By Missi Salzberg
One of the things I do in the wee morning hours, when sleep is unattainable, is I cruise through the webpages and Facebook pages of pet-related businesses for ideas. Although I typically start my adventure looking for inspiration, I often end up writing an article about it instead! The unbelievably flexible, free, visual platform offered by Facebook is just amazing, and yet many salons still either do not have a FB page, or the page they have is underutilized.
The point of Facebook Fan Pages is to get likes and shares. Period. As a business-building tool it is all about letting the friends of friends of friends discover the amazing groomer and salon that is you, but without spending a penny. The trick is that everyone is so overwhelmed with content these days; it’s got to be something of interest or of value to your audience to make them press that button. With that in mind, here are some things that are NOT that interesting.
It just isn’t very interesting to repost cute dog pictures from all over the Internet. I agree that there is an abundance of over-the-top joyful photos of dogs and cats and bunnies; however, these pictures do not truly engage your audience. They are a brief moment of eye candy, and then they move on.
Another way to underutilize Facebook is to post pictures of every single dog and cat that you groom. I visited one FB site and that’s all they did, all day, everyday. The owners of these dogs will be tickled pink, but the vast majority of people that visit will see a groomed dog. Visually pleasing, yes. Engaging, no.
These approaches are considered broadcasting. From an American Express Open Forum, “Ask any social marketing consultant what the number one no-no is on Facebook, and he’ll likely tell you it’s “broadcasting” your messages. Instead of providing fans with relevant content and engaging on a continual basis, too many people blast away instead of engaging customers. With Facebook, marketers of any size can do effective, word-of-mouth marketing at scale for the very first time. But Facebook is all about authenticity, so if your company is not being authentic or engaging with customers in a way that feels genuine, the community will see right through it,” says Facebook spokeswoman Annie Ta.
One thing to consider with the onslaught of material our audience is exposed to everyday is length. Twitter definitely figured out the attention span of the masses, and it is 140 characters! That’s it! You’re in — you’re out, in 140 characters or less. I am not suggesting that every post you make be that short, but feed the audience bite-size portions with significant content and perhaps a link to more lengthy material and you capture their attention for that moment they hover their mouse in your general direction. I do break this rule occasionally, like my year-end manifesto to my customers, but they have grown to enjoy the reflections at year’s end, but it is once a year!
Let’s focus on the ways in which you can utilize FB and get those “Likes” and “Shares.”
Be Authentic. Write to your customer base from your own voice, as if they are standing before you. Many customers choose independent pet establishments because they want that familiarity and connection. Don’t lose it when you use the online applications.
Solve A Problem. Again, bite-size portions of solutions to everyday pet problems. For example:
One easy way to satisfy your puppy’s urge to chew when they are teething: Soak and freeze a rope bone. Add a drop of soy sauce. Satisfaction and relief.
Chronic ear infections? Try a gradual food change to a grain-free, fish based diet. Lots of fatty acids to help support healing.
Be Entertaining. People like to be entertained, and they love to take part in something that is fun and quick. Try some interactive posts that invite them to take part in something silly. One that I have enjoyed is posting a funny picture and asking people to provide a caption.
Reward people for their engagement. On our FB page for my feed store, Chickadee Seed & Feed, we drive people to the page by releasing information there first. During our “Chick Season” when our customers are waiting for the baby chicks to arrive, we always tell them to check the FB page. It gets them in the habit of checking the site regularly, and we provide further content regarding sustainability and raising egg-layers. We are known for selecting unusual breeds of chickens, and just being a little nutty about chickens, so we keep this page very lively, which brings me to my next suggestion.
Spend the time. You cannot simply throw a fan page up and wait. You have to give people a reason to come back over and over again. You also physically have to stay engaged to get your posts on the screen in front of your clientele. It is a marketing tool, but you have to work it. I post every business day, typically.
Run Contests. Our favorite is the “Show Me The Love” contest every Valentines Day. We ask for a selfie of customers with their pets, showing the love! Every year it grows. It is fun and engaging and people do love to see their babies on the Internet. I make a collage of different entries and the customers LOVE it.
Involve Your Staff. Familiar faces mean a lot to our customers. At The Village Groomer, our groomers often compete in grooming contests, and a quick pic of one of them with their ribbon or trophy displays their commitment to their craft. I have often found that customers will “Share” a picture of their groomer with a prize. It’s bragging rights, after all!
Be Passionate. Postings that reflect an ideology, a belief, or a cause that you know will resonate with your customers are great.
Educate. Some of the greatest response we’ve gotten has been to educational information, which customers really enjoy sharing.
Be as personal as you feel comfortable. Have boundaries, but by creating a feeling of ‘family’ on FB, and being inclusive with your customers brings a feeling of connection. For instance, when Kathy D, one of my groomers, first became a grandmother, we got a huge response from a picture of her with Savannah and a few of the other staff people. Love resonates.
I hope some of these tips will help you further develop your FB presence. Our fan base grows steadily all of the time, and I believe it is because of the ongoing, interesting dialog we are having with our customers. These are ‘real’ likes, actual interactive people that visit our site and our store. A quick word of caution: Do not buy fake likes. One of our local businesses bought fake likes just after opening, and within hours, their FB page reflected over 10,000 likes. If these ‘likes’ are from the other side of the planet, what good does that do your business? The point is to engage people that will actually visit your place of business. Consumers are savvy and they see through falseness.