Social media is one of the biggest buzz phrases around. To young folks who had a Facebook account issued with their birth certificates, 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 newspapers, hashtags for your favorite TV shows and “Like” buttons on just about everything with a screen.
When having a Web site 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 they make great virtual store fronts, similar to putting up a billboard or taking out a newspaper ad.
In the beginning, the Web was all about media. Google made billions of dollars a year with its 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: 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, which all shared the goal of getting as many eyeballs on them as possible.
MySpace garnered the attention of millions. Marketers took notice, and the “Social Media” revolution was on. While MySpace may have since become all but extinct, 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 Web site 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 Web site and nice graphics might just be enough. But most kitchen and bath dealers sell far more than products. They sell knowledge and experience first, and then products.
In the past, it was fine to explain that on your site, but in the new “social” Web, you need to engage visitors. That means having meaningful conversations with potential customers, and convincing them you have the knowledge and experience they seek. Pretty pictures aren’t enough 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 them with advertisements, which risks annoying the 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.
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 have 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 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 instantaneously, 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 respond. 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 on it, people will look at you as a bullhorn 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, not just disposable news articles. I’ve seen some great remodeling advice blogs that have attracted many customers to the author’s showroom.
Blogging regularly also makes it easier for you to be found on Google and social networks (if you’re posting your blog there as well). If a potential customer searches for design or remodeling advice, they may run across one of your blog posts. Twitter or Facebook can be a great way to augment a blog. Often the “conversation” that would occur about your blog articles doesn’t happen in the comment box, but rather on Facebook or Twitter. These can be valuable conversations you don’t want to miss.
And, these conversations would not only be visible to you and the commenter, but also to many of their Twitter or Facebook friends. That potential client who found your blog or Twitter feed could ask questions about a remodel, and you could answer them right there. Those responses would then be visible to their Twitter or Facebook friends.
These curated networks of friends can be a fantastic pool of local customers who could benefit from your design advice. This is an excellent and 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 into 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.