By William & Patti Feldman
If you haven’t launched your social media image, here’s an easy way to start.
Social media platforms – most notably Twitter and Facebook – are potent marketing tools for more and more businesses, small and large. They offer a direct way to boost your company’s image and sales among customers and provide an easy way for customers to express their needs, insights, and opinions about what you offer. If you are not yet taking advantage of both opportunities to show and grow your business, now is certainly a good time to make your social media debut.
It’s hard to say what percentage of business owners use Twitter and Facebook -published surveys vary wildly from one third or less of all businesses to two thirds or more. Whatever the true numbers today, they are likely to be higher tomorrow.
Twitter is a platform for sending followers short easily digestible messages to people you may not know, with interactions proceeding along the lines of a ‘public’ group conversation. The message can be complete “as is” or can include a link to your Facebook account, your company website, or to a photo-sharing social media site (such as Pinterest). You also have the ability to send private direct messages to any follower.
Facebook, the number one social marketing medium for business, is a platform for longer form, more detailed postings, including photos. You can also include links on any of your Facebook postings.
To maximize the benefits of social networking to develop positive awareness of your business and to drive traffic to your website, use both platforms because they have different strengths.
Tweets deliver fast facts and ask and answer short questions. Your tweets should, by and large, aim to educate, entertain, converse with or otherwise engage followers, all with the ultimate goals of keeping customers happy and converting new followers into customers. Tweets can carry links that move readers on to more detailed information on your website or on Facebook.
While you may take on these tasks yourself, keep in mind that they really should be daily tasks and do take some time each day or even a few times a day. You may want to assign someone in your office to handle social media or hire a service that provides attention to your Twitter and Facebook accounts throughout the day. Just make sure you know the passwords to log-in.
Getting started on Twitter is easier than getting started on Facebook. It is also easier to tend daily.
Your Twitter username should be your company name, if reasonably short, or a recognizable or easy-to-remember abbreviation of it.
Getting your first followers on Twitter should be fairly easy. Right from your Twitter account, you can search – they can be people and businesses you already know who have email. On the left of the screen is “Who to follow,” which gives you the opportunity to “find friends” by searching your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail & Messenger, and AOL contacts by a person’s full name or username and asking them to follow you. Once they do, you can follow them back. And so it goes. And grows.
You can also search for new followers by clicking on “Browse Categories” – currently about 25 – which include overall several hundred suggestions of public personalities and private businesses with whom you may want to interact. Once you get started with “following” and “followers,” you drill down and browse among their “following” and “followers,” and keep expanding your reach. In addition, as you use Twitter, it becomes “smart” and starts to “recognize” the type of follower you want and offers you a listing of possible people or companies to follow every time you log on.
Every Twitter account comes with space for a 160-character bio and an identifying thumbnail image (either a company logo, photo, or product shot – some dealers use a colorful geometric tile face). Use the bio to tell visitors who you are, what you sell or offer, and/or why they should follow you.
You can tweet anything that fits into 140 characters (spaces included) but it should be relevant, readable information without wasteful fluff. (Also consider occasionally retweeting wise words or interesting links from some of your followers.) Keep in mind that letters and numbers used to create links count in the overall character tally so you will want to use a free URL shortening service such as bitly.com or tinyurl.com. URL shorteners convert long addresses to shorter ones, leaving more for your message.
Opinion among social media gurus about how often to tweet a marketing message varies widely. Some experts suggest that one pointed sales pitch per every 4, 6 or 8 tweets is acceptable, but from what we’ve seen on Twitter many tile dealers ignore that unwritten rule entirely, making every other or even every tweet a sales pitch, a promotion, or other clear call to action.
Finding the fine line can be tricky. On the one hand, if a person is following many Twitter accounts, including yours, their incoming tweets will accrue so fast that unless you tweet frequently you may miss out on reaching them with any one marketing or sales tweet. But on the other hand, if you tweet marketing and sales messages too often, you risk annoying – and then losing – your followers.
Everyone agrees, however, that it is important to respond, quickly and politely, to any tweets that include questions or, especially, complaints with positive responses. Resolving complaints promptly and publicly is good business.
Incorporate hashtags (#s) which, used directly in front of a keyword becomes a search tool and helps your tweets on those topics show up in Twitter Search. For example, #tile #backsplash, #countertops and #ceramic increase the chances of someone you do not know who is searching for one of those terms with the hashtag in front of it to find you and view your tweet or tweets on the topic.
You will want to create a welcoming Facebook Page (your business’s public profile) where customers and others can interact with you and from which interested visitors can link directly to your company website. From your experience with customers in your stores and from customer service phone calls, you know what customers, in general, want to know. Facebook is an easy way to deliver that information.
After you create your Page, invite your employees, friends, and customers to visit and “Like” your Page (achieved simply by a click on the LIKE icon). A Facebook Page with at least 25 LIKEs also provides the account administrator with demographic information and statistics about traffic to the site. As soon as you have 25 LIKES, you shorten and customize your Facebook username.
When a visitor to your Facebook page clicks “like” the first time, that person in essence becomes a subscriber to your updates (unless or until he or she un-subscribes). By liking your site, that person endorses your company to all his or her Facebook friends, potentially growing your social media network in many directions.
Facebook is a great place to show off recent projects, introduce contests, offer special promotions or discounts, post photos of new or long term employees, and mention participation in local sports and community-based projects.
To help build your followers and fans, be sure to include your Twitter and Facebook Page URLs on all your marketing materials.
Some Ideas to Get Started on Both Platforms
Here are representative tweets and Facebook postings that tile dealers have posted recently, some with links:
- ask your tiling questions here
- what’s new
- special discounts on products and services
- “gone green? we offer eco-friendly products
- photos of new van, truck, or staff outside place of business or at a community street fair
- photos of store displays and in-store layouts
- Check out this fabulous before and after bathroom remodel
- pros and cons of DIY remodeling
- Great selection, service, and professional planning at all our locations
- “we’re hiring”…send resumes to: (list email)
- what can we do to better serve your tiling needs?
- Find showroom
- Can’t decide what color to paint walls? Why not tile them instead?
- Visit us at LOCATION for huge selection of tiles at great prices
- Introduction of new member of design team
- NAME announces new technical sales rep
- NAME introduces new collection
- Bathroom of the day
- Bathroom with attitude
- Backsplashes with pizzazz
- DIY Tip of the Day
- Who wouldn’t want to relax in the gorgeous bath? Our tile couldn’t have found a more elegant home
- Special Today – 20% off entire online purchase for orders placed before 3pm -
- Cyber Monday 20% off all mosaics today
- June 23rd Sale - celebrating 23 years of serving you – 20% off floor tiles
Other Twitter and Facebook topics could include: tiling design trends; tools to use for a bathroom/kitchen tiling job; how to determine how many tiles are needed to tile a proposed space; differences between wall and floor tiles; differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles; indoors versus outdoor tile; how to grout a tile floor; and how to clean heavily smudged tile.
More and more business postings on Twitter and Facebook also include links to Pinterest. Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) is a social photo sharing website – a visual bulletin board – that allows users to create and manage image collections. You can use it to “pin” images of your new, most popular, or trendiest tiles and finished installations, for both direct viewing on your Pinterest site and for sharing on Twitter and Facebook. (About 80% of Pinterest users are women, with home decor among the most popular subjects.) Visitors can “re-pin” images to their own collections or “like” photos. You can have separate boards for different subjects. By monitoring your own Pinterest account, you can see which “board” earns the most pins and the most “likes.”
Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are among the sites popular now – emphasis on now, as in today. More are certain to develop but in the meantime, these are good places to add to your traditional marketing mix.