Social Media for Dog Pros

A group of colorful signs with social media services on white backgroundWe get a lot of questions about social media marketing. The most common two questions are some form of “Should I?” or “Do I have to?” and “Does it work?”

Should I?
It depends. The two most important factors are time and interest. Social media marketing requires a consistent time investment. Some choices are more intensive (Twitter, blogging) than others (Facebook, LinkedIn). But all demand regular attention if they are to have any impact.

So if you aren’t interested—if you aren’t likely to actively engage in the process, if you don’t like to work on the computer, if you’re not “into” it, you would be better served pursuing non-social media forms of marketing.

But if you enjoy social media and can commit the time, there are some potential rewards to be had.

Does it work?
That depends, too. Social media marketing can do a lot for your business. Perhaps most importantly, it improves your website’s ranking so more people find you when they search online for a local dog pro. It also generates brand loyalty among those who follow your efforts. And the thought processes involved can produce lucrative by-products for your business, such as ideas about new services, customer care approaches, or marketing projects.

But recognize that social media marketing may or may not generate much actual business. In our industry, don’t expect your efforts to lead to a line of potential clients knocking down your door. Think about your typical clients—are they the type to go looking for a dog blog? Or to follow a dog pro on Twitter? If they’re like most clients they’ve probably hired you because they’re too busy to take care of their dog themselves, which means the answer is probably no.

On the other hand, now that they know and have come to trust and admire you, they may well enjoy reading your blog or friending you, and that reinforces brand loyalty. Social media may not get you business in the first place, but it’ll help you to keep it.

But no matter how effective your efforts or how much you enjoy them, social media is not a substitute, ever, for on-the-ground community marketing. You still have to get out there to create and nurture referral relationships, use your expertise to create brand awareness and connection, make yourself seen and known.

If you use social media.
Use a set schedule. Carve out specific blocks of time each week to maintain a consistent presence in whichever outlets you choose to participate. And do not allow yourself to go over time—you need that time for other areas of marketing.

Combine with non-media marketing. Set aside at least as much time per week, if not more, for your on-the-ground marketing. Choose, plan, and complete one project per quarter—launch a newsletter or give a small number of free class passes to local veterinary clinics or invite a local reporter to join you on a dog walk.

Have a plan. Don’t launch into a social media marketing project without a plan. What is your purpose? How will you approach it? For example, if you’re starting a blog spend some time brainstorming the kinds of topics you’ll blog about. Don’t launch until you’ve got a good 50 topic ideas to make sure you can sustain the project. Joining the Twitter movement? Do the same—generate a long list of tweets as well as a set of guidelines for what you will and will not tweet about.

You’re promoting your business, so keep all your material on topic. Avoid the temptation to mix in the personal, such as old high school buddies posting to your Facebook page, or tweets about how you spent your day. And think twice before touching anything controversial.

The bottom line.
Social media can be a useful addition to a well-designed dog pro marketing plan, but in most cases cannot replace other marketing efforts. If social media isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know it’s not imperative. On the other hand, if you’ve jumped in with both feet but the phone isn’t ringing, it’s time to add some traditional community marketing back into the mix.