As online preferences and trends change, we will see shifts in popularity from old platforms to new ones. Understand what your customers want and communicate with them in ways that build your brand and meet your company’s goals.
By Jessica Shrout

Considering adopting social media for your business? You are in good company: 80 million small and medium-sized businesses use Facebook to communicate with their customers (Hootsuite’s 2018 Global Barometer Report). There is a good chance your competition is using it, too. Before you dive in, develop the business case for your company’s proposed use of social media. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Will it add value?
• Is there a justification for the investment you will make?
• Will it deliver a solution for your business needs?
Take some time to develop a well-thought-out plan for your social media program. Make it a living document and schedule time to review and edit as needed. Continuous improvement is not just for your Operations team. You should be regularly evaluating and making changes to ensure the results of your social media marketing are meeting your business needs.

Return on Investment
Do not take “no” for an answer when it comes to determining ROI for your social media endeavors. There are some valuable benefits to social media that are not as easy to measure and not all activities will lead directly to sales, but there are quite a few metrics that can solidly demonstrate success and ROI. Likes, shares and followers are a good indication that your content is being seen. However, those are considered vanity metrics. They do not give good insight into true ROI. You need metrics that prove your content is leading to more sales.

Determine a few actionable goals for your brand on social media. Simply put: what do you want? This could be increased registration for your newsletter or customers filling out your “request for service” form. You should choose goals that lead to fans becoming customers and the achievement of your company KPIs. Each social campaign can be measured using the native reporting offered for the pages you own. Cost-per-click, cost-per-action and click-through-rate are some good standards by which to measure a campaign. You will also want to follow up with your sales team to see how many of the leads generated by your social media campaigns have been converted into paying customers.

Building your Brand
Customers like to hear from brands they care about—but only when it relates to them. Your job is to adapt your messaging to fit this mentality. The tones used on social media are not the same as the tone you might use for a print ad or brochure—or even your Web site. Things tend to be less formal. You need to find a happy medium between your business voice and your social media voice—while keeping things professional. Follow other brands, especially those that are also consumer services. See what works for them and adopt their best practices for your brand.

Use your social media pages as an opportunity to educate your customers. Are you seeing issues with contamination in your single-stream recycling program? Do you want to encourage safe driving around your refuse trucks and helpers? Post about it. Avoid jargon and do not assume that your followers know anything about the waste industry. There are many well-meaning sites that post inaccurate information about waste and recycling. That is an opportunity for you to set the record straight in a way that promotes your brand and encourages customers to request your service. The more quality content you publish, the more your brand will be viewed as an authority.

Finding a Social Media Manager
The best person to handle your social media strategy is an experienced and dedicated social media marketer. Not all haulers have the capacity to have several marketers on the team, so your next best choice should either be your current marketing manager or outsourcing to an agency. Look for a marketer with industry experience. You will encounter agencies eager to take on the job because it sounds interesting and will add some flavor to their portfolio, but there is a risk that they lose interest over time—marketing waste collection services is quite different from marketing consumer goods. The project may require more input from you than planned since there are nuances to the business that a marketer who is new to the industry will not understand. If you do need to look for outside help, be sure to either choose someone with waste industry experience or plan to allocate more time to work closely with the agency.

You should avoid giving this task to an intern. It is tempting to rely on their natural digital skills and interest in social media; however, having social media experience and proficiency does not make someone a good social media marketer—or a good marketer for your business. You will find that interns have the ability to make the posts, but lack the strategy experience that will drive your business forward. You need someone who will be dedicated to building your brand, has industry experience and the skill for the various social platforms that are best for your business.

Sales and Customer Service: The New Frontier
Include members from your sales and customer service team in your social media endeavor. Customers see social media pages as a way to reach you without picking up the phone. It is easier for them, so you must develop the capacity to handle sales and service right there. Making your customers take the extra step to contact you via your normal methods or reach out during business hours means an increased risk you will lose the lead. They have already reached out—do not make them do it twice.

Your methods of handling sales and service issues on social media may be different from how you handle things over the phone. Make the necessary adaptions. While you may not want to allow access to your page to a large group—keeping it limited keeps you safer—you will want to request input from sales and service. Your social media marketer should be able to translate your current practices to fit each social platform. For example, Facebook has simple lead forms you can use so that your customers do not have to take an additional step.

Not All Companies Need to be on Social Media
Social media is a valuable tool and I encourage you to take advantage of it, but it is not a good fit for every company. Do you have the time and resources to dedicate to maintaining your pages and handling customer service issues on a regular basis? By regular basis, I mean logging in at least three times a week, but preferably daily. If not, it may not be the best time for you to dive into social media. It is better to stay out of it instead of starting a page and abandoning it. Have you ever seen an empty storefront with cobwebs in the window? That is what it looks like to customers when there’s a Facebook page with no updates since 2017.

Even if you do not intend to host a page for your business, you should still “claim” your company’s page on each of the platforms. This secures your space—should you want it later—and prevents people from claiming your brand and potentially damaging your reputation. Be sure to keep your eyes open for new social platforms and claim your space on those, too. As online preferences and trends chance, we will see shifts in popularity from old platforms to new ones.
The final advice: understand what your customers want and where they like to hang out. Communicate with them in ways that build your brand and meet your company’s goals.

Jessica Shrout is the owner of Circle Three Branding—a marketing agency devoted to the waste industry. For more information, visit CircleThreeBranding.com.
Got a burning marketing question? Send it to jessica@circlethreebranding.com for an answer in an upcoming issue.

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