Making social media work for your marine business
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 20/10/2016
Social media may be nothing new, but nevertheless, many small to medium enterprises are still not adopting best practices, or using the reach and influence of the many platforms to their full advantage; marine businesses included.
As an SME, it’s easy to compare ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ with the larger industry players only to become disheartened when your following is overshadowed threefold, but don’t let this put you off. You may not have the budget to employ a full-time social media manager, but by following a few simple rules and guidelines, those who are willing to put a little time and effort in to their social media strategies could soon see dramatically improved results, and increased SEO and ranking benefits.
Yachting Pages details the steps for making social media work for your marine business as part of your marine marketing strategy.
Why use social media in business?
It helps to raise awareness
Social media is a great way to raise awareness of your brand and its innovative products, quality services and outstanding customer care. It provides a space to talk about your latest news and developments; to connect and learn from your followers; and to have fun, of course.
It allows you to build a loyal following
Although it’s a long-term strategy to build a social media following, it’s worth it to form a loyal fan base that is interested in hearing about your business and what it has to say. This engagement is crucial to building a larger following, and more importantly, to providing a source of traffic that isn’t reliant on traffic from internet search engines.
It’s easier for fans to connect
Social media offers a great way for ‘fans’ to connect to your business and relate to your employees, who are working behind the scenes. Likewise, it’s a great way for businesses to be able to learn more about their followers and the type of content that they enjoy and engage with.
Top social media platforms for businesses
Although everyone has their own favourite social platforms (and theories about which are the most relevant or effective), we believe that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube are among the most powerful for marine businesses, generally following the rule of quality over quantity: You want to target platforms with users who might invest in your products and services, rather than those who are just inactive bystanders.
Launched in 2004, Facebook is still one of the most popular social media platforms, with an average of 1.49 billion active monthly users in 2015. Yachting Pages’ crew surveys have shown that Facebook is particularly popular with yacht crew, who use the platform to connect with friends, family and fellow crew while out on the water – great if these are the customers your business is targeting.
Besides offering an interactive place to connect and share business news and content, Facebook also has a wealth of different apps and connectivity features that make it easy to link to your brand’s other social media channels, saving precious time. The more you post, the more you will appear on your fan’s timelines meaning that your brand is constantly on their mind: It’s almost like an instant, interactive business newsletter, but, beware of spamming.
Short, sweet and to the point, with an average of 304 million active monthly users in 2015, Twitter is not going anywhere almost ten years after its launch. It allows you to network and interact with your industry; to provide personal customer support; to share content; to promote events and competitions; and to raise brand awareness. Make the right friends, build relevant relationships and keep it fun and interesting.
With a total of 380 million users worldwide as of June 2015, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social network. It offers the ideal place to share industry news and updates, and to start discussions. LinkedIn Pulse is particularly good for sharing content.
As part of their plan for world-domination, the majority of internet-users are linked into Google+ in one way or another: Whether that’s through Google Mail, Google Analytics, YouTube etc. But, with around 2.2 billion users signed up to the platform, it’s been discovered that only around four to six million users (9%) actively post content when assessed in January 2015.
With so many people connected, it’s not worth ignoring this platform, but it can be hard to gain a following here. The main positive of this platform is the ability to link/associate all your online assets for SEO purposes, and to rank for relevant keywords and terms, so, the least you can do is set up a page, share some content with influencers with relevant hash tags, engage with specialist groups, and allow your followers to +1 you here and there. If you’re more advanced, you could look into using Google+ Hangouts for video chat, tours and demonstrations, instead of Skype.
Every social media user loves an image, and Instagram is a great way to share the sights you see as you see them, keeping your followers up to date on where you are and what you’re doing. Luckily, marine settings provide some great opportunities for spectacular photography, capturing the hearts, minds and imagination of followers.
Instagram requires great content, which in turn generates great engagement. It’s therefore a great way to build relationships with yacht crew through shared experiences and aspiring shore-side individuals alike: Try staging a photo or caption contest for increased engagement.
