Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
Reach Out and Tweet Someone


September 1, 2009
By Michelle Brisebois

Topics

Facebook and Twitter were foreign terms just a few years ago. Today, they describe digital venues for communication but for many of us, we’re still in the dark as to where this technology may or may not fit into our business objectives. You may be wondering “who has the time in the midst of running a demanding business to be playing with this stuff”? But the payoff from this technology may just be worth making the time.

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Facebook and Twitter were foreign terms just a few years ago. Today, they describe digital venues for communication but for many of us, we’re still in the dark as to where this technology may or may not fit into our business objectives. You may be wondering “who has the time in the midst of running a demanding business to be playing with this stuff”? But the payoff from this technology may just be worth making the time.

The first thing you should know about many of these social media tools is that they are free. You should also know that many businesses and non-profit organizations are leveraging Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools to market themselves. These social networking sites are kind of like virtual cocktail parties. You may start over by the cheese tray chatting with the group discussing politics and then at some point mosey over to the group by the kitchen chatting about music. Social networking is just a few years old but it’s caught on like wildfire with all age groups. A new study from Ipsos-Reid shows a dramatic increase in the number of online Canadians who have a profile on a social network. In 18 months, the percentage with a profile has increased from 39 per cent to 56 per cent. When it comes to Canadians that are aware of social networking, 86 per cent of people aged 18 to 34 have a profile, 60 per cent of people aged 35 to 54 have signed up and 44 per cent of those 55 or older are taking part in a network. Online Canadians are now spending more than one-third of their Internet time each week participating in, and browsing, online social networks.

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So just how does one jump onto this fast-moving train? Here are a few steps to help you get in the game.

Test the waters
You needn’t launch a huge campaign to promote the fact you’ve set up a Facebook site or Twitter account. That can come after you’re comfortable with how it’s working for you. Simply go to Facebook.com or Twitter.com and look for the section that says “sign up” (Facebook) or “Get started-join” (Twitter). It’ll take five minutes or less to get set up. It’s probably best to give yourself a few months to play around to see how the channel fits your business needs. Diane Hutchinson, general manager of Walter’s Greenhouses in Paris, Ont., has been posting to a Facebook page, termed “Walter’s Greenhouses” dedicated to the greenhouse since March. “I have been basically in a testing phase,” she says. “I have a friend who owns a cake shop and was using social media to post when baked goods came out of the oven so I thought I’d see how it might work for our business.” Hutchinson has indicated that the posts are being read by customers and staff alike. “We’re gearing up for our 40th anniversary so we see this as a way to connect with former employees for the celebration too,” says Hutchinson.

Choose your weapon
If you’re trying to choose between Facebook and Twitter, you may wish to try both but for different purposes. Twitter restricts posts to only 140 characters, which amounts to only two or three sentences. It’s actually the perfect tool for short announcements such as sales, seminars and new arrivals. Bill Hole, CEO of Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens in St. Albert, Alta., has found Twitter (found on Twitter as “EnjoyCentre”) useful for posting updates about the major construction taking place at their operation. “I decided to use Twitter to post about the new site and simply focus on that one topic for the posts,” says Hole. “I can post right from the site on my iPhone so it’s real-time in terms of updating the progress of the construction.”

Facebook allows for more detailed posts and allows video and photos to be viewed in a more organized way. “I took a picture in the greenhouse of a hummingbird,” says Hutchinson. “A customer wanted to see the picture so the Facebook page was the perfect place to post it for everyone to see.”

Set aside some time but don’t overdo it
Updating these sites does take a bit of time, though not excessive amounts. It’s simply a matter of prioritizing those 15 to 20 minutes to ensure things are kept up to date. “I’ve tried to post once per week,” confirms Hutchinson. “Daily just isn’t possible but weekly posts are more realistic. I would advise anyone deciding to use Facebook or Twitter to make sure they set aside the time right from the start.” If time is really tight, Twitter may be easier to use quickly since it’s only typing a few sentences. The opportunities are endless. You can use Twitter to publish tips on how to purchase or how to maintain your plants. You’ve probably got many great tips to share, which in turn, help the plants you sell flourish. You can tell customers what they should look for when purchasing plants for certain areas. Make a list of about 20 of these tips one day – it’ll only take about 10 minutes and then you’ll have fodder for Twitter posts (tweets) for a couple of weeks. Only tweet once a day or even once every other day so as not to become annoying to followers.

Decide what your goals are
You may decide that social networking will be leveraged to drive traffic to your store. If so, when you get in a new shipment of plants and it’s ready for the sales floor, tweet about it.

Facebook can announce fresh news too and its benefit is that customers can post comments and interact with each other on your Facebook page. Announce sales and other promotions. Yes, it’s okay to have a promotion just for those who follow you on Twitter. It rewards those who are actively following your messaging. Use Twitter to network with others in your profession in order to increase your knowledge. Hole has found Twitter helpful in terms of liaising with the media. “The media has started following my tweets about the construction so I’m finding that at key milestones, they’re contacting me to write about it because they saw my post.”

Get some disciples
It’s tempting to wait until these tools are fully tested and understood. The benefit of jumping in early is that there is less noise right now because the channel is just emerging. Take a deep breath and sign up. You may just discover a very helpful and cost-effective business weapon!


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