The social media bug has bitten business owners in a huge variety of sectors. The rapid and widespread uptake of these technologies with the public has meant that social media is not only useful for tech companies and retailers; in fact, Social Media Marketing (SMM) has uses and implications for virtually every profession – and tradesmen can use it to their advantage.
Tradesmen are often unsure about adopting new marketing techniques, particularly if theirs is a small firm or they operate as a sole trader. But it is important to keep abreast of developments in marketing if you are to beat off local competitors and reach as wide a customer base as possible.
Social media has changed the world of marketing significantly in the past couple of years, and it may have implications for your business. But social media can seem impenetrably complex to those new to the world of blogs, tweets and pokes. If you wish to use social media for your firm, you need to consider what could work for your trade.
Choosing the right social media platforms
There is a huge variety of social media platforms on offer, each with their own characteristics and user base. Perhaps the two most widely known today are Twitter and Facebook. But managing a social media portfolio for your business can quickly become time-consuming, so if you wish to get the most out of your SMM activities and still have time left over to actually run your business, you need to concentrate on a small number of platforms.
Although there is a lot of buzz around Twitter, it may not be the best platform for tradesmen. To begin with, it is unlikely that the majority of your customer-base will have a Twitter account. Furthermore, it is relatively difficult to target marketing on Twitter geographically – and location will, of course, be one of the most important ways for you to identify potential clients.
Facebook, on the other hand, allows you to connect directly with real people in your local area. It is much more likely that a large proportion of your potential customer base will have a Facebook profile. You may therefore wish to consider concentrating on this platform. Search online for tips on how to use Facebook to promote your business.
It is worth noting that social media is different to conventional advertising media in many ways, but perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it is based on trust. Social media users do not want to feel that they are constantly being sold something; in order to be successful in this field you need to give them some other ‘added value’. This might mean you sharing interesting information, publishing funny anecdotes about your work, and so on. Whatever you choose to say through social media, you should ensure that you do more than bombard users with sales pitches.
Managing your reputation online
Social media is also a fantastic tool for reputation management. This is particularly important for tradesmen – a group of professionals about whom the public, by and large unjustifiably, often have negative views.
There is a range of sites on which consumers can give their opinion about businesses they have used. These include sites like touchlocal.com, welovelocal.com, qype.com and bview.co.uk. If you are registered with one of the many tradesman-specific sites like ratedpeople.com you may also receive reviews and recommendations from previous customers.
It is important that you keep an eye on these sites so that you can monitor reviews of your business and tackle any criticism head on. You might also wish to set up a Google Alert to let you know whenever your brand name is mentioned online. Remember, though, to deal with negative reviews tactfully and professionally. As well as replying to the comment online, contact the customer directly if possible, and attempt to deal with their grievance in a mutually acceptable manner.
Do not be tempted into posting ‘anonymous’ positive reviews about yourself; these are easily spotted, and only create a negative impression of your firm.
Integrating social media with other marketing
Social media often works best for businesses when it is integrated into your existing marketing efforts. In most cases it is not realistic or beneficial to rely entirely on social media; instead, you should maintain other activities like print ads and telephone book listings. All of your activities, however, must be properly integrated; consistent copy and ‘look and feel’ should be applied across all media, in order that potential customers know that they are dealing with the same company.
Just because you are a tradesman doesn’t mean that your business should not have its own brand and personality. You don’t have to invest a lot of money in this – just aim to transfer your natural attitude to your customers into all your promotional efforts.
For a small business or sole trader, it is important to watch the amount of time you spend looking after your marketing activities. While marketing is a crucial element of any successful business, it is easy to become so preoccupied with these activities that other aspects of running the business can suffer. Budget your time realistically, but keep in mind that social media moves quickly – many potential customers will look elsewhere if they do not receive a prompt response to an enquiry or comment.
Social media has applications for business owners in every field, and tradesmen are no exception. Spend some time researching what social media has to offer you, and you will help to ensure that you get the most from your SMM activities.