Have you jumped on the social media bandwagon yet? Are you ready to jump off already?
Or have you embraced it like a kid does a brand new puppy.
If you're like most companies in the Green Industry who are dabbling in social media, you are probably somewhere in between.
My goal is to move the curve. I want more Green Industry businesses to "buy in" to the power of social media.
To do that, I need to give you some practical guidance.
The single best piece of advice I can give you is this: Find your "one thing".
In other words, clearly define your single objective as it relates to social media and your business.
Do you see social media as a pointless, giant time-suck? If so, it's probably because you don't have a clear objective in mind.
Have you ever asked yourself, "What the hell am I doing this for?"
Well, it's time to find your answer.
Ask yourself "Why"
As with anything in life, your chance for success with social media is much greater when you have a clearly defined, concrete objective. Otherwise you're just wandering aimlessly. Here's why:
- A concrete objective clarifies your purpose and can unite and empower your employees so you're all shooting at the same target.
- With a clear goal established, you can then craft a well thought out social media strategy and plan to enable you to reach your goal.
- When you have a goal, you have something to measure. And you can create benchmarks along the way.
- An objective and well thought out strategy allows you to focus only on what's important and ignore what is not.
So, why are you on LinkedIn? Why did you create a Facebook Page for your business? Why did you start a blog?
Why, why, why?
From generating leads to building your reputation
I'm going to outline seven practical objectives for you to consider. Focus on one, but keep in mind that one or two others may become secondary goals.
Also keep in mind, we won't all have the same objective--a lot depends on our type of business. For instance, a landscape designer may have more interest in building his/her reputation while a lawncare company may be focused on generating leads. A garden center may focus on keeping in touch with current customers.
Here we go...
#1 Generate leads
Adding leads (preferably qualified) to your sales funnel is a viable objective for your social media efforts.
Of course "leads" means different things to different businesses. Perhaps a lawncare company focuses efforts on building their newsletter list. A garden center may focus on increasing foot traffic. A landscape architect may focus on building his/her blog readership.
#2 Increase sales
There's nothing wrong with using social media to increase your sales. The problem I see with many Green Industry companies is that they see this "bottom line" objective as the only reason to participate without realizing the other benefits of social media.
#3 Stay in touch
We all know how important it is to keep in touch and stay top of mind with clients, customers, business associates, and community leaders.
Social media is a very effective platform for doing just this. If keeping in touch with your contacts is your only social media objective, it will be time well spent.
#4 Expand your sphere of influence
While keeping in touch with your current customers and business associates is important, it's just as critical that you continually add to your network.
Social networking is one of the most effective ways to meet like-minded, collaborative people. This could mean on a local level or within your industry on a national level.
This is one reason I love social media: You never know where these relationships may take you.
#5 Build your reputation
How effective or successful your social media strategy is cannot only be measured in dollars and cents. Sorry.
We're living in a new economy: One where attention and reputation are equally valued. If you can draw positive attention to your efforts, boosting your reputation in the process, the dollars will eventually follow.
Blogging is the best way to do this in my opinion. I've witnessed numerous professionals use a blog to build their reputation on both a local and national level. Landscape designer Susan Cohan comes to mind. As does landscape architect/contractor turned professional speaker Jeff Korhan.
#6 Build brand awareness
A lot of corporations take this approach with their social media. They just want more exposure in the marketplace. They want to introduce their company to more consumers and at the same time stay in front of consumers on a consistent basis.
The results can be difficult to measure but I think it can be a good objective for certain Green Industry companies. The larger national brands come to mind--TruGreen, Bartlett Tree Experts, John Deere, etc.
I think APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers) has done a terrific job using social media to build awareness of their organization within the ranks of landscape professionals.
#7 Keep up to date
At a minimum you can use social media to keep up with the latest and greatest in the Green Industry.
By simply following a few blogs you can stay in tune with whatever may be relevant to you--new plant introductions, sustainability practices, innovative design, technology, etc.
Follow the right people on Twitter and you'll never run out of fascinating, fun, and helpful information.
I was asked recently, "How do I build more connections on LinkedIn?" and "How do I get more followers on Twitter?"
My answer to both was the same: Why? Why do you need more connections or followers? What is your objective?
This is the question you need to start with. Don't put the cart before the horse. An effective social media strategy and plan can then be developed around your single objective.