As if running your business didn’t keep you busy enough, managing your social media presence is an added challenge many pet businesses struggle with. From deciding which social media platforms to focus on to determining what content to present and how often, many business owners feel overwhelmed and sometimes give up on social media, or worse yet, automating it and forgetting it. To make your social media marketing easier and more effective, here are some common mistakes to avoid.
Not Defining Your Brand Before Starting
Your brand is not just about having a company logo or colors for your signs. It is creating the perception you want people to have about your business, team, products and services. For small businesses, this means you need to think about what kind of company you want to be. What are your values? What types of people do you want to attract to your business? What are your goals for social media? If you don’t know, you need to answer these questions first before getting active on social media. Otherwise, your messages will be inconsistent and confusing to your followers. A good activity to help start clarifying your brand is to focus on an elevator pitch. If you were riding on an elevator and someone said, “Tell me about your business,” could you answer that question quickly and succinctly? If not, then you need to work on your elevator pitch. What’s the name of your business? What is your business about? What makes your business different from your competitors? The answers to these questions will help you hone your pitch and clarify your brand identity. Then, once you have your brand identity solidified, you should focus on having a consistent brand voice in all your social media posts so people immediately know the post is yours and what to expect from you.
Not Having a Social Media Strategy
Social media can be fun and spontaneous and should be an element to your social media posts. However, having a clear strategy and goals for your social media marketing is very important too. Your strategy should define how often you’ll post on social media and which platforms you’ll use. There’s a lot of advice out there that can help you answer these questions and for every “rule” presented by one expert there’s another expert that says the exact opposite. Do some research and then decide what works for you and stick with it. If that means you’ll post three times a week, great. Pick your three days and stick with them.
You’ll also want to be strategic with how you “sell” on your social media platform. If in theory you’re only supposed to do 20 percent selling and 80 percent focusing on the three E’s, you can increase the effectiveness of your sales posts by being strategic. Let’s say you’re getting a new line of martingale collars at the end of the month. Don’t wait until they arrive to say, “They’re here!” Use some of your educational posts throughout the month to talk about collars. A post about getting puppies used to wearing a collar. A post about properly fitting a new collar to your adult dog. A post about the benefits of martingale collars that has one line about the fact that you’re getting some great new ones at the end of the month. And then, your exciting, “They’re here!” post.
As to defining what platforms you’ll use, the key question you must answer is, “Where are my customers and potential customers active?” To do that, you’ll have to know your target demographic and it can’t be everyone. If most of your customers are women over 45-years-old, they’re probably not hanging out on TikTok and not a lot of them are into Instagram. They’re on Facebook. So, maybe your strategy would be to focus on Facebook as your primary platform, but also post on Instagram to catch the target audience that hangs out there. Resist the urge to cover all your bases by posting on all social media platforms. Unless you hire someone to do your social media for you, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do a good job managing many platforms. It’s better to do two well than four poorly.
Not Interacting with Your Audience to Create a Relationship
It’s not enough to post on social media and just wait for people’s responses, your goal is to engage your audience, to create a relationship with them. This means you need to provide quality, useful content, while responding to them when they react to that content. To make sure you’re providing quality content, remember the three E’s of social media: educate, engage and entertain. Educating could include new product information, health information and information about specials and offers you have. Remember, it’s not all about selling. If all you do is sell, you’re going to drive your audience away. You have to provide value to them.
To engage your audience, you can use polls or questions you want them to answer. However, remember that engagement is not one-and-done, meaning you post, and they respond. You need to respond to their responses. If someone comments on your post, “My dog would love that,” you could respond, “We’ll bet he will!”
If someone asks a question, make sure you provide an answer quickly. There’s nothing more disengaging than posting a question and getting ghosted by a business. If you do this, your audience will quickly lose trust in you and your brand. It also might lead people to think that your business is too busy or uninterested in them.
Finally, a huge mistake too many businesses make is deleting or ignoring negative comments. Every business is going to receive a complaint or negative comment periodically. Don’t shy away from them. How you respond to the complaint is more important than the complaint itself. You should respond to negative reviews or comments as soon as possible and address any concerns or questions the person might have. Don’t get defensive, sarcastic or aggressive and never try to reverse blame on the customer. Even if it’s the truth, when you start to get ugly, your audience will go from disliking the negative commenter to disliking you. Provide a short response that addresses the person’s concern without giving attitude. If it’s a bigger issue requiring a detailed response, ask the commenter to contact you by phone so you can fully address their concerns.
The third E, entertain, should be the easiest part. Posting photos of customers’ pets (with permission), pictures or video from the puppy playtime you hosted, or funny things that happen in your business, is another way to show your brand’s personality and to let customers know you’re not all about selling and business.
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