Social Media Tips for Garden Centers
Social Media General Guidelines
First, decide on a strategy.
- Have clear plan of what your goals are and how you are going to accomplish them. Don't sign up for social media accounts just for the sake of signing up.
- Decide which associates you give account access to. The people posting on these accounts should only be those who actually want to; if you force social media on someone, it will show.
- Social media allows you to not only gain followers, but to reach friends of those followers...and their friends.
- Connect your social media accounts and align your messaging.
- Feature icons on your website with links for each of your accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Make an effort to connect with your followers and humanize your brand. Automated responses won't resonate with people.
- Let the consumer know you care about their experience with your garden center.
Provide Valuable Content
- Try to ensure the content you are pushing out is relevant to the consumer and done so in a timely manner. You're welcome to repurpose Monrovia's content.
- Make sure you don't overload consumers with a flood of content followed by nothing. Better to send out information on a consistent basis.
- If you don't have time to create content, repost other relevant content (i.e. general plants stories, trends, etc.). If you borrow someone's content, be sure to provide attribution.
Measure and Evaluate
- Monitor yourself frequently to see where and how you can improve.
- If analytics are available, see which links are being clicked on the most or which content correlated in a spike or drop of visitors/followers/likes.
While Facebook has the largest reach with over a billion users, this means brands have to do a better job of standing out in a crowded sector.
Photos are Your Friends
- The cover photo is the most important piece of your Facebook page--it's large, it's at the top and it's what most people will see first. Use this as a way to capture a great first impression. Humanize your garden center with a high-quality photo with faces and plants. Change it periodically--perhaps seasonally. The cover photo pixel size is 851 x 315 pixels
- If you have a great cover photo, this takes the pressure off coming up with a unique profile picture.
- People may have been reluctant to switch over to Timeline for their personal profiles, but Timeline actually helps brands market themselves, provided that they know how to set it up and use it correctly.
- The Timeline is more photo-focused. Post photos often when updating your status, so people can not only read what you are doing, but see it.. Take photos from behind the scenes, around the garden center, events, etc.
- Highlight your best posts. No longer do the most interesting photos need to be pushed down the page. Timeline allows you to highlight or pin your best posts permanently. Take advantage of this for cool photos of new plants or promotions or for important sales or contest announcements.
- The difference? Highlighting a photo (clicking on the star option of the post) stretches it across the width of the page. Pinning a photo or post will keep it at the top of the page, regardless of anything you post afterward.
- Try to pin a new post or photo once a week, so you can refresh content.
- Milestones are a good way to let users know about important dates in your history. Find some old photos so people can see how the company has grown over the years.
- The downside to the photo-heavy Timeline is that Wall posts are now generally clustered together in a single box instead of seen individually. However, this doesn't make the customer's input any less important.
- Try to answer as many questions as you can, to remind them of your great customer service and expertise.
- Gather input by posting simple polls, like "What is your favorite part about spring?" or "What is your favorite plant you bought this month?"
- If customers post photos of themselves or their new plants, you can save them into an album and post it for everyone to see. This lets users know that you are actively monitoring Wall posts and appreciate their feedback.
- Hold contests that require fans to post photos of their garden and get their own friends to vote for them by "liking." This way, users are asking their own friends (those out of your network) to go to your page to like their photos, thus getting your brand onto people's screens who otherwise wouldn't engage with you.
- Incentives work. Offer prizes or special discounts to users who check in at your garden center using Facebook or FourSquare. Or post a QR code that opens a coupon they can show at the register.
- NOTE: Be sure to follow Facebook's guidelines about contests.
There is a lot you can do with 140 characters. You can post announcements, relevant links and cool photos; answer customer service questions and hold Twitter parties.
Know Your Audience
- Twitter has over 100 million active users responsible for about 250 million tweets per day. A high-transparency service, Twitter users are three times more likely to follow a brand than a Facebook user, meaning you'll need to give them the service they expect.
- If your customers are on Twitter, go there to engage them. It is a quick way to send and respond via @replies and direct messages (DM).
- The real-time aspect is key for users; they expect to be answered promptly.
Keep It Short, But Keep It Valuable
- With a limited amount of characters, it's important to say something valuable in as few words as possible. These can be announcements, sales, secret promotion codes, tips, how-tos, ideas and inspiration. Tweet regularly.
- Retweet (RT) followers or other friendly brands/vendors that your followers will find valuable. @reply to followers with customer service questions or comments. Even a "thanks!" acknowledgement will go a long way in building relationships with your customers.
