Here are 3 reasons why it probably is and 3 alternatives that are worthy of your attention.
Have you found yourself completely confused by what you’re supposed to be doing when it comes to this continually elusive game called “social media”?
“Basically, you’ve GOT to be doing social media these days” says the young hotshot marketing professional, “Think about it, everybody’s eyes are on Facebook and you need to get your business in front of them so they choose YOU for their next project”.
It seems to make sense, although, like many others, you’re not really sure of why. And because you’re not really sure, making the right decision on what to do or even going ahead and “doing” this thing that everyone else seems to know how to do, becomes a total drag.
To most people, the thought of having to write a continual stream of posts and upload pictures seems like a lot of work. And it is. If you’re a landscaper, this probably won’t exactly be something that comes naturally to you either.
Of course, the marketing pro has a ready-to-go solution, “For just $950 a month, we’ll write and publish the posts for you. We’ll promote it through Facebook advertising. Here just look at the reach we’ve achieved for our other Clients. This post alone was seen by 26,000 people! Do you really think you can afford not to be doing this for your business?”
If you haven’t experienced this increasingly common scenario, I’m certain you understand what I’m talking about anyway.
So.. is it really worth it?
In my experience, when approached correctly, social media is absolutely worth the effort. Having said that, given the amount of time and energy (or money) that goes into maintaining a social media presence, you should be feeling confident that the platform you are working on is converting into sales (and not just “likes”). After all, that’s the ultimate validation that proves your services are desirable. At the end of the day, aren’t sales what being in business is all about?
In this article I want to share my views on Facebook and why I believe it shouldn’t be your primary social media focus if you own a landscape design and/or construction business.
Personally, I think Facebook is at best, the fourth most effective option for landscape designers and contractors to invest time, effort and money into in order to find and convert leads into paying customers. I also feel that it is an easy-to-deliver, easy-to-sell “must have” service sold by marketing consultants who don’t actually understand the landscape industry, the different types of customers each of us might have within the industry, or how those customers make a purchasing decision.
In my opinion, Facebook does have the capacity to be used effectively for business, but in the context of the Landscape Industry, I don’t believe it is the best platform out there. From the perspective of a marketing consultant, I consider that offering Facebook as the answer to your situation is a cop-out from someone who isn’t taking the time to understand your specific needs.
Before I go onto better alternatives, here are my top three reasons why:
1. Wrong frame of mind
Potential customers (home owners, developers, councils, designers) are neither in a “researching” nor “buying” frame of mind when they’re on Facebook. They’re checking out what their friends or family did on the weekend! Facebook posts are emotional: social comments, a funny picture, inspirational comments, sympathy bait or someone having a dig; all sorts of things besides building a trusting relationship with you, or buying from you.
If they wanted to see before and after shots of a landscape project, or a “How to Pot a Plant Correctly” or were wondering, “Just who did win the 2014 Design Awards for Best Swimming Pool?”, they sure as heck wouldn’t jump on Facebook to find the answer! While there is nothing wrong with showing the personal side of you and your business on Facebook, I don’t think it should be your primary focus.. and CERTAINLY don’t spend any money on it!
2. “Likes” and “Reach” don’t mean anything for business
Successful posts on Facebook (highly shared, highly liked, unpaid posts) are rarely ever anything to do with promoting a landscape design or construction business. Just because your paid post reached 23394 people and returned 31 new Likes, doesn’t necessarily mean the people it reached or the ones that liked it have anything to do with something so specific as designing or constructing a landscape, let alone feel willing to invest vast amounts of money because you caught a fish.
You can’t confidently predict that when they come across your post that they will be engaged by it, in the way you want them to be: to earn their trust, to build a reputation, to develop authority, to become the “go to” business when their need for services like yours arises.
If you ever do a paid Facebook campaign, dig deeper and thoroughly check out 20 of the new likes you get. I guarantee you’ll find that very few of them are potential customer material.. so why waste your money?
3. You don’t have to be “social” to publish media
Social media gives ordinary people the ability to bring their message to the world. This doesn’t mean that the content of that message has to be some sort of social commentary though. It just means that you, the designer with two kids who lives in Northcote, can actually access media distribution channels that are available to you and not just TV networks, newspaper publishers or radio stations.
Facebook is a social platform with a social agenda, it has been designed for people to share their lives with other people. Yes, some people use Facebook for business, but theyre not businesses like yours. You own a landscape business, you need to share your knowledge, expertise and ideas with customers and your peers.
So, what are the alternatives?
I want to respond to each of the reasons I’ve provided above with an alternative that does what Facebook does not. I believe these three platforms represent a much better return on investment particularly in the long run. The first two you will already guess, the third perhaps not, they are:
Pinterest – A visual discovery tool for collecting ideas and information
In a very short space of time, Pinterest has become the number 1 ‘go to’ place for anyone looking for creative ideas, the latest trends and aesthetic styles.