Again, Pinterest is a great route to the hearts and minds of followers of marine businesses, as marine settings and spectacular superyachts make for great graphic content that people love to like, share, save and aspire to. Unlike Instagram, it’s linkable, and it’s easily integrated with your other channels for easy sharing and increased multichannel engagement. It has great SEO benefits if done right: Simply organise boards and optimise tags and titles for improved rankings.
The marketing and branding benefits of using YouTube to promote your marine business are instantly recognisable: It’s a great place to share HD videos of the industry, your product and brand; you can talk customers through new tips and tricks; share user videos; put a face to your name; and, linked to Google, it has great SEO benefits.
Content shared on YouTube usually ranks quicker and easier than on other platforms, so you may notice an increase in traffic to your business website and linked social media channels. Label your videos correctly with relevant key terms, and remember; you can edit, annotate and embed to your heart’s content.
Five top tips for social media for businesses
1. Keep it current and follow-able
Are your website and social media profiles fully set up and optimised correctly? It’s important to ensure that they all link and provide an easy follow-able path from one another, so that they can easily be found by users and search engines alike. Set up widgets that are easily found and followed, and then ensure that your channels are fully complete with a business description. Keep your business details up to date, and keep posting regularly, or at least closely to your typical posting schedule as possible: Tools like Hootsuite or Buffer should help with scheduling.
2. Keep it relevant
If your marine business has been trading for a while, you should know a little about your users, clients and fans. With all the ‘noise’ on social media, it’s important to post content that is relevant and interesting to your followers to make sure they engage and do not unfollow your brand.
Creating content is going to be the most time-consuming aspect of your marketing activities and social media management, so make sure you post what counts: Show off what makes your business unique and worth buying into. Also allow your followers to generate content for you by promoting the best posts that you are tagged in.
3. Keep it personal
Not only can posts be personalised, with Follow Friday’s (#FF) for your new followers on Twitter and the Fan of the Week app on Facebook, but your interactions can also be more personal, responding to comments and questions, and hosting face-to-face video question time and tours.
For the social media marketer with a little extra time, it could be worth looking into employee advocacy as part of your marine marketing strategy.
4. Keep it graphic
Research shows that images are worth a million likes, with these typically being the most popular posts that are shared and engaged with the most often. When sharing images, remember as always to use targeted keywords, high-quality images, descriptive text and the correct sizing for your platform. It’s also a good idea to watermark your images or to give appropriate image credits, and to give permission for sharing where possible.
5. Keep it fun and friendly: The 80/20 rule
As a general rule, it’s best to keep your business social channels 80% fun and informative and 20% business and promotional – although this may be slewed to be a little more business on LinkedIn. This way, users will enjoy fun, interesting content and updates most of the time, then it’s likely that for the other 20% they won’t mind hearing a little about who you are and what you do.
Bonus tips: Five ideas for shareable social media content
1. Competitions and sweepstakes: A great way to kick up a stir gathering new followers and interaction with existing fans.
2. Offers and rewards: Promote offers for discounts on your products and services or offer free gifts and rewards in exchange for likes and follows across your channels, for feedback and testimonials, or for social referrals.
3. Quizzes, polls and trivia: Offering the ‘fun’ aspect of your channels (especially on Friday’s) and increasing engagement and shares.
4. Check-in: If you travel the world with work, check in with your followers along the way. This also works if your business host’s events and parties as you could ask guests to check-in and share their photos and videos via social media using a hash tag that you created especially. This creates a great way to engage with them after the event, and to cultivate relationships.
5. Drop-in’s and behind-the-scenes insights: Host a drop-in hour for your clients and fans to meet you on Skype or at your Google+ Hangout, to talk to you about your brand, products or services - Just know that this could welcome both good and bad feedback, so be prepared! It could also be used as a way to show followers around the office or offer ‘A day in the life of…’ video tour.