Top 10 Social Media Tips

Social media for business is a topic that divides opinion. Guild Sales & Marketing Director Hugh Bessant shares his personal experience of building an audience to build a brand and generate new business leads.

Facebook attracts a billion people every day. Granted they are not all looking for a plumber in Plymouth but it is still an impressive number. In this day and age where having an online presence is becoming a business essential, can you afford not to be there?

But why is it an essential?

It is a good question and the simple answer is because everyone below a certain age goes online for all their information. They do some research via search engines on what they want to do or buy, and when they consider a service provider they look them up via the internet as a matter of course.

Many businesses have invested in a website but the simple fact is that they are harder to update and attract people to than a Facebook page or a Twitter feed, and you do not get instant reactions. With social media, you can put a quick message out there in moments, including a nice picture from your phone, and it will get seen by whoever you have persuaded to follow you and whoever they share it with. You might even get nice comments and likes, and that is the start of building your brand and getting the phone to ring a bit more.

And it is free, so why wouldn’t you do it?

Moving on from why is it essential, to why would anyone not do it in two paragraphs, you can see that there really is a debate. Partly it is an age thing…I am 54 and I gather information and make decisions differently to how someone who is 24 would. But in the end, just in the same way that most people have ended up with a website, most people have stuck a foot into social media of one form or another.

In my time, I have started from scratch on social media three times and I would like to pass on a few tips on how I did it, because if I can do it, you can do it. It is, as the old cliché goes, not rocket science.

  • Commit to it. We are not talking large amounts of time here per day but you do have to set aside the time to do it. The good thing is you can do it in the evenings just as well as any other time but set aside half an hour for the basic administration at least. If you get into it that time will grow but that will mean it is working.
  • Choose your networks. For the small business focusing on consumers for clients, Facebook and Twitter are the favourites. They both make things quite easy. Google + has never worked for me. I do use LinkedIn but I am not convinced it is a sales tool, and it is much more business to business. Facebook is good because you can easily post case studies and pictures, much easier than you can update a website, and you are sure to have a lot of friends on there who you can initially attract to your page. If you do have a website, you can link to it and drive traffic there as well. Twitter is ideal to promote what you are saying or doing on your Facebook page or website. You can post pictures of jobs in progress or the finished product whilst out on the move if you have a Smartphone.
  • Build an audience, but have patience. For me this always starts on Twitter. I start by working out who I want to follow me and then following them. You will be amazed how many people will follow back…it is a sort of unwritten rule. Then look at businesses like you, check who is following them, and follow them, if you see what I mean. And look for complimentary businesses, suppliers or media and follow them too. If you are a local business, look to follow other local businesses, organisations and events. They will all have local followers and help you find them.
  • Be active. By following other people, you will start to have followers, but you have to talk to them. I ‘tweet’ from my phone and my desktop, and I mix promotional messages with some more conversational stuff (It’s cold this morning – keep warm everyone) which are often the posts which start chats, and building a network of friends and potential recommendations are what this is all about. Also like and retweet things you see, but keep it all relevant to your business purpose. My advice would be not to mix business and pleasure – have a personal account for the football, politics and religion, and thus avoid anything which will turn potential customers off. But you can still be relevant and show a caring side when the opportunity arises.
  • Create content if you can. Blog is a much over-used phrase. It just means that you have written something you think is informative or interesting. If you can do it, do it. People like to read online. Especially if it is informative. ‘How to’ posts attract a lot of attention, because that is how people search for things online. If not, use pictures to show how a typical job develops. These days a phone snap is fine. A nice job well done will get liked and shared. Tell people what you and your team are doing…a charity bike ride, a new van, it is all stuff you can put out there. Also be sneaky, look at the sort of things other businesses like you do, and if it looks like it is working, do the same. Use your testimonials as content too. No one else is going to blow your trumpet.
  • Have a plan, at least in your head. I use Twitter primarily to link people back to our website and to promote our activities. I always tweet with a picture because that works best, and I hunt out people who will retweet me. Search for them, it is quite easy to do. I usually manage to get tweets retweeted to around 100k people. You may only have 50 followers but one decent retweet can get your name in front of a lot more. There are a number of businesses who offer retweets (free of charge) if you look for them.
  • Work hard on your profile. It does not take long but make sure your profile has nice pictures and accurately describes what you do. I will not follow anyone with no description because I do not want inappropriate tweets appearing anywhere. I also use the ‘Crowdfire’ application, which is free at the basic level, to state how we operate – it automatically sends a direct message to all new followers. I say that we will follow back all members and all British based businesses, because there is no value in following someone outside our sphere of influence and I want to make that quite clear. This message also gives contact details and encourages people to interact. This is the first source of leads.
  • Clean out your followers and who you are following regularly. Again I use Crowdfire, where you can see who has unfollowed you, who is inactive and lots of other things. No point following someone who is inactive, and if someone has unfollowed you then you might need the space for someone else. Twitter has a limit of 5000 in terms of who you can follow until you get to 5000 followers yourself…after that you can follow as many as the number that follows you.
  • Do not expect miracles. If you have 500 followers you are not going to change the world, but if your audience is growing…and following my own advice I usually add at least ten followers a day…you will start to see interaction. It is impossible to say why the phone really rings of course (in reality it is always a mixture of things) but I have received good leads directly off social media and as the audience gets bigger that happens more. We also measure visitors to our website, and the content there…the ‘how to’ sort of things as well as case studies and news…receives spikes of traffic as we promote it on social media.
  • Active social media accounts appear high in search engine rankings. So if you do not have a website, or it does not get rated highly as many small ones do not, an active Facebook page or Twitter account in your business name will appear on the first page. So if someone sees your van, and Googles you, they will see you there. And that is where I personally believe a lot of the leads will come from. It is helping people find you, getting the name out there.

In conclusion, I would urge every small business to do something online. It really can be done in half an hour once you get into the swing of things, and whilst I say you should do that every day you can do it twice a week if that is all the time you have. But it does help. It gives you some substance, and if you are that plumber in Plymouth you want prospective new clients to see the best of you. Social media can give your business visibility but done well it can give it personality too. It can show the world what you can do and how happy you make your customers. In the end, that must make a difference. And in this modern world there is much more chance of prospects seeing your Facebook page than there is of them finding your website.