If there’s one area that Pinterest dominates over Facebook, it’s the issue of “frame of mind”.
When people are using Pinterest, they’re not hoping to find what their neighbour had for dinner last night! They’re typing in specific phrases related to the dreams they have for their new landscape – tiled swimming pools, coastal garden, cool fence, minimalist landscape.
If your Pinterest profile, uploaded projects and helpful information have been intelligently optimised for the Pinterest platform and the work you produce fits their description, there’s every chance they’ll come across your work, possibly even multiple times during one session.
There are numerous Pinterest specialists who offer free information about how Pinterest works and how to get the most out of Pinterest for business. You’ll soon see, it’s so much more than just a place to find images, it’s social media at its very best – highly shareable and highly addictive.
Houzz – Connecting property owners with improvement professionals
Houzz (pronounce Howz) is the world’s largest community formed specifically around home design & renovation.
Houzz takes the solution for the ‘right frame of mind’ problem a step further – it’s purpose is not only to engage the attention of a specific group of people, namely homeowners who are looking for ideas and improvement solutions, with the design and construction specialists behind them
Although only recently launched locally in Australia, it has taken just 5 years in America to reach a worldwide audience of 20 million users per month and over 2 million images. While the Australian market is considerably smaller, the rapid growth and success of Houzz has been widely documented.
The key strength that Houzz demonstrates over Facebook is that, when done well, it literally does convert to sales! Being “liked” so to speak on Houzz means so much more than it does on Facebook when you’re the owner of a landscape business. There are countless success stories about landscape businesses who have seen a 15-20% increase in traffic to their website and up to a third of all new jobs either coming directly from or at least attributable to their presence on Houzz.
What’s more is that business who sign of for the paid Houzz Pro account gain access to the sophisticated analytics and tracking systems that enables them to track exactly what’s happening with their posts and user behaviour. That means you can not only learn which of your projects are appealing to Houzz readers, but actually find information about what’s trending, what people are planning for their homes and how much they’re spending!
As with Pinterest, there are numerous free resources for how to get the most out of Houzz.
Hubspot – The flagship inbound marketing platform for small business.
OK, so technically this isn’t a social media platform, but in terms of a self published content strategy that is going to deliver real results and a return on investment, it’s one that you should definitely consider.
Originating in the US but recently landed in Australia Hubspot is arguably the most sophisticated (and affordable) marketing software available to small businesses. Hubspot’s primary goal is to drive more traffic and deliver more sales to your business with an inbound marketing strategy.
You upload as much content as possible including articles, blog posts, emails sequences, videos and audio and Hubspot manages it all for you; when it is sent and to whom, how it linked back to your website and how it guides visitors through your funnel converting to sales. Hubspot combines content production and management systems with detailed behavioural analytics enabling you to progressively hone, target and engage the interest of just about anyone who comes into contact with your business online.
If you’re not familiar with inbound marketing and content marketing, I would highly recommend doing some reading on the subject. Both respond to the shift in consumer behaviour that we’ve seen as the internet has become increasingly integrated with daily life.
In the simplest terms, inbound marketing aims to pull customers toward you. As a strategy, your goal is to become a respected authority and publisher of helpful online resources that engages and builds comfort and trust with your visitors. When the time comes, they will turn to you for their project and become your clients.
The opposite of inbound marketing is the more traditional outbound marketing, where the goal is to push your products and services onto other people – think ads, cold calls, the guy who tries to sell you stuff at a funeral or commercials that interrupt your train of thought and shout products at you. Some forms of outbound marketing are still relevant but overall it is less effective in the current digital age.
We should all by now acknowledge that every client embarks on a long journey of research and evaluation before arriving at a decision. Our customers are inquisitive, intelligent and discerning when it comes to how they source what’s best for them and how they will part with their hard earned money. They control what they want to see and when.
Unfortunately they aren’t always familiar with the ins and outs of how our industry operates and the way a great landscape project is delivered. If they were, it would make their decision of choosing who to go with, a walk in the park… and this is exactly where social media platforms like Houzz and Pinterest, and inbound marketing platforms like Hubspot come into play.
By choosing a platform where your ideal customer is likely to be in the right frame of mind to engage with information and images about your business you are much more likely to see a positive return on the time, energy and money you spend on marketing your business. At the same time its important that you are able to measure and track whether you are indeed getting the return you’re hoping for. Being active on these platforms as well as setting performance indicators and goals is what will separate your business from the rest in the long term.
Over to you..
Are you frustrated/satisfied with Facebook for your business?
What are your experiences with these other platforms and how can you help others learn from the experiences you’ve had?
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