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Marketing by Design: LinkedIn and Twitter

By Dick Wolfe
April 27, 2010

From the people I talk with in the kitchen and bath industry, I get a sense that design pros are embracing the Internet and social media as a way to network and display their expertise. Certainly, they are ahead of some other segments of the industry such as contractors and even a number of manufacturers.

Social networking tools give you the opportunity to reach an exponentially greater number of people and potential business leads than ever before. Word-of-mouth, the lifeblood of referrals, has gone from foot speed to light speed since Al Gore invented the Information Superhighway.(Kidding…about Al Gore.)

Just being there is not enough. You have to be there with a purpose and a plan. You don’t “do” social media just because it’s there. You use it as a tool to support your business strategy and goals. Without a business plan that details how you will use social media to grow your enterprise, much of what you do on the web may be reduced to mere noise.

LinkedIn and Twitter are two of the best and simplest tools because they:

• Make it easy to communicate
• Have built-in audiences of the people you need to reach
• Are pretty safe unless you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing
• Won’t take a lot of time and
• Have the potential to deliver significant results
 

LEVERAGING LINKEDIN

First on the list is LinkedIn, a professional network of more than 60 million people. That 60 million includes about 12 million small businesses. Many of these businesses and individuals are linked to the kitchen and bath industry in some way.

You don’t have to sift through all of the millions, though. One of the great things about this site is the groups. There are all sorts of alumni groups, networking groups, professional groups and business groups. In fact, there are 50+ groups that deal with the kitchen and bath industry. Many of these groups are design-oriented forums for sharing news, ideas, posing and answering questions and best practices.

Plus, it’s really easy to start your own group. It might make sense to start a group that focuses on related professions like architects or contractors to explore the synergies between what they do and what you do. This can be a great source of referrals. The key to success for such an effort is to have a conversation. Don’t use it to push sales messages. Make it a true open forum for sharing best practices and networking.

Leads will come when they see your expertise. Answering forum questions is an extremely effective way to demonstrate capabilities without the hard sell. Your knowledge speaks for itself. Here’s a link to an excellent piece by blogger/entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki that goes into more detail than I have room for here.


TWITTER TIPS

Next up is Twitter. Twitter is a real-time network that allows businesses of all sizes to stay connected with their customers. Its simplicity has been a big reason for its meteoric rise in users. The network has quickly gone from a place where “narcissists go to tell other narcissists the boring details of their lives,” to a core communications and lead development tool that is just as easy to use on a mobile phone as on a laptop.

We have had great success at our agency Tweeting to the audiences that matter most to our clients. Since we work with kitchen and bath-related companies, that means some of the people we’re Tweeting, you should be Tweeting, too.

It works like this. You Tweet about an important piece of news or information and include a link back to where people can get full details. The key to Twitter is to determine the “persona” of your business and keep all your communications within that frame of reference. It makes it easier for you decide what to Tweet. And it allows your audience to know what to expect from you. They’ll see you as a sharp operator who is on top of things and voilà! Business relationship.

Another thing about LinkedIn and Twitter is that recent research shows that around 70 percent of journalists use these tools to gather information and identify sources. So why not find the reporters important to you and feed them information as well. But again, it’s a conversation—not push marketing. Don’t ask for anything. Just be a resource. When the time comes for someone to be interviewed about an issue related to what you do, they will remember and you’ll get some free visibility because they know they can trust you and you know what you’re talking about.


SET YOUR STRATEGY

There are a lot of digital tools that can help you promote and grow your business. But for small businesses in particular, experimenting with LinkedIn and Twitter has the potential to help you increase your visibility and leads. Generally speaking, you’re looking at about three to five hours a week to effectively stay on top of this activity. It’s an investment in growing your business. Following are some things to remember when using social media to build business:

• Be consistent. Make sure you check in regularly so people in your network know they can count on you to respond in a timely fashion.

You have to give to get. It’s not a one way street. You need to proactively give referrals and valuable information. It’s up to you to prime the pump and get things flowing.

Don’t be overly promotional or self-serving. As you might imagine, these outlets are often overwhelmed with self-promotional junk. Keep your networks clean and always look to add value, not sell yourself.

Keep the focus on business. Don’t share personal information or talk about things that are completely irrelevant to the group and the purpose. If you create personal relationships, and you probably will, migrate them over to your regular channels.

That’s it. It’s really not difficult to utilize these channels and get value back. It just takes a little time and a solid commitment.

—Dick Wolfe is VP of Gibbs & Soell Inc., a leading independent public relations agency that specializes in the residential and commercial building and remodeling industries. As a leader of G&S' Consumer Lifestyle and Building Solutions Practice, Wolfe brings deep experience as a trusted communications advisor to companies seeking successful brand positioning, marketing communications and visibility campaigns that focus on the building and contracting community. To contact Wolfe with questions and suggestions, please email him at dwolfe@gibbs-soell.com.
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