Six Social Media Tips for Business Owners in Boring Industries
By now you've probably realized that there's no one-size-fits-all instruction manual for social media marketing. I don't know who decided that maintaining engaging social media profiles is the end-all, be-all for online marketing campaigns, but that sure does seem to be the current mindset. Despite this pervasive assumption, plenty of experts are still skeptical of the ability social media has to actually convert sales, and big name advertisers have expressed their doubt as well. Of course social media is still a direct (read: invasive) way to connect with consumers, but doing so effectively can seem intimidating to business owners who work in traditionally boring industries.
When I say "boring industries" I'm referring to industries that *most* consumers have little desire to interact with, especially when they're primarily using social media to keep up with pop culture fads, Internet memes and ill-informed political debates. I'm not going to list which industries are naturally boring when it comes to social media interactions, but if you're reading this article looking for advice, chances are you already know where you stand.
As an online marketing professional in the surety bond industry, I know firsthand what it means to work in a boring industry. The professionals who have to buy bonds typically view them as nothing more than another pesky licensing requirement. Heck, even my friends and family members have to feign interest in my career. As such, I fully recognize that 99.9% of people of who use social media have no interest whatsoever in surety bonds.
My surety bond company puts a heavy emphasis on our online marketing, and, like you, we've also heard the claims that effective social media marketing has the potential to attract new clients. Like so many others, we've jumped on board various social media bandwagons in the past two years. At this point, we're still looking to increase engagement and measure more convincing results. To help you maximize your own efforts, I'd like to share with you the most valuable lessons I've learned so far.
- Re-evaluate your expectations. Even if you don't work in marketing, you should know that sexy things are the easiest to sell. If you work in an industry or a niche that's not naturally exciting, don't expect significant results right away. That's not to say you shouldn't put forth your best effort to build an engaging atmosphere for your audience, but you might need to lower your expectations — at least at first. Don't take it personally if people don't want to interact with your brand right away; you can't blame them for not wanting to waste their time with something that doesn't already interest them. As with most marketing strategies, your goal is to make them value your brand. Use their indifference as motivation.
- Consider the purpose of social media. Somewhere along the line, online marketers have forgotten that the purpose of social media platforms is to build platforms for social interactions via online media. We talk about social media multiple times each day, so you'd think we'd remember what it actually stands for in principle. Social media was not created for advertisers to infiltrate our personal lives as a way to increase sales — that's something that has evolved over time. Use discretion when promoting your business online; people set up social media accounts to engage with one another — not to consume endless promotional content.
- Be a real person. Contrary to some views within the business realm, corporations simply are not people. This means that, for all intensive purposes, one cannot build a relationship with a corporation. When creating content to share on a commercial social media account, remember that you're writing for people who are looking for genuine interactions. Make sure they know there's a real person behind the company logo that's beaming out at them.
- Invest in a way that will produce results. As with most things in life, when it comes to social media marketing, you get what you pay for. If you're not willing to invest much into your social media efforts, you really can't expect too much engagement in return. Your investments could range from paying for Facebook ads to hiring a full-time employee to manage your social media accounts. Hiring a social media manager isn't a viable option for every company, but you should remember that the big name players who get intense engagement on their pages probably have at least one. If you can't afford to pay for services, realize you'll have to invest a great deal of your own time, energy and effort if you want to establish a truly engaging social media presence for your enterprise.
- Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Gaining thousands of new fans, followers or "likes" simply doesn't happen overnight, and once that's achieved, you still can't assume users will actually engage with you. If you're looking for immediate results, you probably haven't worked in online marketing for long. SEO veterans fondly reminiscence on the time when the results of an online marketing campaign could be observed immediately. However, the golden days of yore have long since passed, replaced by the painstakingly obvious notion that natural, genuine growth often producers higher quality interactions — whether you're looking for higher SEO rankings or more social media users.
And what's the most important tip I have to offer?
If all else fails, cut your losses.
There's no shame in quitting. Ok, that's obviously a lie; when it comes to business ventures, there's almost always shame involved when you give up. That said, there's simply no reason to continue investing time and effort into a marketing strategy that doesn't offer you a decent ROI. Most people who work in social media marketing won't be this honest with you, but that's because they're getting paid for it. Just take a minute to ask yourself: why pay for something that's not benefiting your enterprise?
Fortunately, my surety company hasn't come close to calling it quits. We're observing steady — albeit slow — increases in our overall social media engagement. However, we also have the manpower to make it happen. If you operate a small business venture and can find better ways to use your money, then redirect your social media funding to that area. Or if you aren't investing money into your social media management, redirect your time, energy and effort to other marketing campaigns that are more likely to succeed.
If social media marketing works for you, then great! If it doesn't, you might want to re-evaluate your strategies and try again. But if you're at the point where you've exhausted your resources, there's nothing wrong with moving on.
Some might consider quitting to be a weak approach, but in certain situations it's simply the most logical decision to make. Although using social media to effectively market a business in a boring industry certainly can be done, not every business can afford to make it happen. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can stop focusing on the perceived importance of trendy marketing strategies and refocus our energy on producing measurable results that actually mean something.
Danielle Rodabaugh is the chief editor and social media manager at SuretyBonds.com, a nationwide insurance company that primarily operates online. Danielle has helped develop the SuretyBonds.com brand since its inception in 2009. Danielle is highly competitive, loves taking on challenges and enjoys helping others succeed. You can keep up with Danielle on Google+.