Social media done well can be the most important toolkit for kitchen and bath professionals to develop their competitive edge. Show their expertise, value and thought leadership to potential and repeat clients. Continually improve their knowledge in any area including trends, products, news, business management and innovations. Create relationships within the industry and for new clients with an ease and international distance that would have been impossible at first.
Why You Should Prioritize Social Media
Why should social media be a priority in your kitchen and bath business? Simply put, your goals can be divided into business development, continuing education, relationship building and thought leadership with peers and customers.
Design is visual, and we are a more visual society. Social media, chosen correctly, is heavily dependent on pictures, infographics and graphs that reach the audience you seek. Your work will often sell itself. Think of many social networking sites as today’s version of when customers would clip magazine pictures for their idea books. Houzz.com, for example, does exactly that: enables consumers to create Ideabooks out of photographs uploaded by industry professionals and then search for and contact professionals in their area.
First, your customers are online. While just seven years ago only eight percent of America’s adults were online, now 85 percent of them are online, and 72 percent use social networking sites (Pew Internet August 2013). While you should look at the population of particular social media when choosing where to spend your time and energy, in general at least an equal amount of people using social networking are women who make decisions and buy online and are college educated and within the highest income brackets. The 70 million baby boomers – 80 percent of whom own their homes and spend money on home improvement – are actually the fastest-growing segment on social media.
Secondly, social media increases traffic to your website. Some sites are very good at directly bringing people to your website, and others help increase your SEO (search engine optimization – how likely that your information will rank highly on the first page of the big search engine sites like Google and Bing). Social media can do more than tags and other optimization programs because they are built naturally to take what you post and attach it to your rank.
Create a Website that Sells Your Expertise
I am constantly surprised at how many designers, architects and some of the smaller manufacturers neglect their websites. In today’s day and age, especially in an industry that is so visual, your website should be your absolute best foot forward. Having a good online presence and using a lot of pictures and videos significantly sets you apart, and without it, many buyers will just never even give you a chance because they have learned to go online when looking for recommendations and when doing research about firms, services and products.
In brief, your website in a “must do” in any social media plan. It should have a combination of corporate brochures and a more interactive blog that includes news, events, trends – something that shows off your personal work and your expertise by educating people for free. While WordPress and Blogger make it increasingly easy to create and/or maintain your own website for free, and if you are heavily involved in social media, your site can be a “landing page” website that points to all of your social media sites, your blog and other social media sites.
How to Be Successful on Social Media
It’s crucial in social media that you follow some basic “rules of engagement” to be successful. A good website for the kitchen and bath professional must:
- Be easy to navigate and read
- Provide a reason for users to visit repeatedly
- Collect emails and post new information consistently
- Have the ability for the user to engage through commenting
- Feature easily “Pinnable” photographs
If you ever have a question on how to engage in social media, think of the online world as the largest host of industry and consumer events. If all the opportunities for connecting and engaging with your peers, new products, consumers and continuing education were under the same massive convention center roof that was hosting events for fraternity gatherings and class reunions, you’ve entered the first page of any social media.
After you have defined your goals for social media, find and engage in the “right rooms” like you would at a convention center. This includes selecting the best platforms for you and then surrounding yourself with the people in your plan. Interact with people as you would at a cocktail party. At an industry after-hours event for professionals or consumers, would you wear a banner around your neck that read, “Read my Book!” “Visit my Website!” See what I have done!” and start conversations with a sales pitch? Of course not! The easiest rule for engaging in social media is to use the same manners and behavior that represent the transparent, authentic you.
In terms of your time and content, a good guideline is sharing in thirds: No more than 30 percent of your content should be about you, your projects, your skills, your awards, your clients, your posts and…well YOU. And when you are sharing your own “great stuff” directly, remember to please not post advertisements or even advertorials. When sharing about you, present your skills and expertise in ways that help those you want to reach such as case studies, before-and-after photos, teaching points for peers, etc.
The rest of your content sharing should be about others. Spend about half of this time sharing what others are doing – from industry trends to articles by colleagues and sites like www.kbbonline.com where you help others, establish your thought leadership and build relationships. Sites like bit.ly and scoop.it allow you to curate and save sites and share them with multiple social networks at the same time. Hootsuite enables you to schedule your messages so they go out at prime times for your market at a regular pace and so you don’t have to be online for the sharing of the first two kinds of content. A full third of your time should be direct engagement (not automated messages) with others through places like twitter chats, communities on Facebook, G+ and the new wave of industry-specific offerings online.
Social media is not broadcast media. It is first and foremost about building engagement, interaction and relationships. Say please and thank you. Recognize what others are doing. Develop relationships where the conversation doesn’t always have to be about work. Share. Share. Share. Give more than you ask or show about yourself. Be helpful. Be a valuable resource. Create and share resources of interest to your peers and consumers. Be a friend, colleague, expert – be REAL. Don’t be afraid to – in fact it’s expected that you do – share the personal you, your interests, family and day-to-day life conversations.
- Through Demand Design and its sister companies, Gail Zahtz solves similar challenges for the design and healthcare industries by enabling them to meet the needs of baby boomers. Specializing in all areas of experience design, Zahtz is the first leader to combine the best of universal, accessible, sensory, sustainable and evidence-based design. She will be speaking at KBIS on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 12:30 p.m. on “Reaching and Designing for Baby Boomers.”