If you look for advice about how to promote and grow your business, you’re bound to encounter how important it is to be using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. I think this is a problem, because it’s simply not true for everyone. I am an Internet marketing consultant, and I write about using the web to grow your business — so I’m partly to blame for this misinformation.
Through this article, I’ll share some insights about how social media can work for some businesses and why it might not be effective for yours. In either case, I’ll leave you with something to think about.
Make the most of Facebook
Like many guys in the concrete world, Keefe Duhon started Concrete Revolution while moonlighting. In 2010, he was working full-time as a machinist and computerized milling-machine operator in the New Orleans vicinity of his home state of Louisiana. He was also looking for more freedom and greater creativity.
Concrete provided Duhon that artistic freedom, allowing him to create new refinished floors and countertops for homeowners and small business customers. He left the security and benefits of a steady job and grew his sideline into a prosperous business.
He had read a book, “The Wingman Effect” by Aileen Bennett, that influenced how he sought new business. The key idea he learned about networking is to have people recommend you to people they know and help you meet people you want to meet. “It’s more socially acceptable to be recommended by someone you know than to boast or promote yourself,” Duhon says. “Also, you are introduced to a larger group of people when you include the friends of your friends.”
Duhon intentionally sought business referrals through networking, and it was very effective. In 2011 he started using Facebook and thought it was exciting when he reached 500 or 1,000 likes. Then, two photos on Facebook really got things rolling.
In 2013 he posted a photo of a concrete patio that looked as if it was made of wood planks, and his “likes” jumped from about 1,000 to 12,000 — in one night. It happened again months later when he posted a photo of a reflective blue floor that got 1,700 likes and 300 shares, boosting his company likes by more than another 10,000.
Why the sudden jumps? These photos were similar to others he had posted, but they showed something new, something his audience had never seen before. Duhon’s talent came through in the photo of the patio that looked like real wood. The blue floor had depth and mystery, something rarely seen in a concrete floor. The novelty and the rich colors of these floors in the photos inspired his viewers to share.
Shareable posts lead to large audience jumps. When a particular social post inspires sharing, magic happens. A shared post can be seen by all the sharer’s friends. When a post gets 300 shares from an average of 300 friends per sharer, you potentially get 90,000 new views of your post. Each of those people can potentially like you and start seeing your posts as well.
Which posts are likely to be shared? There’s no guaranteed formula. The only way to find shareable posts is to produce a lot of posts, and learn from your own results. It took hundreds of posts over more than two years for Duhon to start experiencing these highly shareable posts.
Duhon emphasized another factor — timing. To see a post it needs to be near the top of the news feed, appearing near the time of day the people you want to reach are on Facebook. Most of his customers are connecting right around or after dinner, so he makes a point of posting from 6 to 7 p.m. on weeknights. “I used to take photos on the jobsite and post them right away,” Duhon says. “What works better is I post the photos on Facebook when I get home, after dinner. They get seen by lots more people.”
Channel yourself via YouTube
Another decorative concrete success story I wrote about last year involved FuTung Cheng, the California artist who grew from one person doing small concrete countertop projects into a full construction company and large brand of concrete products and tools. [Editor’s note: access that article through this link: http://bit.ly/1pRM0Zq]
His path is similar to Duhon’s, but his audience is very different. Cheng leveraged awards he had won in design competitions into design magazine interviews followed by a DIY concrete countertop book. He supported sales of that book by sharing video training clips on YouTube, which became widely shared and liked.
In Cheng’s case, his target customers were homeowners and contractors who wanted to learn to create concrete countertops. These people actively search for information, and YouTube is an effective way to deliver product demos and show educational materials.
It was alignment between the content he made (photos, videos, text) and the needs and interests of his audience on the correct platform — in this case YouTube — that helped enable Cheng to succeed.
Professionally weave the web
On the other side of the continent, Ron McLean got into concrete by way of his successful commercial painting company. His painting work for industrial and manufacturing customers in the Boston area led him naturally from waterproof and chemical-resistant coatings on walls to epoxy floor coatings — which for him was just painting on a horizontal surface. That work has in turn led him to expand his services into a much more complete concrete finishing business, McLean Flooring Solutions. (Full disclosure, my company created McLean’s new website, www.mcleanflooring.com)
Unlike Duhon’s or Cheng’s, McLean’s customers are primarily facility managers and commercial building owners. McLean’s main focus is on huge factory floors, warehouses and retail environments. These customers do their research on the web, not on social media.
So McLean’s marketing focus is on his website and promoting his site using Google AdWords. He’s able to use Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to target his advertising on the terms and geographic area his audience is searching for when it comes to picking a vendor for industrial work. When asked about social media, it is clear it simply isn’t the right fit for his most-desirable customers.
Zero in on customers
These three businesses, Duhon’s, Cheng’s and McLean’s, have something in common. They pay attention to the needs of their customers. And they all take advantage of customer referrals. McLean makes a point of asking for testimonial quotes from his satisfied customers and gets permission to post those on his website. This helps convince picky shoppers that his firm is trustworthy, essential for large-ticket projects.
So who is most likely to be your “wingman” for referrals? Are they homeowners? DIYers? Or are they facility managers? Look back at where you’ve gotten good referrals, and put your time, energy and resources into the places that type of person spends time. If you match your communications to and support that person well, you’re likely to prosper.
Get the wrong fit, and you’re wasting time and missing opportunities to succeed.
Jay Thompson is a founding partner of And Update My Website LLC, a company that helps other businesses succeed with Internet marketing. His expertise comes from more than 25 years in marketing, advertising and commercial photography. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.