The catch phrase of the seventies, “Let your fingers do the walking,” has been replaced by social media sites like Yelp, which claims to be “the best way to find local businesses.” The Twenty-first Century has ushered in a different kind of advertising for the pet industry. Because I wanted to use the same marketing techniques that my clients use when they are looking for pet services, my focus has shifted from the Yellow Pages to Yelp.

For my business, social media has been the primary source for generating 90% of all new clients. We are lucky that we have a favorable rating with all of the major web engines. But these ratings are jeopardized when our accounts are inactive or when poor reviews are posted. Business owners must know about social media; they must also play an active role in managing that information.

What Forms of Social Media Are Available to Business Owners?

Business owners can be actively involved with their clients through social media. There are many tools available to businesses who want to interact with customers online. Social network sources include: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. I will explain a little about each of these options below.

Twitter

allows us to send short messages that are called tweets. If you are registered with Twitter you can read tweets and you can also post them. The tweets are only available to people who follow your account. This method is limited because it only allows you to provide short messages. It is a great tool to tweet short progress reports or interesting headlines, such as “Mocha’s groom is spectacular!” If customers follow your tweets, that type of message can link directly to their cell phones. Twitter for business also allows you to push ads to your followers.

Instagram

compares to Twitter in that you must have friends or followers before it is useful. This program allows you to instantly upload photos to your account. The photos can originate from the camera roll on your phone, or you can upload from the Instagram App. Each picture can be tagged with witty titles to share the fantastic work that you do with your clients’ pets. The program also allows you to manipulate the photographs if you want to add a few special effects. The actual business location may also be associated with the upload if you use the right devices.

Pinterest

is available to viewers with similar interests. Each user creates a personal board and uploads or “pins” pictures or videos around a common theme. The site categorizes any topic; groom shops, grooming, groom supplies, etc. The viewer can pin uploads and create a board of their own based on their selection of pins. It is not necessary to “friend” someone in order to see the pins. This makes it an excellent source to view different ideas. I like it because it provides a positive way to work through the web – I have never seen a negative comment.

Facebook

is a social networking website that allows the user to both upload pictures and create messages to friends or followers. When opening an account, the business owner creates a profile that explains a little bit about the business. You choose a profile and “cover” photo to highlight your business. Facebook users are able to “like” your page. It is an excellent tool to promote your staff, special promotions, or events. It also provides users the opportunity to provide your business with feedback related to your services. They can actually rate the services using a five star rating method.

How Do Ratings Affect the Business?

Almost everyone knows the value of a “Five Star” rating. It is the preferred rating for any business owner because it suggests that the majority of customers are extremely happy with their services. Whenever new customers choose our shop for their grooming, I always ask, “How did you hear about us?” With few exceptions, they say that they found us through the ratings on Yelp or Google. These customers say that we earned the highest ratings so they wanted to see what we were all about. Unfortunately, those ratings can be short lived, even if only a few customers post negative comments and ratings.

Do Ratings Really Matter?

A recent browse through Help Scout revealed startling statistics. “It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience” (Newell-Legner, 2016). Unhappy customers are more willing to share their negative views than customers who are consistently happy. The Office of Consumer Affairs claims that “News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for good service experience.” This does not bode well for businesses that depend on word-of-mouth recommendations.

Business owners must frequently monitor their online rating activity. Next, they must take the time to respond to both positive and negative reviews. In the case that the review is negative, it is important to determine that the post is legitimate. Believe it or not, some people will take the time to sabotage your business. If your staff has offended a client or performed a service that is less than satisfactory, you must address the complaint head on. This is not the time to trade insults. Your rebuttal will have more weight if you are courteous and professional. If the complaint is an outright attack or even false, it is vitally important to work directly with the web engine to have it removed.

What Should You Take Away?

While it might seem odd to add more responsibilities to your already busy schedule, your online relationship with customers is your most important marketing tool. My business has grown in direct correlation with consumers’ reliance on social media. Yellow Pages never brought in the client base that I needed when I first opened my shop. Yelp has become my strongest marketing advocate. That means I have to grow with this trend. In my case, this forced me to learn to use social media in a consistent and responsible way. That alone proves that you actually can teach an old dog new tricks! ✂