By Laura Schlereth
Social media has become an integral part of businesses’ communications and marketing efforts, and if you have yet to get on board, you’re going to be left behind. Now’s the time to start researching popular social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to see how they can help you expand your business.
Offering a microblogging service, Twitter allows someone to post, read and respond to short messages within a 140-character limit. Users can use their tweets to share links, videos and photos with their followers, while following other users’ updates. The Twitter website states it has 175 million registered users and that more than 95 million tweets are sent per day. Kevin de Kok, a 13-year communications and marketing veteran from Hamilton, Ont., says he thinks the simplicity and speed of Twitter is what makes it so valuable.
This social networking service offers users the ability to share a variety of information with people who they determine to be their friends, including a profile, photos, videos and a wall for others to post comments. Facebook currently has more than 500 million active users, but note that it takes more than setting up a page to make it an effective marketing strategy. It involves creating a Facebook strategy that involves commenting on other’s pages, managing your community and engaging with your fans.
De Kok thinks the amount of information that one can share through its many features can be a great opportunity for business owners, especially because you can target your audience based on information they list, such as likes, interests, age, gender and geographic location. This can enable you to develop closer relationships with others in the construction industry gaining potential new clients and partners.
Twitter and Facebook offer great ways to be able to distinguish your construction or property management business from your competition and connect with clients and partners in ways that aren’t available by traditional means, de Kok says.
"Social media reduced the barrier for a lot of businesses to do marketing, whether it be print or advertising, or costs for the preparation itself," he says. "It allows companies to go in and be more direct and more responsive."
According to de Kok, the many benefits of social media include generating website traffic, establishing a strong brand and providing more interaction with clients, potential clients, partners, useful contacts, etc.
Cesar Abeid, project manager at Remontech, Inc., a construction site monitoring company, based out of St. Thomas, Ont., says the most basic way to start incorporating Twitter in your company, is using keyword searches to find other companies that you can follow. Not only will this inform you how other companies in your industry are using Twitter, but also once you follow them, there’s a good chance they’ll start following you, which will help build audience. Abeid says, keyword searches also expose twitter discussions and questions people ask that are related to your business. You can then engage them by contributing to the discussion and answer their questions. This type of relationship building will give you additional business opportunities. Abeid says he often Tweets links to insightful and relevant articles as well as any new developments in the company.
Abeid says his company’s Facebook page is in its beginning stages but has so far been great for spreading awareness about his company.
"If you get people to ‘like’ your Facebook page, it shows on their stream, which people on their network will see and then hopefully garner interest in your company," he says.
Using Facebook’s multiple features, Abeid says they’ve also posted pictures and videos that showcase his company’s work.
Abeid says he’s seen measured success from their social media efforts, such as increased traffic to their website that came from Facebook and Twitter, and a lower bounce rate (the rate at which a user looks at a page and leaves the website right away), which he thinks is a direct result from using social media. As opposed to people coming to Remontech’s website by accident or from a related Google search, he thinks they’re coming already interested in the website from a company Tweet or Facebook post. Being already somewhat invested, Abeid thinks this makes them more likely to explore the website. Most importantly, Abeid says their Twitter and Facebook use has led to a number of leads currently in the proposal phase.
Abeid says we still associate a tweet or Facebook post with a person. As a contrast, a static company website is cold, corporate, and impersonal. A tweet post is personal, and as such companies should think about what their "corporate personality" should be. This can be a challenge but it should be considered if you're to engage successfully with your target market. This will dictate the content, tone and even humor of your posts.
Check out these helpful tips to make your social media experience successful:
Have a specific strategic plan: "Identify what content is relevant to your audience, including how frequently it will be updated, who will write it and how it supports your brand," de Kok says. "Articulate who in your organization will be involved. Outline how you will measure success and whether it will be by the number of inquiries, posts, new customers, sales, units rented, etc." de Kok says social media sites should be updated at least on a weekly basis. If you are able, daily updates are ideal. He cautions though not to update only for the sake of updating. Make sure the content is always purposeful and useful. When it comes to choosing who facilitates your social media efforts, he recommends choosing someone who is experienced in marketing and media relations, though if you’re exploring a topic one week that someone else in the company has an authority on, de Kok says it’s a nice change of pace to have them discuss the subject on Twitter or Facebook.
Make social media a commitment: Social media is not a project to set up and then wait to see what happens. It moves very quickly, and de Kok says it requires continuous time and energy to stay up-to-date and relevant. Because it is so interactive, de Kok reminds that any comment made to a Facebook post or Tweet will require a quick and informed response from you. "It shows that you’re engaged in what customers are saying and that their perspectives have value," he says. "It’s showing the human side of the company and how you understand customer needs."
Always be on the lookout for new business: Social media is a great way to spread awareness about your company but its benefits don’t stop there. Abeid says once you’ve created a relationship with someone either by following each other on Twitter or by visiting each other Facebook pages, ask them if they’re interested in creating a business partnership, he says. Even if the person who facilitates the Twitter feed or Facebook page isn’t involved with business development, Abeid says they should be able to refer you to the correct person.
Social media might be intimidating, but de Kok reassures that it’s a learning process where you can take your time wading the waters.
To help you learn, de Kok recommends following other businesses similar to yours on Twitter or connecting with them on Facebook. You will learn which companies have a large social media presence, and why they’re more successful than others. For example, you might notice that companies who mention and encourage discussion about big-picture industry developments gain more buzz than companies who only talk about their own developments.
"What works for others may not work for you," he says. "But learning from their successes or mistakes can help guide your approach. The key is to learn to use these tools in ways that benefit your clients and support your business."