a youthful demographic (millennials and younger).
What to post
Images or short (think 15 seconds) videos that showcase your company and industry. For example, take a quick video of a property that you just cleared to show the jobs you can handle, or post a fun image of the before and after a snow storm.
Don’t oversaturate your account with a purely business focus. Include a mix of fun images that still pertain to your business, such as employees partaking in a company lunch or having fun on the job.
Instagram is seeing some significant growth and it’s a great way to reach a younger audience if that’s what you’re after.
Part 2 to post January 9th, 2017