How to: Use social media as a marketing tool

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June 20, 2012

When Chris Heiler speaks with landscaping companies, he hears the same thing – they get 90 percent of their clients from word-of-mouth referrals, Heiler says. Well, there is a way you can aid your word-of-mouth referrals aside from the work you do. “Social media amplifies word-of-mouth. Five years ago, a happy customer might have told a few friends about your services. Today they can easily tell hundreds and even thousands of their friends and followers about how much they love you.”

The biggest challenge he hears from companies when it comes to social media marketing is a lack of time to dedicate to it. But Heiler said a lack of time is just an excuse not to do it. “The real challenge is in understanding how to get started,” Heiler says. “Most companies are unsure of how to begin. There is no rule book or road map so it can be a little scary – especially when you’re putting your company on display for the whole world to see.” Below are some of Heiler’s tips on using social media as a marketing tool. – Brian Horn

 

  1. Determine your objective. Always begin by asking, “Why?” Why is your business using social media? To be successful with social media, and to get buy-in from the overall organization, clear objectives need to be defined. There are typically three broad objectives: Increase brand awareness, generate direct sales, and build customer loyalty. Each is very different and each requires a unique social strategy.
     
  2. Develop a theme and strategy around your objective. What makes your company unique? This is your social theme which should permeate all aspects of your social media strategy from the stories you tell to the content you create and share. When you have a clear objective and overall theme to guide you, then you can develop a well thought out social strategy and step-by-step plan.
     
  3. Listen. Pay attention to the online chatter revolving around your company, services and products. Next, monitor what is being said about your top competitors. How does the conversation around your business compare to that of your competitors? If the only thing you did related to social media was monitor online conversations involving your brand and your competitors, you would be off to a great start.
     
  4. Participate. You don’t need to be everywhere. Do one thing really well as opposed to a bunch of things average. For instance, if your objective is to increase customer loyalty, create a Facebook page where you can engage your current customers and business partners. Once you prove that you can participate consistently on one platform, then consider creating a presence on another.
     
  5. Create a social team. Your employees can be your greatest brand ambassadors. Including them in your efforts, and rewarding them for doing so, can be very empowering. Encourage them to photograph and document not only your landscape work, but also what happens “behind the curtain”. This real-world, behind the scenes view builds a more personal, intimate connection between you and your customers.

 

Illustration by Ron Wilson