Social media is great. But what, exactly, are you trying to accomplish?
Have you jumped on the social media bandwagon yet? Are you ready to jump off already? Or have you embraced it like a kid does a brand new puppy?
If you’re like most companies in the green industry who are dabbling in social media, you are probably somewhere in between.
The single best piece of advice I can give you is this: Find your “one thing.” In other words, clearly define your single objective as it relates to social media and your business.
Do you see social media as a pointless, giant time-suck? If so, it’s probably because you don’t have a clear objective in mind. Have you ever asked yourself, “What the hell am I doing this for?”
Well, it’s time to find your answer.
Ask yourself why. As with anything, your chance for success with social media is much greater when you have a clearly defined, concrete objective. Otherwise, you’re just wandering aimlessly. A concrete objective clarifies your purpose and can unite and empower your employees so you're all shooting at the same target.
With a clear goal established, you can then craft a well thought out social media strategy and plan to enable you to reach your goal. When you have a goal, you have something to measure. And you can create benchmarks along the way.
An objective and well-thought-out strategy allows you to focus only on what’s important and ignore what is not. So, why are you on LinkedIn? Why did you create a Facebook page for your business? Why did you start a blog
Generating leads to building your reputation. I’m going to outline seven practical objectives for you to consider. Focus on one, but keep in mind that one or two others may become secondary goals.
Also keep in mind, everyone won’t have the same objective – a lot depends on the type of business. For instance, a landscape designer may have more interest in building her reputation, while a lawn care company may be focused on generating leads.
1. Generate leads. Adding leads (preferably qualified) to your sales funnel is a viable objective for your social media efforts. Of course “leads” mean different things to different businesses. Perhaps a lawn care company focuses efforts on building its newsletter list. A garden center may focus on increasing foot traffic. A landscape architect may focus on building his/her blog readership.
2. Increase sales. There's nothing wrong with using social media to increase your sales. The problem I see with many green industry companies is that they see this bottom-line objective as the only reason to participate without realizing the other benefits of social media.
3. Stay in touch. Social media is a very effective platform for staying top-of-mind with clients. If keeping in touch with your contacts is our only social media objective, it will be time well spent.
4. Expand your sphere of influence. Social networking is one of the most effective ways to meet like-minded, collaborative people. This could mean on a local level or within your industry on a national level.
This is one reason I love social media: You never know where these relationships may take you.
5. Build your reputation. How effective or successful your social media strategy is cannot only be measured in dollars and cents. Sorry. We’re living in a new economy: One where attention and reputation are equally valued. If you can draw positive attention to your efforts, boosting your reputation in the process, the dollars will eventually follow.
6. Build brand awareness. A lot of corporations take this approach with their social media. They just want more exposure in the marketplace. They want to introduce their company to more consumers and, at the same time, stay in front of consumers on a consistent basis. APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers) has done a terrific job using social media to build awareness of their organization within the ranks of landscape professionals.
7. Keep up to date. By simply following a few blogs you can stay in tune with whatever may be relevant to you.
Follow the right people on Twitter and you'll never run out of fascinating, fun and helpful information.
I was asked recently, “How do I build more connections on LinkedIn?” and “How do I get more followers on Twitter?” My answer to both was the same: Why do you need more connections or followers? What is your objective? This is the question you need to start with.
Don't put the cart before the horse. An effective social media strategy and plan can then be developed around your single objective.
The author runs landscapeleadership.com. He's on Facebook at facebook.com/cjheiler and Twitter @chris_heiler.
Studies on a theme
To learn how Neave Group Outdoor Solutions in New York developed a theme for its social media, and how that helps its business, click here.