Social Savvy: Is social media a value-add or time waster? - Feb 2019

By Christine B. Whittemore

The very first Social Savvy article in February 2018 made the point that success with social media is about being human. It takes time and effort to raise awareness, engage with your target audience and build your brand. You must show up, have something to say, be able to contribute value or meaning, and keep coming back.

Based on your goals and how much effort you put into achieving those goals, social media can either be a waste of time or a means of adding value to your business. Assuming you have identified goals for social media, and you’re committed, here are examples of the kind of value you can generate from social media.

FACEBOOK GROUPS
Every industry has its own dynamics. When it comes to the B2B tile business, you’ll discover several intensely collaborative and supportive groups focused on problem-solving and education. These groups aren’t for the faint of heart. However, the interactions are rich and insightful if you’re willing to listen and participate, not to mention infinitely rewarding if you’re willing to hear firsthand reactions to your products and services.

Enter two private Facebook groups that relate to the tile industry, Tile Geeks (10,500 members) and Global Tile Posse (5,000 members). If you’re in the tile business, you had better be involved in these and several other groups. It’s where you can address questions specifically related to your product, get feedback on your projects, share wisdom and directly respond to questions that customers pose.

That’s right. These are customer service channels. If you aren’t there, you’re not only missing out, but you are also opening yourself up to criticism and fostering a lack of interest and awareness.

By participating, you are at the forefront of problem-solving for customers-direct and indirect. You obtain immediate feedback on your products; you may garner insights that lead to new product ideas; you’re conveying the fact that you’re generally available and interested; and you’re collaborating with your most ardent and talented users. All of this builds trust and loyalty.

To help you understand how alive and important these social channels are to the vibrancy of the tile industry, check out these two examples.

Are you familiar with Mark Heinlein? He is the training director, technical trainer/presenter for the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). He travels around the country bringing tile installation best practices training and education to tile installation contractors. He documents all these sessions and the wonders of the places he visits through photos and videos on Facebook. You’ll also find him in the different Facebook groups, liking, commenting and sharing perspective on installation-related conversations. His wisdom is sought out and valued intensely. Mark now has a video series titled “Question Mark” on TileTV.

Perhaps you’re aware of how committed Schluter is to tile installation education. That commitment extends to Facebook, where representatives like Shannon Huffstickler, a territory manager for Schluter Systems, are ever-present. Huffstickler is often the quickest to respond to inquiries about her company’s products, regardless of time and place. What she and others like her bring to Facebook groups is an intense dose of human-ness. It’s business, but it’s also having a sense of humor, as is highlighted in the recent #singforschluter Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Holiday Contest. Anyone participating had to do a Facebook Live video of themselves singing the Rudolph song. Silly, intensely fun, very human, safe-and infinitely valuable for building strong relationships.

YOUTUBE CHANNELS
Speaking of video, if you’re curious about installing tile the right way, be sure to watch Sal DiBlasi on YouTube. He has over 89,000 subscribers and publishes a new video every Saturday. Although that’s his main social platform, you’ll find him interacting on those tile-focused Facebook groups, too.

Newer to the video (and podcast) scene is Luke Miller, whose “TileMoney” YouTube channel focuses on assisting tile contractors run better businesses and show a profit. In his videos, he interviews members of the tile industry-successful contractors like Robert Davis and materials manufacturers like Laticrete’s Ron Nash-on best practices, lessons learned and success stories. The Ron Nash interview, by the way, discusses using social media. Look it up on TileMoney.

Both Sal and Luke are tile installers, yet they have different reasons for regularly publishing on YouTube.

PINTEREST AND INSTAGRAM
The two most visual social networks are Pinterest and Instagram, and they deliver value in distinct ways. Be sure to keep an eye on your Google Analytics so you can monitor what specifically generates traffic.

Pinterest is ideal for organizing visual content onto relevant boards. You demonstrate personality in how you organize content and how you caption it. For the person searching for inspiration, those images can take her directly to the website responsible for the item of interest. As such, Pinterest can be a strong traffic-driver to your site, assuming you pin regularly and consistently from your blog or site. This holds true for dealers and distributors as well as architects and designers, those with product catalogs and those who publish blog content on a regular basis.

Another use for Pinterest relates to project inspiration boards, which can be private or public to help members of the A&D community collaborate with clients to gather ideas. For example, designer Leslie Meczka created Pinterest boards to track sources of inspiration for the HGTV Beach Front Bargain Hunt: Renovation project she completed with Tile Outlets of America in Tampa, Florida.

Others might create boards to illustrate the many steps leading to successfully completed projects.

Instagram effectively communicates personality. Each image stands alone. As such, it’s effective as an installation portfolio, for example, that’s easy to share with potential customers-given how mobile-friendly the platform is. That’s where Alex Smith, CTI #1500, sends people who might want to learn more about his work and get a feel for his personality.

Similarly, Coverings shares inspiring images of magnificent tile installations on Instagram. Not only does this showcase tile trends, new tile products and interesting ways to design with tile, but it also supports the design community and brings to life the yearly Coverings trade show.

TWITTER
Although Twitter has matured and become a place for politics and entertainment, you still have the possibility to connect with like-minded audiences through Twitter chats.

One well-respected chat is #kbtribechat, which focuses on kitchen and bath. Chats take place every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. EST and focus on a different topic each week. They even take place live during certain industry shows such as KBIS and Design and Construction Week, when participants eagerly share comments and images of the trends they’ve observed.

VALUE-ADD OR TIME WASTE?
Given these examples, are you seeing a pattern? Whether on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook, if you’re looking to gain value from social networks, you’ll need to commit resources to achieve your goals. More specifically, you’ll need to set aside time to show up and say hello-as you would in real life-as well as monitor, listen and respond on the networks that matter to your business.

Be ready to be human. You won’t be able to rely solely on canned formal responses. You’ll need to be positive and open to possibilities as you abide by the social rules of each network or group. Then it’s up to you to determine if you’re meeting your goals. I’m willing to bet, though, that you’ll find the commitment enriching, intensely rewarding and definitely beneficial to your business.

Let me know what you discover.

Copyright 2019 Floor Focus