This post is the first of a multipart series on social media marketing.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably realize that social media is taking over the world. As a business owner, you probably see stats like the following all the time:
- “More than 1 in 3 Internet users say they go to social networks when looking for more information about a brand or product.” (Insight Global)
- “There are now more than 50 million small businesses using Facebook Pages to connect with their customers.” (Adweek)
- “Almost 90 percent of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75 percent say they’ve increased traffic.” (Social Media Examiner)
After reading these seemingly-shocking statistics coming out, it’s easy to rush to get on social media, without truly understanding how to succeed at social media marketing first.
This series attempts to cut through the shocking statistics and marketing speak (mostly from companies selling social media services and software). This series is also specific to the lawn and landscape industry, and will give you a better understanding of how to best leverage social media to grow your business. Over the next several posts we’ll explain how to choose your social channels, how to create engaging content and how to grow your audience.
Most small businesses fail at social long before they get into the tactics; they fail because they go into social with the wrong mindset. This post is specifically about how to think about social media marketing in order to succeed.
What social media is not about
The end goal of social media marketing is more customers and more revenue, right?
Well, yes – but if you go into social thinking about direct sales, you will fail.
Social media marketing is about creating a personal relationship with your clients and your audience. It’s about them getting to know you, increasing their trust in you and their perception of you as an authority. It’s about creating a human connection. It’s about giving value, without asking much in return.
How does this grow your revenue? When your audience trusts you, sees you as an authority and feels connected on a human level, you’ll start to see increased repeat business, upsells and referrals that seem to come out of thin air.
A tale of two landscapers
Good vs bad social media marketing is one of those concepts that’s tough to describe, but you know it when you see it. Take two fictitious landscape business owners, John and Sarah, as examples of bad and good social media marketing.
- John creates a Facebook business page, but doesn’t fill out all of his information. He throws up a few mediocre photos.
- Then, he sends out an email to all of his clients begging them to like him on Facebook. He also invites all his friends to ‘like’ the page.
- John sometimes goes weeks without posting, and when he does post, he’s promoting seasonal services, or touting what a great job he did on the latest flowerbed installation.
- When customers leave reviews or comments, either positive or negative, he does not respond promptly. Sometimes he does not respond at all.
Let’s break this down.
John starts out on the wrong foot, by not filling out his page. What does this say? That he isn’t professional, and doesn’t pay attention to detail. Not a great quality for a landscaper.
Then John appears needy, begging for likes. And lets down those who do oblige by not engaging with them either via his posts or their comments.
Worst of all, John does nothing but try and sell to his audience. Earlier we established that social media is about creating a personal connection with your followers. Can you imagine if one of your friends tried to sell you every time you saw him or her? You wouldn’t be friends for long.
Does this sound like a good experience for John’s audience? No. Unfortunately, this is how most small business owners treat their social media.
Let’s take a look at Sarah, who takes a different approach on social media.
- Sarah creates a Facebook business page and fills it out completely, including business hours, services and high quality photos of her, her crew and past work.
- In the footer of the billing emails, she adds a nice note saying “Want exclusive discounts and seasonal lawn care tips? Like us on Facebook”, with a link to the Facebook page.
- Sarah posts consistently, usually once or twice per week. The posts range from funny memes, how-to videos and the occasional inspirational work. Once, at the beginning of each season, she announces special deals on seasonal services.
- When customers leave reviews or comments, either positive or negative, she immediately responds and takes action if necessary.
See the difference? In this case, Sarah as a business owner is portraying a professional image, starting with the completed Facebook page. Her profile is not only aesthetically pleasing, but a useful resource for people searching for info on the business. And the photos she posts are professional, reflecting on her work. Giving her an instant credibility boost.
When it comes to acquiring followers, Sarah is the opposite of pushy. In fact, she gives customers a reason to follow her business on Facebook (discounts and lawn care tips).
Then Sarah follows up her promise by providing valuable and engaging content. She only attempts to sell once per season, and when she does, she’s offering value to her audience as the services she’s promoting are 1) seasonal and 2) discounted. She also shows that she cares about her audience by promptly replying to comments and reviews.
When you contrast these two approaches, John presents an unprofessional pushy image that alienates the audience. Sarah, on the other hand, appears put-together and shows she cares about her audience – not just their money.
Think about engagement
If you’re going to use social media marketing to help grow your business, you cannot be thinking of each as a direct sales channel. You need to think of social media as a way to engage an audience, building credibility and brand image over a long period of time. If done right, social media marketing will lead to a better brand perception, higher customer retention, and increased word of mouth.
Stay tuned for the next part of the social media series discussing how to choose the right social media platform for your business.
Check out part two, part three and part four of this series.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Ryan Farley, co-founder and head of marketing for LawnStarter Lawn Care.