Are You OPEN for Business?
June 6th, 2012

As an early adopter of social media for marketing, I’ve had a number of distributors ask me why I put time and money into social networks. At the most basic level, not having a social media presence is like opening a business and not putting a sign over your door. Many of your customers will still find you, but why make it difficult? For most of your customers—especially the Gen Xers and Millenials who are buying their first homes—their first impression of your business will be through a web search. Social media is the OPEN sign on your front door.

Here are a few insights from my experience with social media:

Start with one platform. At this point there are more social media platforms than people to use them: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Foursquare and the list goes on and on. Trying to have a legitimate presence on each of them overwhelms even the largest of companies, let alone small businesses. My advice would be to begin with Facebook, as it is the largest of the social networks. Facebook serves as a referral for businesses. When researching tile and stone, your potential customer will turn to your website and your Facebook page for an initial impression. Have any of their friends “liked” your page? What do your customers say on your wall? Do you have beautiful installation images in your photo galleries?

Set realistic expectations. In social media circles, it’s not uncommon to hear about campaigns that reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential customers. Is this really your goal? I hope not. Instead, set goals based on how many social media users you can convert to paying customers. You may only reach a few hundred people with your social media efforts, but if your campaigns result in ten new customers a month, that would certainly constitute success in my book.

Focus on your core constituency. One of the first revelations I had when tinkering with social media was to understand how my core constituency uses social media. Sure, a lot of 18 year-olds are lighting up Twitter with their constant tweeting, but they’re not buying my tile. Rather, it’s the forty-something, married mother-of-two updating her Facebook status with pictures from the family vacation. So where should I position my company on social media? Where my consumers are.

What should you say? Once you have your Facebook account set up, the next step is to start producing content for your page. But what kinds of things should you put on your Facebook page? The best content is to answer your customers’ questions. How will this tile look once it’s installed? (Create galleries of installation images.) What kind of adhesive should I use with glass tile? (Post a link to the installation instructions on your vendor’s website.) Can you recommend an installer? (Link to the CTEF page for certified installers or to the website of a trusted installation company).

Finally, set up automatic monitoring. Social media sites usually allow you to set up alert systems that will notify you daily or weekly of your results, including number of users, visits, comments, and clicks. By monitoring your social media accounts, you’ll be able to refine your content based on what works best and what flops. You’ll also be able to respond quickly to any negative comments.

If all of this sounds overwhelming, find the social media guru in your organization and let them take it on. Give them clear guidance and a couple of hours a week to devote to your business’ social media presence. They’ll make sure the OPEN sign is lit up.

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