5 Secrets to Launch a Social Media Strategy for Pool/Spa/Pond Supply or Service Companies.
When you run a family owned business, you end up learning how to do many things outside your comfort zone. I am by no means an expert on Social Media and am just scratching the surface. On the other hand, I learned a few valuable things last week when I fired up Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and this Blog. I've got some tips that might help you do the same thing for your business without too much difficulty or expense.
If you have the time and money to manage Social Media as a big project with actual experts from a Digital Marketing Agency, I have no doubt they will do a better job overall and keep you at the cutting edge of developments on all things relating to the technical side of this. Although, I wonder about how they will produce great content specific to your market? Anyway, for everyone else, here is another approach.
Truth be told, I intentionally avoided delving into this and we've had a few half-assed attempts here and there. In fact, we had two ancient Facebook pages and no idea how to access them and nobody remembers who set them up. In spite of my complete lack of experience, to our delight, we gained two good new Retailers who placed substantial orders and several serious prospects from our efforts Week One. If I can do this, anyone can. Dive in, the water's fine!
1) The primary reason I didn't get into all this sooner is because I was worried we won't have time to manage all the content and keep it fresh. I found a cool tool, sendible.com ($39/Month) which allows me to manage all the SM communications from one place. Basically, you set up your pages on all the platforms, link them up as services in sendible and when you have something to post, you select which places to send it and it routes them to all the places in one click of a button. In other words, you only have to manage one feed every four days or once a week and you're done. Yes, if you get more into this, you might customize the message to the platform demographics but what I am doing is "good enough" for now and certainly a big improvement over nothing. One caveat is that Instagram requires you to manually post a photo from your phone and that is the platform I am struggling with the most.
2) As entrepreneurs, especially those of us that don't use these sites in our personal lives, it is easy to miss technological advances as far as appreciating what they mean to our bottom line. I knew what Twitter was but I really didn't appreciate how it could help us develop our business exactly. This is a good time to talk to younger people. My 16 year old son, Neil explained how you get relevant followers in a few minutes. Once he told me that you don't want to have a much lower number of people following you than you are following, I realized I had to figure out how to unfollow people who didn't follow me back in a reasonable time frame. I found a free app (it costs a little bit more if you want more functions) from crowdfire.com that helps me manage the follower lists easily and much more.
3) So, you don't want the people who signed up to read your feeds to see just sales pitches or they will unfollow or unfriend you or worse, you might find yourself violating the policies of some applications regarding SPAM. The content you put out should be relevant to your target audience and genuinely funny or interesting. I did a couple posts where I re-posted news stories about hazards in the water with the tagline . . . The Pool Looks Good - one featured a Hammerhead Shark at the surf line in Newport Beach and one showing Toxic Yellow Bellied Sea Snakes on the beach in Oxnard. I thought this might be something pool supply stores or service pros would want to share with their customers as it makes pools look good. One expert recommended that 3 out of 4 messages should clearly not be a veiled sales pitch. Sendible has features that help you monitor reviews, tweets, Facebook postings and more as well as help finding appropriate content. You don't have to noodle around the web wondering about what people are saying about your company or the competition, Sendible automates the search and emails you the results as often as you like.
4) The number one most successful thing we did was a blog post. Using the free app from google, Blogger, I wrote a piece called, "The Ten Biggest Mistakes Pool/Spa Retailers Can Make." Articles that include a list of mistakes or secrets are very popular and perform well according to the experts. I put it on our website, advantageman.com, emailed a link to it from a constant contact campaign we sent out to our list of B2B subscribers and I posted it on sendible which sent it out to all our SM pages. Apparently, these take on a life of their own over time and are a key piece of a successful strategy. I was skeptical but the results already suggest this is true. Can I keep writing articles on a regular basis? I'm going to try as the price is right and I can see that it actually produces measurable results. Sendible has a Measurement tool that is kind of like a google analytics for social media, it is great way to see what exactly drives traffic and even measures what time of day produces the most action for you.
5) I was shocked to see how many people had looked at our Google+ Profile page over the years and disappointed that I hadn't created one earlier so that they could find the contact data they were looking for. I didn't realize how much traffic google drives there. It is free and simple to do. Make sure you claim yours and populate it correctly. LinkedIn was the only social media system I was regularly using and understood the importance of before I got into this. If you want to start off small, I would strongly suggest this be on your short list. When it comes to finding candidates for jobs, building your professional network and just getting great advice on a regular basis, LinkedIn is invaluable. Number two is Twitter followed by Facebook, particularly if you target consumers. It is a pain to set up these accounts and add them to your signature lines on all your company emails and websites. But once you've set up your accounts, you have the ability to get your messages and branding in front of a large audience of relevant prospects at a no cost over and over again. In fact, I am looking at adding a little widget thing called Sniply that lets you customize the button that shows on your posts with a call to action and our branding to increase conversions.
My only regret is that I waited so long. Based on the success of this effort so far, I know we'd have a much larger database of followers and fans if I had it in place two years ago. We left some money on the table. Hopefully, this blog will encourage you to learn from my mistake and get going. I'm very focused on where we are going, not where we have been. Social Media will be an important component of how business evolves and I'm thrilled we are finally on board. I will continue to study and learn about how to improve our efforts and will definitely be writing more about this in the future.
CEO, Advantage Manufacturing.
Feel free to share and reprint as long as you attribute it to us. Thanks.
ps. One more suggestion, we use a Review Management system from CustomerLobby.com to generate and promote reviews from our customers. Customer Lobby can be configured to automatically send positive reviews to all your Social Media pages. This is a great way to make sure that the good news get populated all over the web.