Let’s get right to the point: you are not in a mainstream industry. What you sell is very specific or not very exciting to talk about or reminds people of places they don’t want to be. What you do is not the center of attention at a party and you have to explain your service carefully, using layman’s terms that barely get the job done. Face it: you’re in a boring, niche, or unappealing industry. There’s good news, though: social media doesn’t care.
There’s this sentiment out there that only coolest businesses can join in the fun online. You’ve got to have wild pictures of amazing year-end parties or celebrity clients you can Like. There has to be some kind of shimmer to the work you do, you have to be deserving of attention already to get any of it on Facebook or anywhere else. This sentiment goes a long way towards convincing people that they’re not “worthy” of being listened to, which leads to a big hesitation to do any kind of online marketing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of people who don’t deserve to be listened to online. I don’t have to list them because we all have our own little lists of bloggers, companies, hacks, and liars that we wish would just curl up and let their domains expire. There are lots of self-centered web broadcasters out there jamming up the channels and re-syndicating the stuff that was already boring people elsewhere.
It’s not your fault
But it’s not the business or the industry or the product that makes for poor communicators, not at all; it’s the approach. Just because you’re a skydiving instructor doesn’t mean you’re interesting to listen to, at a party or on Facebook. Just because you’re an accountant or a dentist or a construction firm doesn’t mean you have to be boring to interact with online. Your industry does not determine your online destiny.
If you’re part of a business that’s not very interesting to talk about then you have a situation on your Facebook page: there’s not much to say, specifically, about what you do during an average day. A video might look like a still picture, your RFPs aren’t going to wow anyone, and your product isn’t really all that fun to look at. It might not seem that way at first but this is actually a blessing in disguise.
Now that you’ve crossed off all the obvious (and, yes, boring) options, it’s time to get out your thinking cap (did I just say “thinking cap?”). You’re going to sit down with a couple of people (you can do this on your own but it’s not as fun, or as productive) and you’re going to ask these two important questions:
- Who do you want to talk to (meaning who’s attention do you want to get)?
- What value are you going to provide them (meaning what are you going to do that helps them or makes them happy or makes them look good)?
There are a few things to keep in mind when you figure out answers to these questions:
- Best outcome: 2-3 groups of people who you want to talk to and 100 ways you can provide value.
- Figuring out what “value” means can be hard if you’re stuck in your own head. If you keep coming back to “discounts and coupons” then you should put this project down for a bit and go take a walk. Come back refreshed!
- This sounds like a really short meeting agenda but these are not shallow questions. You should think about these two questions completely separately but in the order above. If it took you 15 minutes to answer those questions, then you’re not trying hard enough.
- It might be fun to have two separate groups come up with their own answers to both and then share what they came up with.
- This works really well in a “brainstorming” format. This means you write everything down and eliminate at the end.
- If you don’t care, that’s OK, but you’re probably not the best person for this task… or, possibly, for the job you have now. Consider all options.
First, think about your audience, the people you need to talk to. Who are your clients? Who are you selling to? Who needs what you have? These are the people you need to reach but you don’t need to go to these people directly.
Go one step beyond your audience and think about who is connected to them. Who has access to your potential customers or clients? Who do they interact with? Who supports them? Who do they support? The bigger group you can think of, the more likely you’ll get to the right people. On the other hand, the bigger the group, the harder it is to target what you do. There is definitely a balance here.
Oh, and here’s a hint: the answer to this question is not “everyone.” If that’s what you have written down, start over.
You’re starting off at a disadvantage: you want something, their attention. Problem is, everyone wants their attention and, as you’ve probably noticed as both a producer and a customer, it’s noisy out there. You’re breaking through the noise here and you’re not going to be able to do it by shouting louder or doing nothing.
Let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s say everyone you would want to ever connect with suddenly found themselves clicking “Like” on your page. You did it, social media hat trick, incredible. Wait … now what?
Think about it… What should these folks know? What do they need? How can you help them? Talking about what you do in an honest and creative way is a part of it, but what kind of information can you disseminate? Again, think directly about your audience, you need something that is going to activate, entertain, interest, and inform this group of people.
- Industry current events, news, or announcements?
- Great on-line resources, PDFs, or news feeds?
- Best practices from your experience? Something that helped you do your job better?
- Photos of the most interesting part of what you offer? Maybe some crazy machine you use or the (proudly) weirdest person who works in the office?
- Something personal about the people who are part of your team? Their stories?
Remember that the onus is on you to find/create good stuff, not them to like what you put out.
Examples of great niche Facebook pages
Advice like this can be tough to put into practice without examples so how about a few?
Upstage Designs - Facebook
These two great ladies run a growing home staging company here in Seattle. They are definitely a niche business and it would be really easy to just share photos of what they’re doing but that would have a pretty short shelf life. Plus, they already have a portfolio page, no need to turn Facebook into a repeat of the same.
What you might not know about home stagers is that they are absolutely, positively the best people to know if you need a piece of furniture. You see, along with a knack for making any home look good to any person comes a near-fanatical drive to gather inexpensive but stylish rugs, tables, chairs, shelves, linens, and lamps. Home staging turns you into a Craigslist virtuoso.
So, along with the announcements, photos, and inspirations, Upstage posts Craigslists deals in the Seattle area for really great furniture. From vintage tables to post-modern couches, if it’s an amazing value for something that you’d be proud to show off, they’ll find it. And if you ask nice, they’ll even keep their eyes out for something special for you.
Equine News Today - facebook
This Facebook page has grown faster than I’ve ever seen a page grow and, started, literally, from nothing. Equine News Today is run by a guy who, clearly, loves horses and consumes information on all aspects of the industry. He runs a news site for everything horse-related but it’s the Facebook page that is a real thoroughbred. Who knew this niche industry was so enormous? Well, Equine News Today did.
Walk through this page and you see everything from found photos to breaking news, deals, promotions, and quotes. There are videos, links, questions, polls, and everything else under the sun. And people are engaged.
The key, in this case, is being very, very well-informed for no other reason than to stay up on the industry. The person running this page was already consuming a huge amount of news and filtering through it himself; why not share that value with others? He used my WP-Drudge news aggregation template to build a site to hold this filtered information and a Facebook page to bring more people into his world.
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Oct 11, 2011
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