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A Professional’s Guide to Social Media

A few months ago, I was sitting beside an elderly woman in a very full waiting room at a doctor’s office. Everyone was looking at their phones, typing furiously. “I wish people would just put down their phones and actually talk to each other,” she haughtily remarked. Little did she realize, the people in that room were collectively “talking” to thousands of people, all at the same time, thanks to the Internet and social media.

The average attention span of digital readers is eight seconds – a staggering statistic. Gone are the days of trade and home shows – today’s customers favor a digital shopping experience followed by a brief personal visit. Time spent reading a long narrative is granted only to the best in the business who offer a robust value.

It’s imperative to create a digital marketing plan in order to capture readers’ attention. While a digital marketing plan should not replace traditional marketing venues, it’s imperative to have one so you don’t miss out on hundreds of thousands of potential customers.

CHOOSING YOUR PLATFORMS
Today’s digital landscape offers a mind-boggling array of social platforms for design businesses to live digitally. One of the motivations for marketing on individual social platforms revolves around the transition from users ‘Googling’ products or services, to people choosing a more intimate and comfortable digital ‘home’ for information. “My wife is constantly on Houzz,” “My husband is always on LinkedIn,” “My daughter lives on Facebook” – these have become familiar remarks in today’s socially focused society.

As social platforms mature, people tend to spend time on them daily, using them as a vehicle for news, referrals and social outreach. Each social platform provides electronic word-of-mouth referrals via check-ins, shares, likes and followers. Additionally, Google favors websites that have a social presence, and garners points for your website ranking with Google search engine robots. Selecting the platforms for your business can be overwhelming, so keeping it simple out of the gate will offer the best path for a design firm’s social success.

As a marketing and branding agency, I place clients on every social platform that is suitable for their target audience. For savvy design professionals, there are six platforms that are de rigueur to be ultimately digitally social. However, a small business owner can dip their feet in this pool slowly, with a targeted approach that evolves as the nuances of each social environment are mastered.

The question becomes where to start? If building a presence on all six platforms feels too daunting, designers should start with the first three on the list below to get on the path to social success:

  • LinkedIn – 414 million members
  • Facebook – 1.65 billion users
  • Houzz – 35 million users
  • Pinterest – 100 million active users
  • Instagram – 400 million
  • Google+ – 300 million

While each platform has slightly different age demographics, having a voice on every one allows you to reach the lion’s share of the population (60 percent), guaranteeing an audience between the ages of 25 and 54.

LINKEDIN
LinkedIn is a place to make your professional presence and brand known among highly educated and high-income users. The site boasts over 414 million registered members, 124 million from the U.S. LinkedIn grows rapidly – adding more than two new members every second. LinkedIn is used by 44 percent of Americans with an income of $75,000 or more.

Do: Set up your profile with a professional headshot (not a cell phone selfie) and share your best pictures of your work with a quick one-sentence caption. Look up people to connect with and endorse them for their skills. They will do likewise in return.

Don’t: Treat LinkedIn like Facebook; it is not a casual social site. Save your dinner date pictures for your personal Facebook page. Be careful what you like and follow as this information is shared on your connections’ timeline as well.

Pro Tip: If you are comfortable writing, publish a monthly LinkedIn post to establish yourself as an industry expert. Use high-quality content and photography. Be sure to add tags to the posts at the bottom of the page; this greatly affects automatic distribution to interested members on LinkedIn. Depending on the community’s engagement, some posts may have better metrics and wider distribution than others. Popular posts are ultimately granted a presence on “LinkedIn Pulse,” which is emailed to members as suggested reads.

Watch “How to Create a LinkedIn Profile” here.

FACEBOOK
Facebook is an effective vehicle to generate brand awareness in your community, generate inexpensive advertisement and aid in website rankings. And Facebook reaches a huge audience: The average age range of members is 25-45 years old. While the exact percentage of male to female users varies, it is always close to a 50-50 split. Facebook offers very inexpensive targeted marketing campaigns via “Boosted Posts” that allow you to direct advertisements based on demographic, age, gender and interests. The audience will vary based on the amount you spend. You can spend as little as a dollar a day if you wish. On each post, you will notice metrics indicating the reach, comments and likes of each post.

Do: Set up your page as a Company Page – not a personal page, which is against Facebook policy. Keep your posts short to grab consumer attention as they scroll through their feed. If you have a project you want to gush over in detail, set up a photo album for it and comment on each picture. Check your insights page to confirm the reach of your posts and determine which tactics are performing most successfully for you.

Don’t: Continue to post the same theme or style day after day if the reach and likes are small or non-existent. Facebook will stop sharing your posts with followers if it deems your content of low quality to your followers. A good rule of thumb is 10 percent of the viewers should react by clicking, liking or commenting.

Pro Tip: Facebook’s algorithm is designed to show the most relevant content to users largely by page likes, comments and shares. The more popular your posts are, the more often they’ll be shown in users’ feeds. Videos uploaded to Facebook receive favorable placement over photos, but be sure to keep videos short in length with a compelling opening that keeps the viewer watching.

Watch “How to Create a Company Facebook Page” here.

HOUZZ
Houzz is the proven platform for converting viewers into clients. According to a 2015 Houzz Survey, the 55-64 age group trumps this category, with 31 percent of the users falling into this age range. Another 26 percent are 45-54 and 28 percent are 25-44. More than half of homeowners on Houzz renovated their homes in 2014. Millennial homeowners on Houzz were just as likely to renovate their homes as other age groups in 2014, largely driven by the desire to make a newly purchased home their own.

Do: Be sure to list your page under the “Kitchen and Bath Designers” category. Always post professionally shot photos of your jobs – or as close to it as possible. Be sure to include as much detail about the project as possible to allow that detail to rise to the top when people search for attributes that mirror your job. People may want to know the paint colors, light fixtures, flooring details – be prepared to answer questions promptly and courteously. Request reviews from your customers to garner virtual referrals.

Don’t: Post pictures that do not reflect your best work or those that are shot with poor lighting or that are grainy or pixelated. There’s robust competition on Houzz and people will pass you by if the photos are not compelling. Never publish a client’s name without their written permission.

Pro Tip: When adding projects on Houzz, compile a job specification bible using Word or Excel that includes all project details, including paint colors, size details and fixture models. This serves as a handy reference for all of the questions you may receive about the space.

Watch “How to Create a Company Houzz Page” here.

The first steps of your journey into social media may be challenging, but I assure you, it will be worth the investment you make. Increasingly, the world is turning to their social media of choice as their personally curated news source. It’s up to you to stake your place in their newsfeed in order to compete for their business. When done correctly, digital marketing can build your brand exponentially.

In future columns, I’ll discuss successful strategies to build a digital campaign that will help grow your business, increase your recognition and ultimately drive sales.

Denise Grothouse has an extensive background in international business, branding and marketing.  She specializes in digital and social platforms and integrating them with traditional marketing and branding strategies.  No stranger to the kitchen and bath industry, she is best known for her work as chief brand officer of Grothouse, Inc., and president of the marketing company Perfect Six.

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