If social media reminds you of the insurance salesman who wants you to connect him/her with your friends and acquaintances in order to sell to them, you’re not alone. But technology has changed the way we interact, and in order to stay current, you need to let go of that reluctance to share and instead use the social media craze to your advantage.
At this point we can’t ignore social media—it is here to stay. Instead we have to strike a balance and find those avenues that will be most beneficial to our businesses, as well as our personal lives. Rather than ignoring social media because it is overwhelming, we need to determine which of the many opportunities make the most sense for our business. Rather than trying to do a little of everything, it is best to focus only on those avenues that we (or our staff) can handle.
Whether you create your own opportunities to be found through your own blog, or use opportunities such as Facebook, Houzz or Porch, it is important to do something. Rather than looking at this area as a confusion of opportunities, I recommend that you create a plan to increase your presence on the Internet and then choose one thing to focus on at a time. Depending on your resources, you may need to take it slow or rapidly increase your visibility. Since all social networking involves the Internet, your first step should be your website—because all of your activities should link to your website. Think of your website as the core or hub for your marketing. Even if you are doing more traditional marketing, all your marketing must point to your website. Once your website is in good shape and promotes your services and products, you will be ready to work on increasing your connections.
At this point in the evolution of social media, consumers assume you will not only have a website but will also have a Facebook page. We all know and probably agree that word of mouth is an important way to get new clients. Unfortunately, we don’t always use or encourage enough word of mouth. By having a presence on Facebook, you can encourage word of mouth. Not only can you can invite your friends to join your network, you should invite your clients to join you on Facebook and like your Facebook page.
Fortunately for you, the more friends and acquaintances your clients have, the more people will hear about you. With just a small amount of set-up work on your part, you can make yourself and your company better known.
Just like your website, if you have a Facebook page for your business, anyone can go to it. Once you have your Facebook page set up, you can link to it from your website and vice versa.
So, who do you know and who do they know? The more people you know and the more people they know and so on, the better chance you have of getting those word of mouth referrals.
Photos cannot be ignored in building your online presence. Whether you need them for your website or to promote your business on Houzz or Porch, photos are critical. Your photos will show prospects the kinds of projects you can produce. Your project images will also give people ideas and make them more comfortable reaching out to you—therefore, part of your marketing plan must include creating a portfolio of photographs. In addition to your spectacular after photos, having before photos for comparison is beneficial. Remember that you will also need before photos for entering award programs such as the CotYs.
Once you have photos and a plan for ongoing photography, and your website is in good shape, you will be ready to continue. Next choose three or four social marketing initiatives and then prioritize them —you can’t do it all at once. If you already have taken advantage of some social media opportunities, then you can improve those initiatives, look for more or reinforce those actions that have proven successful for you.
One of our clients had been using Houzz for a couple of years. Although they had some really great photos on Houzz and were recognized as a “Best of Houzz,” they weren’t getting leads. Earlier this year, the company launched a new website, with a new and much improved portfolio. Since the launch of the new website, they have been getting seven to 10 leads per week, many of which originated from Houzz. They are continuing to add photos to both their website and Houzz. Now that they know their website and Houzz are generating leads, they have begun to focus on search engine optimization to get more people to their website. They also have a blog and Facebook page, so their next venture will be to build their company presence on Porch.
We recently completed a new website for another client whose website hadn’t been updated in 10 years. Although the newly launched website was modern and attractive, it lacked photos. This client recently hired a photographer, who focused on getting kitchen photos. With the addition of the photos from this effort, the website now has the possibility of attracting the kind of customers that this remodeler wants. Like many small companies, this remodeler never felt that there was time to devote to social media. Their next step is to create a presence on Houzz.
There are many different forms of social media—some will be more important for your business than others. Although LinkedIn is a favorite of many, its use is vastly different and may not be a primary vehicle for attracting customers for remodeling. Just like there are many different options, there are also varying levels of difficulty involved in setting up and using them. As in home improvements, there are do-it-yourself projects and a time to call a professional. Remember to keep that in mind in creating your social media plan.—Lorraine Hart
Lorraine Hart is the president of Ideal Consulting Services, a business consulting firm. Lorraine is a past president of the NYC/LI Chapter of NARI. Lorraine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.