Use Social Media to Connect With Clients
From Stitches' State of the Industry 2010
By Shane Dale
Decorating experts share their tips for successfully using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in your business life.
- Check people out professionally – this site is business-intense. For example, you can find business contacts in your industry, along with potential clients in industries you want to serve.
- Get your brand out there. A LinkedIn profile lets you publicize Web sites, so you can promote your business name, blog or Web site to search engines.
- Display your blogs. You can use a blog application like WordPress.org to display your latest blog postings with your LinkedIn profile.
- Ask your community questions by using the LinkedIn Answers feature. People can give you good feedback to business questions you have.
- Friend hundreds of people around the world based on certain search criteria – for example, interest in an activity, or a product or service, such as embroidery. Remember, there are more than 350 million Facebook users.
- Stay top of mind with your customers and prospects. Any time you interact with a Facebook friend, or they interact with you, that activity appears at the top of their activities list – and their contacts will learn more about you.
- Use the “blog merge” feature to create your own business blog or merge your existing blog right into Facebook’s blog. For example, ASICentral.com has its own Facebook page, and you can view its blog on Facebook and on www.ASICentral.com.
- Use Facebook to start or join embroidery or promotional products groups. In fact, Charley Johnson, executive vice president at SnugZ USA (asi/88060), started the Facebook group Promo35 group, which is a gathering space for ASI suppliers and distributors.
- Provide brief, succinct business updates. “It could be a sale on a particular shirt, or just any news item about your business,” says Mike Angel, vice president of marketing and U.S. sales for Melco Industries Inc. “Or, for a new client you’ve landed, use it as an industry news blast.”
- Provide links to relevant information. “Decorators can post a link to an interesting article their customers might like,” Angel says.
- Use the search option. “Let’s say you serve fire departments,” Angel says. “You can search for those terms that reflect what your interests are.”
- Add followers. “Once you build a network, people will begin to follow you and share,” Angel says.
Create a Blog On Wordpress
If you already have a Web site and hosting service, there’s a strong possibility that Wordpress.org will have an easy, automatic way to install its blogging program in a subfolder of your Web site, according to Erich Campbell, digitizer and e-commerce manager for Albuquerque, NM-based Black Duck Inc. (asi/140730). “If not, they’ll very likely be able to help you get it installed, seeing as it’s a very popular platform for blogging,” he says. “In my case, I downloaded the package myself and installed it in a subfolder.
“To start, it’s as easy as unzipping a file and transferring the resultant files into the folder on my Web site,” Campbell says. “After that, a short visit to the WordPress Codex at www.codex.wordpress.org led me right to a host of documents that walk you through the initial setup step by step.”
Kristine Shreve, director of marketing for The Ensign Group, notes that there are a variety of themes that can be used to personalize the look and feel of your blog. Many of those themes can be found at www.word
Shreve says there are two main ingredients for a successful blog: “One is to have good content. You have to provide informative, well-written, interesting posts, and you have to do it consistently. You should also have a fairly regular posting schedule,” she says. “The second component for a successful blog is community. Find other people who are blogging in the same general subject category, and comment on their blogs. Add blogs that you like to your blogroll. – SD
Create a Promotional Podcast
The first step in creating a great podcast, according to Jeff Anderton, president of Mass Transit and online video consultant to the ad specialty industry, is to sample others’ work. “Use them to learn what you do or don’t like in a podcast,” he says, adding that decorators can go to www.podcast.net, www.podcastalley.com, www.ipodder.org, www.techpodcasts.com and www.podcastbunker.com for some ideas.
Consider the following before creating a podcast:
- Get the right tools. You need a computer and a microphone. Start with free, open source software like Audacity (www.audacity.sourceforge.net) for recording. You’ll probably want to set up RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds to let your audience know when a podcast is available. ePodcast Creator (www.industrialaudio
software.com) enables you to record, upload your podcast and create RSS feeds. It sells for $67.46. Hipcast/Audioblog (www.hipcast.com) hosts podcasts for as little as $9.95 a month.
- Determine what the podcast will be about and narrow its scope. “Be as specific as possible with your content,” he says. “People listen to podcasts because they can find extremely specific topics that match their interests.”
- Determine the length of time the podcast will run. Three to five minutes is ideal.
- Determine the frequency that you’ll produce new episodes. “To make podcasting profitable, you need a large audience,” he says. “To build a large audience, you need to come out with fresh content on a consistent basis.”
Create Buzz-Building Online
Creating a video is as easy as point, focus and shoot.
To get started, you need:
- A high-definition camcorder (available from Sony for $600)
- An external microphone (available from Sony for $50-$100)
- A supplemental lighting kit (available from Sunpak or Smith Victor for $100-$200)
In terms of content, Kristine Shreve, director of marketing for The Ensign Group, says there are four types of online videos that people watch:
- Instructional videos. “Teaching people how to do something is a great way to get them to watch your video,” she says. “If you’re an embroidery shop, create a how-to video or a video about using embroidery as advertising.”
- Insider videos. “Give customers a peek at the inside workings of your shop,” she says. “Don’t, of course, give away any trade secrets, but let them see how your machines work, or how an order processes from first contact through completion. This is a great way to allow customers to feel connected to your business.”
- Testimonial videos. “If you have customers who love your business and are willing to speak about it, ask if they’ll give their testimonial on video,” she says. “Video testimonials are a great way to get new business.”
- “What we can do” videos. “Create a video that details what your business can do, and what you sell,” Shreve says. “You could take customers through your showroom, show samples of your work or make suggestions for things that potential customers might want to order. Customers often don’t know what they want or don’t know everything you can do. A video is a great way to show them.”
Two Bloggers’ Profiles
Name: Kristine Shreve
Title: Director of Marketing, The Ensign Group
Blogs: EnMart blog (http://blog.myenmart.com) and SubliStuff (www.sublistuff.com)
Blog stats: Over 100 subscribers. “The rule of thumb seems to be for every commenter or subscriber you have, there are probably 10 readers who didn’t comment or subscribe,” Shreve says.
What the blog accomplishes: “The blog is a great way for us to communicate with our customers,” Shreve says. “We’ve had customers ask questions or make requests right on the blog, and we respond in real time to our whole audience.
“The blogs also are a great way to educate customers,” she says. “Our second blog, SubliStuff, was started because we got into sublimation and realized that there were a lot of people out there who didn’t know about sublimation.”
Why the blog is a reputable information source: “Experience is the biggest thing,” Shreve says. “Our parent company has 35 years of embroidery experience and 10 years of experience in sublimation. We have experts on staff that can provide information and answer questions.”
Name: Erich Campbell
Title: Digitizer and e-commerce manager, Black Duck Inc. (asi/140730)
Blogs: Black Duck Blog (www.blackduckonline.com/blog)
Blog stats: “Our blog is still trying to find its feet,” Campbell says. “We only have a handful of posts up as yet, and only a few subscribers.”
What the blog accomplishes: “It serves as a channel for us to express our ideas, show our expertise, promote events and educate our customers about the products and services we provide,” Campbell says. “Also, it provides a steady stream of updates to keep our Web site fresh, letting our customers know that we’re active in our industry.
Why the blog is a reputable information source: “Aside from my 10 years of experience as a digitizer, I feel like my willingness to lift the veil on the industry and teach my customers the ins and outs of our process makes my authorial voice more believable,” Campbell says. “As far as our general reputation, though my many digitizing contest wins have been cited by our customers when recommending us for embroidery.”