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Doing Business in a Social World

Social Media CollageIt seems not a day goes by where you aren’t touched by social media, whether you’re logging onto your Facebook page, reading about Google+ in the news, or voting on Twitter for “The X Factor” television show. In fact, just this morning I had an email request to join Netlog, a Belgian social media site similar to Facebook. With more social network sites popping up each month, how do you know where to spend your online time?

Defining Your Social Strategy
You could easily get lost in the world of social media if you don’t map out a path for yourself. Rather than join every social site known to humankind, it’s best to figure out a strategy that doesn’t overextend your resources; namely, your time.

The first thing you’ll want to do is determine where your customers are hanging out. A recent Nielsen report noted that Facebook currently reaches 70% of active internet users, so chances are … you’ll find a good percentage of your target market on Facebook. But are there other social sites where should you take an active presence?

Aquascape’s Top Social Picks
To help you navigate the sea of social sites, I’ve put together a list of Aquascape’s top social media picks. You’ll need to determine your own list based on your strategy and constraints, but this list can help point you in the right direction.

Facebook – If you’re going to dabble in social media, Facebook is the place to be. It continues to be the fastest growing social site and has an average monthly audience of 140 million; almost triple the average monthly audience of its nearest competitor (Blogger). The majority of Aquascape’s Facebook conversations occur with consumers, educating them on the benefits and features of water features, while referring them to installers and retailers.

YouTubeYouTube is the second most popular search engine on the internet, following on the heels of Google. Aquascape uploads a new video almost weekly. You can make your own videos using a digital camera. And if you need to edit them before posting, try using Windows Movie Maker, a free program you’ll find on your computer. In order for your videos to rank high in YouTube search results, you want to make sure you add descriptions and keywords to each video that you upload.

TwitterTwitter is an easy-to-use micro blogging site that now processes 230 million tweets per day (a tweet is similar to a status update on Facebook). Although you can use Twitter however you like, sharing links, photos, news, etc., Aquascape uses Twitter primarily for B2B (business to business) conversations. Keep in mind that Twitter is a great source for research. You can type in a search term such as “water gardening” to see what others are tweeting about this or any other topic. About a year ago I performed a search for “rain barrel” and found an editor looking for examples of rain barrels for their publication. I immediately sent info on the RainXchange® Rain Barrel and it was featured in the magazine as a result.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social networking site geared toward professionals. It’s like your online resume of credentials and recommendations. You can write status updates, connect with other professionals in your industry, join specific networking groups, and more. LinkedIn has some great little gadgets that allow you to tie your account with other media such as your blog, published articles, videos, and more. LinkedIn is a great spot for connecting with like-minded business people in your community who can refer customers to you, and vice versa.

Blogger and WordPress – Aquascape uses both these sites for blogging. “Aquascape Your Landscape” resides on Blogger while “Social Splash” lives at WordPress. If you’re not yet blogging, be sure to read, “To Blog or Not to Blog: It Shouldn’t Be a Question.” Blogging is a great way for optimizing your website with search engines.

Houzz, Flickr, and Pinterest - Photo sharing sites are great for showcasing your landscape projects. Each of these sites has its own unique value proposition and I like to use all three. Consumers can search for professionals on Houzz, view their photos, and then make contact to hire you. Pinterest allows users to “pin” photos from websites they like, adding them to a style board. Others can re-pin the photos, thereby spreading the reach of the photo on Pinterest. It’s a popular site with bloggers and designers and is rapidly gaining traction.

SlideshareSlideshare was primarily set up for sharing PowerPoint presentations. Over time, Slideshare increased its file sharing capability to include PDF files, videos, and more. Users can comment on your presentations and share them on other social media sites, as well.

Watergardening.com – Although this community site is specific to water gardening, it’s still one of our favorites and continues to grow. For those of you who were around when Aquascape launched watergardening.com, you’ll remember that the majority of users were installers and retailers. Today, that’s all changed. With membership nearing 1000 users, you’ll find that the community is primarily made of pond-owning consumers. What’s not to like?

The Social Melting Pot
While the aforementioned sites are where Aquascape devotes most of its social media efforts, this isn’t an entirely inclusive list. There are a few lesser known sites where I’ve dabbled, such as www.garden-share.com. And of course, this social list will grow and change as time goes on.

Social media is fast-moving and I don’t see it slowing down any time in the near future. So what do you do if you don’t know where to begin? Focus on just one or two social sites … you don’t want to become overwhelmed and quit before you even begin. Once you get comfortable with one or two, you can branch out and broaden your social reach as time allows. But by all means, do get started! Even if you just use Facebook. Social media is great for sharing your message and hearing what customers are saying about you. You can’t afford to miss the conversation.