How we built a pet business using social media

Social media is often hailed as the most important aspect of the marketing mix. In many instances, it is considered so important that it has a strategy of its very own. Although it is an important tool and one we have used to build our business, the most important point is that you need to use itproperly.

Social media can be seen by many companies as a free marketing channel. It is true that there is no cost to use Twitter or LinkedIn, but there are potential hidden costs if the channels are not used correctly. Each social media channel should be assessed on its own merits and its impact on the rest of your marketing and business strategy in order to be truly effective.

Here are some of the steps we took to help our business grow using social media.

Have a clear strategy

As with any marketing approach, having a clear plan is paramount. We found a key element was in truly understanding our customers and target audience. We looked at how our potential customers found us online, and how they go about researching the type of services we offer. Our starting point wasGoogle Analytics, as it gave us a clearer picture of how people currently find us, the keywords they use and the type of information they are looking for. It also showed us the current use of social media through the website referrers.

The competition

The next step was to look at our competitors in terms of websites and social media channels. We looked at the search results for the major search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo! and researched the keywords people used. We also looked at keyword volumes to see what phrases the majority of our target audience use to find our services, in our case dog walking and pet services.

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We then looked specifically at the social aspects of their approach. We analysed their networks, followers and the types of content they were sharing and which posts were resulting in some kind of engagement, a retweet, share or like. This enabled us to learn from their successes and tailor some of our content around things we knew were of interest to our audience. This has resulted in a lot of social shares and in turn helped our SEO efforts as well as social media followers.

Target audience

As part of our research we found it was important to identify which social media channels were being used by our target audience. The obvious one for animal care is Instagram because people like to see their pets. There are several ways to use it poorly, and in those cases, we found it offered virtually no engagement.

It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and get carried away having Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts, but many of these will yield limited results for your particular business.

Again, we looked at competitors to see what was getting the most engagement and concentrated our efforts accordingly. We took the approach that less is more, and we now have a growing engaged audience on both Facebook and Twitter.

Clear return on investment

The social element of your marketing strategy should be able to show clear ROI. It is important to clearly analyse the approach and make adjustments. Although social media can be more difficult to track in terms of an actual sale, we have found that we can look at where we are investing our time and the engagement we are getting across the channels.

This led to our decision to concentrate our main efforts on Facebook. We still use other channels to push content, mainly for SEO social signals, but it is not something we monitor as we recognised early on the lack of engagement. We now have a growing and engaged audience across our chosen channels but there has been some trial and error. The key has been to track, adjust, and respond.

Also,?Real Business quizzed Grace Victory back in Decemberto produce some business learnings from a social media superstar.

Michelle Hughes runs the pet care and dog walking franchise Wet Nose Waggy Tail.

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