BEST PRACTICES FOR YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA "ROAD TRIP"

By Judith Lee

In an optical industry driven by technology and digital information, think of social media as the mini-bus that connects you with your customers in a road trip of shared experience. The value of that connection is what’s fueling the use of social media by 93 percent of all U.S. marketers, including a growing number of those who market optical laboratories.

Wherever your lab might be in the social media journey, there’s something to learn from those who have traveled before. Here are six best practices to get you on your way.

1) GET GOING

The only way to start is, well, to start. But it’s not unusual to feel cautious about this new form of digital connection or to encounter reluctance from others on your team.

“Having a Facebook page was not looked at as a top priority,” said Beth Showalter, president of ICE-TECH Advanced Lens Technologies of Atlantic Beach, Fl. “At one point, I offered to work on it on my own time since I believed in it so much.”

The good news is that it takes just a minimal investment of time – and no money – to sign up for a social media account. You can take it slowly until you feel more comfortable.

If you are not sure which social media account to focus on, optical lab marketers say Facebook should be your first priority.

“We started using all social media in April 2011. Facebook has given the best results by providing instant feedback to and from our customers,” said Brian Conley, director of marketing for Optical Prescription Lab (OPL) in Birmingham, Ala.

Being more of a direct-to-consumer company, Maui Jim Sunglasses has been using Facebook and Twitter for three years. “We have experienced successful promotions with both, but our concentration is on Facebook, so as far as success is concerned, it is our most successful to date,” said Dave Siragusa, Webmaster for Maui Jim.

2) TWO HEADS OR ONE?

One of the first questions to sort out is whether you’ll have one person who handles your social media, or more than one. Optical labs indicate that it can work well either way.

“I am the only one in charge, which keeps consistency in our messages and vision,” Conley said.

Showalter believes that two heads are better than one. “I have two admins [person who manages Facebook page] at my company. I prefer to have multiple points of view on our page and it has definitely helped us be more creative!” she noted.

Maui Jim’s social media program is large, and by necessity, is managed by a dedicated web and social team, Siragusa said.

The person or persons who manage your social media must be committed to your lab’s mission and be conversant with all departments in order to be the voice of your company. It’s also advisable to have a social media policy in place.

 

3) SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND

Once you have a Facebook and/or Twitter account, you need to reach out and connect. On Facebook they are called “fans” and on Twitter they are called “followers” but what they represent is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with customers and expand your reach to prospects.

Ice-Tech has found that offering a promotion code for those who “like” their page is a great way to increase the fan base. OPL agrees and takes it even further.

“We post ALL specials and discounts on Social Media. This helps get the word out quicker to accounts and builds interest with ECPs that do not currently use OPL,” Conley said.

While Maui Jim reaches out through social media, the premium sunglass brand does not offer discounts to those who “like” the page.

“Our brand does not discount,” Siragusa said. “We rather choose to promote new releases, ambassadors or our charitable efforts. Our best tactic is to be true to the brand and treat every fan as if they are part of our Ohana (family).”

 

4) LEVERAGE ACROSS ALL CHANNELS

To motivate customers and prospects to connect, it’s best to develop a campaign through all communication media.

“I have found it best if you launch multiple campaigns at the same time—such as marketing e-mail, statement flyers, box inserts, and a Facebook link on our Web site home page,” Showalter said.

OPL has created “Like us on Facebook” messages that it delivers through advertising at optical events, customer service scripts or inserts, and by word–of– mouth through sales staff.

Going forward, it’s a best practice to integrate social media messages with Web content, email marketing, flyers or statement stuffers and other marketing vehicles for all promotions or campaigns.

 

5) ENGAGE YOUR FANS

You won’t achieve your social media goals unless you engage your fans and followers. Recent research indicates that consumers who engage with a brand on social media are twice as likely to purchase that brand as consumers who are not engaged.

Showalter says it’s plain and simple: “Show them something worth sharing on their own Facebook page.”

True engagement means allowing a dialogue such as permitting fans to post directly on your Facebook page. This opens up the possibility of complaints or negative comments about your brand, but all three of our optical social media experts say this is worth the risk.

“We welcome honest feedback. Luckily, we don’t have a lot of negative feedback, only those ‘wowed’ with our product,” said Showalter. She added that a negative comment provides an opportunity to portray how the company deals with adversity as well as compliments.

Conley said he monitors the Facebook page three times a day to ensure the posts on the OPL Facebook page are pertaining to optical. This also would enable him to deal promptly with any negativity.

Siragusa pointed out that authenticity is essential in social media: “We always allow fans to post. If we don’t, then we are talking at our fans and that isn’t social behavior. Too many company Facebook pages overwhelm their fans with irrelevant content.”


6) BUILD A BIGGER BUS

To expand your social media program, you should sponsor a Facebook contest. ICE-TECH is just about to launch a contest in which customers post photos of the company’s lenses; the best photo wins a free job from the lab.

OPL has a monthly Facebook contest that changes every month. Once football season arrives, that ramps up to a weekly contest:
• OPL picks two teams
• Facebook followers guess the score
• The closest guess wins prizes

“Our contests increase Facebook and Web site traffic by over 300 percent as compared to when we are not running a contest,” Conley said.
Last year Maui Jim ran a successful Facebook contest that raised money for a charity, The Ocean Foundation.
Once you have your social media foundation, you should consider expanding through other social media accounts. Showalter said her lab will increase its use of Twitter to drive followers to the Facebook page and Web site. She asserted that social media has enhanced customer relationships, and most definitely has brought in new business. “Social media has made a positive difference, and we have gotten several customers through our Facebook page alone,” said Showalter.

Judith Lee is a social media specialist and a frequent contributor to LabTalk. To contact her regarding social media e-mail her at judithlee@epix.net


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