It is envisaged that by 2020 nearly 85% of all sales will occur through social media and online platforms. This is a big change from the traditional model of business, one that focused on establishing a physical presence usually with a shop and promoting products locally. There are of course advantages to both but the biggest draw for most businesses with online promotion is the increased trade that can be achieved from a larger audience. The next question then is how does that affect equine businesses?
Advantages of Social Media
There is no doubt that the recession affected many businesses especially here in Ireland. However social media has the opportunity to bypass some of these financial effects by reaching out to a broader global market.
As a marketing strategy as well there are a number of advantages.
- It’s often cheaper than printed flyers or ads run in the local papers
- It can easily be targeted to loyal customers
- It works with our normal everyday technology, such as mobile phones
- It can reach a bigger audience through likes, shares or retweets, that we cannot access directly.
The largest social media network for businesses is Facebook in Europe and Twitter in the US. I wrote about using Twitter here in a previous post, so in this article I want to focus on the time and effort that businesses face when taking on a marketing strategy that involves social media, and how this can be made easier through using social media platforms.
Social Media Platforms
This is probably indicative of how much social media is in our lives, that we now need to have special platforms (or software) just to manage all our social media accounts. However in business this is becoming a necessity and I can give you an example of this by walking you through my own social media accounts for this blog site “EquineBlogIreland”.
I’m going to use the social media platform Hootsuite as my example because this is the one that I use. There are two versions a free and a paid pro version. The pro version as you can expect has more options, including be able to add more than the three accounts available in the free version.
For this blog site I have three main social media accounts, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I also use the social media for research on the latest trends and discussions for different topics related to the equine industries. Most of this information is collected through different Facebook pages and groups. For the purpose of this article I will separate out these two activities and explain the differences, starting with the actual social media accounts.
Setting up your dashboard in Hootsuite
The picture above shows a screenshot of the three equineblogireland accounts as they appear on the Hootsuite dashboard. As you can see they are conveniently placed side by side, which means that I can quickly glance across all three sites and see what is happening.
In the free version this is all you can add, which is still adequate especially when starting out. I also manage another blog site and use social media for research so in total I use more than 3 accounts and use the pro version (which they offer on a 30 day free trial).
Sending a Message through Hootsuite
To send a message it’s easy and straightforward. Simply select the account where the post is going, in the example on the right this is to Twitter. Type the message.
The advantage of a social media platform is not just in being able to send a single message. It is also about the ease of being able to manage all your social media interactions, so here are some other things that a platform like Hootsuite can enable you to do easily and quickly.
Links to Webpages
As well as sending a message you can also link the tweet or message to a blog or web page. Simply insert the url into the box at the bottom of the message and click on the shorten url tool. This creates a version of your link to fit the social media site.
Add an image to your posts or tweets
You can add an image to any post or tweet, which is how I started using Hootsuite in the first place,
because I was fed up with the difficulties I kept encountering when trying to add images.The process is similar to adding the url, except there is another tab alongside which is shaped like a paperclip. Simply click and drag or select an image from your computer to add.
Sending from Multiple accounts
The same process applies for messages being sent to Facebook, as it does for Twitter. You can also choose whether to send it from your own Facebook account or a page that you manage. And you can quickly send one promotion or link to Twitter and a different post to Facebook so that the same followers don’t keep receiving the same message.
Using Social Media to Follow Trends
As a business your use of social media is not just to promote your own business, although this is a common mistake many businesses make at the moment. Social media is an opportunity to engages with and build up your potential database of future customers. Establishing trust is one of the main purposes of social media, so that when you do recommend a product or advertise an event people will listen to you.
One of the easiest ways in which to establish trust is to follow leading experts in the area and engage with them. Unfortunately Facebook have changed their rules (again!) and only allow group administrators to use social media platforms, however LinkedIn does permit it. So I can collect all the LinkedIn groups related to horses that I’m a member of, and set them out side by side the same as the accounts.
Then I can choose articles that seem relevant and as I read add a comment or connect with the writer. If this sounds like too much work then follow a site such as Equineblogireland or other industry blog sites that will be doing some of this work for you.
Even on Twitter take time to retweet an article or picture, it shows your followers that you are interested in them and this will help to build up a relationship.
I have mentioned Hootsuite throughout this post because they are the platform that I currently use. You can check out the site by clicking the advert, or click on the Owl at the top of the page. There is a free option that lets you manage three accounts (each page is a separate account on Facebook) and you also have the option to try out their pro version for a free 30 day trial.
So far I have found the site to be very useful and I’m not using all the options available, such as multi site users. Either way you have nothing to lose in trying it out and when time is important, this certainly saves you time and hassle.
Would love to hear any comments from people who have tried it or other social media platforms and what worked best for you.
Let me know how you get on or if you are using any other social media platforms, readers would love to hear your reviews.