There are lots of different kinds of marketing techniques to drum up new business. A newcomer to the marketing banquet, “social media marketing” has generated lots of buzz … is it worth it? Well, it probably won’t replace the things you’re doing now, but it can be a useful addition.
Social media marketing simply means using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc. to help you grow your business. Each network has its own characteristics, its own strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately you want to go where your customers are and connect with them on their turf.
Advertising can be part of the picture – for example, we’re using facebook advertising to help us grow the audience of our new podcast – but social media marketing is more about being human and less about broadcasting a message.
Nowhere is this truer than on Twitter. In case you’re not familiar with Twitter, it lets you publish very short messages (up to 140 characters), including links to websites, pictures, videos, etc. You can “follow” other people so that their 140-character messages show up in your “stream.” Other people can follow you. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter is asymmetrical – you don’t have to follow someone to have them follow you and vice versa.
Twitter started as a tool to simplify text messaging for large groups of people, and many people still use it primarily on their phones. The 140-character limitation gives Twitter its unique character. If nothing else, it’s a great way to kill time while you’re waiting in line.
Many people think they need a lot of followers to be successful on Twitter, but that’s not true. Unless you’re someone like Ashton Kutcher or the Pope or Taco Bell, you’re not going to get a million followers … Don’t worry about it. Instead, focus on your customers by simply following them. When your followers grow past 10 and then past 100 and then past 1,000 … it strokes your ego, but it’s not going to give you much immediate business benefit. After all, most people don’t say to themselves, “I need new countertops – let me see who sells them on Twitter.”
Instead, think of Twitter like a big party where you choose the participants. You can listen in on most conversations with or without participating in them. You could walk in and start shouting at the top of your lungs … but that doesn’t typically make you very popular at parties, does it? When you enter a party, it’s usually better to find some interesting people and listen first, before you start talking.
On Twitter, the interesting people are your customers and potential customers. Let them talk more than you – and pay attention. If one of your current customers is having a hard time with another contractor, offer them some tips or encouragement. If a past customer tweets a picture of their newly remodeled kitchen, tell them how great it looks. If they simply like the same TV shows as you, chime in. Be a part of the conversation, but don’t dominate it (there’s actually one exception to this rule – if you’re lucky enough to be quite funny, go ahead and shout). You won’t get immediate business value from this kind of engagement, but over time, it will increase the likelihood that your happy customers will refer you to their friends – so it can be quite valuable in the long run.
How do you get started with Twitter? It’s easy …
- Go to twitter.com and sign up. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get exactly the name you want – just don’t choose something offensive.
- Learn the basics – tweet a message using 140 characters. Install a Twitter app on your phone and tweet a picture, perhaps of a countertop. Reply to a tweet and “retweet” something.
- Mention @Moraware and/or @StoneTalkShow in a tweet, and we’ll follow you!
- Limit the number of celebrities and random people who you follow – focus on following your customers and potential customers
- Where you currently ask customers for an email address – start asking for a twitter handle as well. Only a small percentage of your customers will fill this in, but the simplest way to follow the right people is by asking.
- Login at least once/day and read what your customers are saying about anything and everything. If you have something to add, chime in. Above all, be human. You might grow fond of Twitter and find yourself checking it often.
- Try to tweet at least once/day as well, but tweet things that are interesting to your customers. A good approach is simply to tweet links to articles about home improvement.
Again, don’t expect immediate business benefit. Twitter is just another channel for communicating with your customers – if you communicate poorly, it won’t help at all, but even if you communicate well, it takes time to bear fruit.
I’ll discuss other social networks in future articles, but if you want to learn more NOW, I strongly recommend the book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by entrepreneur and marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk. The 140-character summary is “Give, give, give to your customers before you ask for something.”