This post isn’t all about plumbers, this is just one example of a local business that may try to focus on social media to get leads. I want to go over whether social media is right for every business. The short answer is: it’s not. That doesn’t mean a plumber (carpenter, painter, lawncare company, etc.) can’t benefit from being online. My opinion is that not every platform works well for every business. Your business needs to figure out its goals for being on social media and determine which platform is right. Social media can be a great place to get leads, but social is mainly about interacting with your customers and audience.
Not every business will gain leads from Twitter, it’s a difficult platform to master and gain a following. This is especially true for local businesses. Our example is of a plumber, let’s say Wilson Plumbers. Wilson has a website with his services, phone number, and some photos. He’s not seeing much traction through his site, he’s asked a few customers where they found him and it hasn’t been through the website. He thinks social media is the answer. Everyone is on Twitter and Facebook these days, and everyone needs plumbing every now and then! It’s free to set up an account, so why not? He’s never really used Twitter but makes a profile, puts up some images, fills in the description, then posts his first Tweet “The best plumber in Madeup City is Wilson Plumbers!”.
He waits a few days and checks the account. There’s a notification! He clicks it and see he has a follower. He clicks the profile picture and realizes it’s not even a real person! Oh well, he decides to check back later. But days go by and still no activity. What’s wrong?
This is an oversimplified example but it’s typical of clients I’ve had. They create a profile on every social media site (it’s free so why not?), post a few statuses (mainly about their business), then wait for something to happen. But nothing really comes from it. They give up and forget about the accounts. A potential customer sees that account is dormant and won’t bother following it. Depending on the business, it may be a good idea to focus your energy elsewhere. It’s smarter to focus on what works for the business. And certain business types just aren’t really fit for certain social media sites.
I can’t make a blanket statement as to what businesses work best on Twitter. But I have seen restaurants work well, because people love taking pictures of food and sharing it. It’s a great idea for restaurants to use Twitter to interact with customers who talk about their food, service, experience, etc. Twitter is also excellent because you can search and find people talking about your business who don’t follow you. It’s very easy to engage and interact on Twitter with nonfollowers.
I really really hate social media companies that advise businesses to get an account on everything: YouTube, Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram. Then they charge for each account they set up. I don’t find the practice helpful for businesses. A company should look strategically at what the business hopes to accomplish, who their target audience is, and decide where best to focus their social strategy. A lawncare company may not benefit from being on Pinterest. It’s difficult to focus on targeting and acquiring local customers on Pinterest, so no matter how great the content you post, you may never see a return. A site like Pinterest works well for a company based online. Users on Pinterest are located all over, so you can attract more buyers with an ecommerce or online-services business. Pinterest is also very female-centric, that’s not to say men aren’t Pinners, women just make up a majority of the activity. Recipe blogs, clothing, decor, and fitness do well on this site.
I don’t want to discount Pinterest for local businesses, it can be a useful site to showcase your items. But unless you have a website where people can buy your goods, I wouldn’t focus too much on it. If you have, say, an ecommerce store selling jewelry, you’d do well with Pinterest if you focus on providing great content and high quality photos. Especially now that Pinterest is offering ads.
I don’t really see much point in focusing on this platform other than for reviews and search placement. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have one! Reviews on your Google+ Business page can help you rank for local searches. The relatively new local carousel at the top of Google for searches like “Pizza Chicago” will display pizza restaurants based off their Google + reviews. You need about 4 reviews in order to get the stars showing for your business. Your Google+ business page will also show up on the right side of the search results when someone looks you up. This is useful information, as it shows your map location, address, phone number, and photos (all of which you must provide).
Google+ is useful especially for local businesses! The ability to have a prominent amount of info display on the search results page is important. Be sure to set up your Google+ Business Page with the correct information and get verified. And make sure your site is on Google Maps.
This site is extremely important for local businesses! Yelp is most peoples’ (mine included) first stop when looking up where to eat, what painter to use, where to get their hair cut. People trust reviews! So you should actively focus on having clients post reviews on Yelp. Don’t use unethical tactics like paying for reviews (I’m not a fan of this). Have a sign in your business asking customers to post a review, and stress how it helps small businesses and owners. You can offer a discount on their next visit when they email you their review. Think of a clever way to incentivize reviews. Otherwise, the only people that take the time will be those who had an extremely great experience or those who had a terrible one. You need to target those who had a great experience, but may not take the time to write about it.
Yelp: All local businesses should be here! Actively seek out reviews. Reply to negative reviews publicly on the site, it’s better to say sorry and accept responsibility and learn from the review.
This seems to be everyone’s favorite platform! But when was the last time you ever bought a product or service because of a post on Facebook? It’s highly doubtful that out of all the pages to like on Facebook, that you will like a plumbing company (unless they happen to be friends of yours). The real beauty of Facebook is the power to target a specific audience.
How does this work? Alright, so Facebook wants to make money. I hate to say it, but the posts on your business’s page are not getting to all your followers. Facebook does this on purpose. It forces you to buy ads or pay to boost a post. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. A Facebook ad allows you to target a specific audience by a variety of characteristics: age, gender, interests, location, etc. This is great for local businesses, as you can really focus your money on people who may be interested in your product/service.
Facebook is good for local and web based businesses. If you want to see a good return on the time and effort you spend on the site, you’ll need to pay for ads. It may take time to test out what works. There are many factors to play around with: image, title, description, color, etc. So don’t worry if your first ad doesn’t get the response you want, try again! Also be sure you come up with a goal for your ad. I’ve had experience with businesses who say they tried ads and failed. But this is because they just posted a picture of their business with a description. You have to decide if you’re driving traffic to your website, growing likes, getting emails, or expecting foot traffic. You also need to offer something like a discount, contest, free product to drive people to your business. People won’t go just because you put up an ad.
This platform is hot! You can easily gain followers and will see tons of likes and comments roll in, more so than with other platforms. The key to success on Instagram is posting quality photos. If you are a local company, try showing your work, behind the scenes shots of your employees at work. Don’t spam followers with advertisements of your business. Nobody wants to see that. Instead use Instagram to build a relationship with followers.
With this app, you can only post photos, no links. In your description you can write out the relevant URL if you need to. See what other companies in your area are doing and try to emulate them. Don’t overlook this platform!
I hit the major social media sites, the ones you should be looking into if you are a local business. Think about what you want your social media strategy to do for your business, then pick a few of these sites to target. Don’t spread yourself thin by being on every site. It’s time consuming to create a following, get content, and engage. Focus your energy on sites you think will suit your business best.
All the best!