Social Media is one of the biggest buzz phrases around. To those young folks who had a Facebook account issued along with their birth certificate, it comes naturally. For the rest of us, it can be a bit confusing.
Just about everything we see these days is somehow integrated with social media. There are QR codes in the newspapers, hashtags for your favorite TV shows and “Like” buttons are on just about everything with a screen.
When having a Website first became the rage, many kitchen and bath dealers had one made – often without really knowing why. But in time, they came to understand that Websites make great virtual store fronts, similar to putting up a billboard or taking out a newspaper ad.
THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In the beginning, the Web was all about media. It’s how Google made billions of dollars a year with their electronic billboards. Media in the form of advertisements is how we’ve gotten free services for years, whether it’s Gmail, or your local radio station.
Then something happened. That something was called MySpace. The Internet was taken by storm with people posting all kinds of personal details for the whole world to see. It was amazing and confusing: Why would millions of people post pictures, videos and personal thoughts all over the Internet? As a former bartender, I only have an amateur degree in psychology, but in my opinion, it’s because people are social creatures.
All of these free online social spaces were funded by online ads. And these online ads all shared the goal of getting as many eyeballs on them as possible.
A social network like MySpace garnered the attention of millions of eyeballs. Marketers took notice, and the “Social Media” revolution was on. While MySpace may have since become all but extinct, companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are now raking in billions in profits by offering free social networks supported by ads.
So here we are today, knee deep in the Social Media craze, and you may be wondering what you can do with your Website to make it more relevant, and how you can integrate social media effectively into your online marketing strategy.
If you were just selling widgets, a fancy site and nice graphics might just be enough. But most kitchen and bath dealers sell far more then products. They sell knowledge and experience first, and then products.
In the past, it was fine to just explain that on your site, but now in the new “social” web, you need to engage your visitors. Engagement means having meaningful conversations with potential customers, and convincing them that you have the knowledge and experience they’re looking for. Pretty pictures just aren’t enough to accomplish this anymore. And that’s where social media comes in.
While a lot of kitchen and bath firms know they should be involved with social media, they often don’t really know how – or even why. As a result, many sign up for a few different social networks and never use them, or they carpet bomb social networks with advertisements about themselves, which risks annoying their target audience.
Think of it like this: If you went to a networking event, a home show, or some other gathering where you could talk to potential customers, you wouldn’t walk in yelling about your product. You wouldn’t go around with a giant logo on your t-shirt, and you certainly wouldn’t ignore people’s questions about your product when they asked you. You wouldn’t be a walking commercial.
Instead, you’d weave through the complexities of etiquette and conversation. If you can convince someone through conversation that you are a great resource, then you’ve got a great chance at making a connection and a sale. This is how the social part of Social Media works.
Armed with this information, you can evaluate how you’re going to get involved in social media with a very different perspective.
Twitter is fantastic for getting and giving instant information. You can reach millions of people instantly, and if you maintain constant engagement, you can quickly build a substantial following. Imagine being able to search for tweets from local people asking about kitchen remodels. You could be the first to answer their question. They would ask follow up questions, and maybe even buy a kitchen from you!
The key with Twitter is that you need to keep using it. Timing is everything. If you just push advertising messages out on it, people will look at you as a bullhorn for your product and move on. Twitter is a social (read: conversation) network. Great and engaging conversations will get you noticed.
BLOGS & FACEBOOK
As a design professional who sells knowledge along with products, a blog is a great way to build your online presence. This can be an effective way to post “evergreen” information: posts that can serve as great resources for your reader, not just disposable news articles. I’ve seen some great remodeling advice blogs that have attracted many customers to the writer’s showroom.
Blogging regularly also makes it easier for your firm to be found on Google and social networks (if you’re posting your blog there as well). If a potential customer is searching the Web or a social network for design or remodeling advice, they may just run across one of your blog posts.
Twitter or Facebook can be a great way to augment a blog. Often the “conversation” that would happen about your blog articles won’t happen in the comment box on the article itself, but on Facebook or Twitter. These can be valuable conversations that you don’t want to miss out on. These conversations would not only be between you and the commenter, but can be visible to many of their Twitter or Facebook friends as well. That potential client that found your blog or Twitter feed could start asking questions about a remodel, and you could answer them right there. Those answers would then be visible to their Twitter or Facebook friends.
These curated networks of friends could be a fantastic pool of local customers that could benefit from your design advice. This is a fantastically engaging way to reach new clients.
So what are the two most important words in Social Media? “Social” and “Media.” It’s not the words themselves that are important: It’s understanding that these are two very different concepts that can work together to help market and grow your firm. If you can combine your media skills and your social prowess, you can create an engaging online experience for new customers, tapping in to a new market that may not have been available to you before.
Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD, has been an innovator in design and 3D technology for many years. He has worked with Kraftmaid, Google, Masco, and many other prominent companies in the kitchen and bath industry teaching Google Sketchup, speaking about technology and writing about innovations in technology.