By guest author Kellyann Conway, former president, Association of Professional Dog Trainers
Social media seems to be everywhere driving everything these days – but of course it isn’t really everything. You’ve got plenty else to do to run your business, including the still centrally-important on-the-ground marketing in your local community, and of course taking care of the dogs. And then there’s life outside of work, too—time for family and friends and your own dogs, and even a little downtime just for yourself. So here are a few suggestions for staying current, filtering out extra noise, and building your business in the age of social media.
1. Read Your Emails and Social Feed. Set aside a set period of time each day. I won’t lie: I set a timer, because I could probably stay at this much too long. I’ll answer emails first, then save articles and media for later use or reading, and add notes for insight and comment. Need a suggestion to manage all of those great articles that you read? I personally like Evernote. This app allows you to gather all of your reference materials, ideas, to-do tasks, or other digital stuff so that you won’t have to remember where you found all those random bits of information.
2. Review Social Marketing. If you are lucky enough to have staff to help with this, I applaud you. Most of you, however, are a one-person operation. Make sure you take time to review your marketing weekly. Review your posts, whether it’s links to articles, photos of a canine client in your care, or a quick heads-up that your favorite no-pull harness is on sale at your local pet store. What was opened, clicked, viewed, commented on, and shared? Keep track of what gets the most reach, and whether the timing of the posts affected their popularity. Consider what’s coming down the pike, for instance an upcoming National Day of ABC or National Month of XYZ. Being a one-stop shop for the most useful and current information for your walking clients is a great way to build a community of loyal followers.
I prefer to set up my Facebook posts ahead of time and schedule them to post at times that work best for me (and my followers/clients). Make sure you regularly update posts and tweets, emails, events, websites, and blogs.
3. Talk With and Listen to Clients. Almost every time I speak with my clients, I learn invaluable lessons about how they search for information though social media and online. General conversations about something they read, saw, or shared offer valuable insights into how I might reach them better. I always ask a follow-up question to find out where they found the information. If my clients are reading it, I want to be informed about it too.
4. Write. I know this isn’t for everyone, but after writing and blogging professionally for years, I believe developing writing skills has been one of the more profitable things I’ve ever done. Consider writing a book or collection of short stories about life as a dog walker, maybe in the form of a blog. I honestly think the process of writing has made me a more critical thinker and more strategic in how I view marketing strategies.
5. Continuing Education. So important! There are a variety of sources via pet industry conferences, workshops, and even product expos. As a dog walker, you’ll want to stay abreast of new products and the latest information about dog behavior. Think beyond dogs, too. Animal behavior is fascinating, but often conferences offer classes on building business skills. There is so much to be learned. Keeping your skills current will help keep you on your toes. Sharing what you learn with clients, both one-on-one and via social media, will help you stand out as the valuable resource you are.
6. Network With Industry Peers. I’ve made some incredible connections with brilliant people. There is virtually no better way to obtain the highest-value information than networking with other professionals who are as passionate and fanatical as you are.
7. Revisit Social Streams. This is an evening activity for me. It’s a good way to end the work part of my day and gather ideas for the next.
Each of these strategies has been instrumental in keeping me close to current events and more strategic in my thinking about industry happenings while helping me to bring value to my clients via my social networks and, ultimately, grow my business.