- Videos, photos and links of longer content are good. These can be from your other social media accounts like YouTube and Pinterest.
- Bit.ly is a link-shortening free service that allows you to condense long links to save character space, and includes tracking (for 30 days), so you can see how many people click on your links.
Always Listen to What is Being Said About Your Brand
- There are many programs available (i.e. TweetDeck and HootSuite) that allow you to simultaneously view your timeline (tweets from users you are following), @mentions, direct messages and saved searches, such as keywords ("Monrovia") or #hashtags that you make up.
- The hashtags can be either self-made or general topics like #gardening.
- Listening through these channels is a low-cost way of monitoring what is being said about you or the industry in general. This is a way to reach out to anybody who may not know your @username and has questions you can answer.
Gathering Together Through #Hashtags
- Twitter parties are pre-determined virtual gatherings of followers and users to discuss specific interesting topics. You can have a Twitter party on anything you want--plants, gardening, tips, trends, suggestions. All you really need is a pre-determined, specific hashtag (i.e. #MonTP, #MonTips, #MonChat), just do a quick search to make sure it's not already in use.
- Hashtags collect tweets into one place; when you click on them, they bring up a search. These are useful if you're doing a Q&A with an in-house expert (#AskJane) or a third-party expert. Create a Twitter contest, with the first person to answer a trivia question with a specified hashtag wins a prize.
Pinterest consists of solo or collaborative virtual cork boards where you can pin and repin photos and videos. Even though users only spend about an average of 15 minutes/day on Pinterest, the website drove greater website traffic than LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit and YouTube combined in January 2012. Plants and gardens are so visual, which makes Pinterest a useful social media tool for you.
Prominently Display Your Garden Center
- On your profile, if not in your username, and display the URL (website address).
- Add a paragraph explaining who you are and what you're interested in under the About section--this is the only place people can see an extensive block of text about you.
- Come up with creative and interesting board names, but don't make them too long. Users will see this every time you pin something on that board.
Pin Often and Engage
- Pin regularly, rather than occasionally in huge bursts, to keep users actively interested.
- Pin from different sources, not just one or two sites. Variety is key.
- Pin to other general boards (i.e. plants to attract birds on birding boards).
- Tag your posts with either a #hashtag or @username in the description. This is a great way to network with other related organizations.
- Pay it back--like, repin and comment on other people's posts. If you've liked and commented on all of your followers, you can click on related hashtags to find relevant plants or gardening posts for accounts outside your network (i.e. #gardening or #landscape).
Drive Traffic and Be Different
- Pin your blog posts or content from your website, just be careful not to come off as too self-interested by doing it too often. The majority of your pins should be from outside sources.
- The special video section of Pinterest is less crowded, which means you can easily pin YouTube videos.
- Make sure to add a Pin It! button at the end of your web pages so people can easily pin from your site.
- Pinterest has its own browser bookmarklet that you can easily drag onto your browser's toolbar to pin photos on any website you are on and automatically gives the source credit. This is helpful because once you pin, it will prompt you to post on your other social media pages.
When written words aren't enough, videos are a great way to inspire your customers. Your videos don't need to be the highest quality, but they do need to feature information worth watching. One of the biggest mistakes is poor sound quality, so use a good microphone when possible. Be creative with how-to videos, featured plants, events, expert speakers, landscaping tips, etc. Monrovia has dozens of videos you can link to.
Integrate Video With Your Other Platforms
- Since Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all support video, these can be made with the intention of using them on other platforms. For example, if you have a video from a recent event, remember to post on Facebook or a visual photo announcement on Pinterest.
- Note: if you plan to use music in your videos, make sure you have permission (which usually means paying for usage) or YouTube will take them down in a heartbeat.
Inform and Tag
- Use your description to best inform viewers about your brand; tell them a bit about the company and featured products.
- You can ask questions, either in the description or at the end of the video, to stimulate conversation in the comments section.
- Just like hashtags, tags are clickable to group together other videos of similar interests. Try to use as many tags as possible so videos can be grouped together and to help get your video on the related content columns alongside other videos
Invite Customers to Participate
- Encourage viewers to upload their own videos. These can either be themed gardens, unusual do-it-yourself tips or how they are incorporating Monrovia plants into their own gardens.
- These videos can be submitted as "video responses" in lieu of comments on your own videos and used later on your other platforms.
- Encourage amateur filmmakers to simply use a Smartphone to shoot and upload videos. Users are much more likely to share their own videos on their other social media pages if they made them themselves.
- Remind customers of music rights laws so they don't get shut down either.
Social media is constantly changing, so check back as we update these tips!