Social Media

will rogersAlmost all of us have heard of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but do I need them for my business? What is the purpose of them and how does it translate to business?

I must admit it took me years to get around to really playing with and mastering Facebook. I enjoyed LinkedIn, but does LinkedIn sell me or my business? It depends on who is your customer. If you are a professional selling to other professionals then a good LinkedIn profile is a must. For most of us, our customers are the general public, so this article will focus on public accessed types of social media.

I still don’t really understand Twitter and the purpose of it, but I do know 140 characters is not a lot. Pinterest is pretty, but what is it? Ditto Instagram. Now there are sites like Reddit, Diggs, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon – do I really need them to succeed in business?

No, but they are the future. You can use social media if you know how and have the time. It’s kind of like when VCRs first came out – go get a kid to show you how to program it. Many older business owners are a little slower to catch on, but we do get there eventually… Alright – Never mind the narrative just tell me the top most important sites for social media marketing and why/how do I use them.

1. Facebook: Facebook “engages” customers and has no business hours – it is a global 24/7 world, but your market (aka readers) may take time to sleep and we will talk about that later. You set up a profile and then you can create a “page” under your business name to communicate and inform readers of just about anything you want by making what is called posts – the content for your page. Your business page is NOT your personal page. Don’t post pictures of your camping trip, the dog, or racy stuff as the material you post should be “public” if it is to help your business.

The trick to getting people to see your page (and thereby like or share) is you have to “engage” the reader. Readers don’t want a constant barrage of stuff and they like short, sweet sound bites with pretty pictures (yes, we are all crows – shiny). Your readers also don’t want the same things over and over. You will notice when they read things. Something you post on a Sunday may not get read, but if you post on a Thursday it gets read. Look at the insight section to see when your readers are viewing the posts.

By using a clean “stock” photo, clipart, or one of your own pictures uploaded, you create content that has no fingerprints. It’s like all roads lead back to Rome – aka your page. I used a stock photo of a barber pole and posted congratulations to the Barber Shop. It had over 300 views in less than eight hours. Another time, I took a link to the MTO legislated changes and put XPolice’s logo on my post and got over 1000 views in less than 24 hours.

When people “share” posts or pictures with friends, it still shows as coming from the Chamber – all roads lead back to Rome. If you use a picture that you copied from another site or source when it get clicked on the picture will take you to who it belongs… ahhhh, you said. Sourcing clean, free pictures is critical.

The other thing about Facebook is you can pay to promote what you post (paid versus organic content you spread) but they have a 80/20 rule for picture versus text and why pay to do what you can do for free? Our page had over 1100 views for the South Simcoe Railway (SSR) without paying a penny, because I used a link from SSR’s website. In this case, I wanted the road to lead back to South Simcoe Railway, so the fingerprints on the picture belong to SSR. The link to their website automatically inserts the main picture from their website on my post.

Facebook has insights and notifications reporting to show you how well you are doing. When we post information that is drier than dirt, our results show it. Again, we are all crows with the attention of a squirrel. We are drawn to pretty pictures and want either a link to follow later or a short blurb.

Why do I need Facebook and how does it translate to revenue? It’s called Branding. They may not need you now, but they will remember you. Even if the reader has not personally used your product or service, they will recommend you if they remember you. It’s a new twist on word of mouth, but be careful because if you tick them off, they can slaughter your business in the click of a mouse. Facebook is an awesome tool for quick communication.

2. Twitter: Twitter is like snippets of information using bird lingo. You can take the reader back to a website or Facebook if you put the link in your “tweet”. Twitter is the ultimate message board where users follow or “retweet” what you “tweet”. If you put what they call a hastag # (also called the number symbol or pound) in front of a key word, it will show up in searches. For example #tottenham shows up both as Tottenham the Chamber and Tottenham the UK football club. Take it easy on the hastags. A simple #Tottenham #Chamber will suffice.

Twitter is used for everything from real news, to personal or political comments, snarky remarks, or pleas for help – it’s just noise without real content, but Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin successfully lobbied the government to renew his contact via Twitter – an almost unheard of feat 20 years ago. Twitter is quick noise, but you need to fit your content into 140 characters.

You can set up Twitter and Facebook links on your website and cross post at the same time.

3. Instagram and Pinterest: Both of these sites are visual platforms. Instagram is a mobile application that lets you upload pictures from your smart whatever and post it to the site. It allows viewers to see really pretty pictures, but the text is limited – you have to have a picture, so it works well with food, cool stuff, and visually stunning pictures. It doesn’t work well for businesses like accountants or lawyers. If you can find a way to make law or financials sexy or pretty, you’re a marketing genius.

Pinterest is a free website that allows you to upload, save, and manage images that are called “pins” as well as other things like videos in a collection called a “pinboard” (picture a cork board). You “pin” things to your “pinboard” and other people can look at the pretty pictures. Again, if your business is food, fashion, or cool Pinterest is a must have.

My kid has mastered Instagram and Pinterest, but there are only so many pictures of her teddy bears or feet that strike interest. Setting up these tools is easy if you can follow instructions. LinkedIn a must have for professionals; Facebook is a must have as is Twitter; Pinterest and Instagram are for visual gravy. Play around with them – have fun. The only way to really learn is to try. Worst case scenario, come have your kid program it for you.

Tracy Mason
Tottenham Beeton Chamber of Commerce