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Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


“Social media isn’t something that you “do”, instead you have to “be” social.” [Peter Thomson, Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies]


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING The ways in which we communicate are rapidly expanding and evolving. From the first mobile phone in 1973, to the birth of the internet in the 80’s, to this week’s introduction of the latest social networking platform, time and space are no longer the barriers they once were for transmitting messages.

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Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

In fact, the internet has made it possible to do business almost anywhere in the world, at any time, without leaving home. This is great news, especially for service providers. The internet has not only established new means of delivering services, but provides an incredible marketing platform, that, when utilized with expertise, can put the smallest companies on par with the largest when it comes to visibility, credibility and establishing relationships. This booklet aims to assist service providers of this new world in mastering one of the most important communications and marketing channels – social media. With dozens of existing platforms and new ones continually emerging, it is impossible (and not strategic) to have an effective presence on them all, therefore we will concentrate on the leaders of this social endemic - the top networks for business; Facebook and Twitter. Also addressed is LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. Despite the variance between the numerous platforms, many of the tips noted below can be modified to suit whichever social media site - and there are as many as 500 of them - you believe will most effectively reach your target market. We will examine how to maximize on these major social media platforms by learning about the trends in social media, best practices and what to avoid. For service providers, where communication is an especially critical element of the service delivery process, social media should be an important element of your company’s communication and marketing strategy - and by focusing on the areas noted below, social media can be a successful element as well! LET’S CHAT! Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series



Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Why Social Media Matters “Social media is the new world conduit for word-of-mouth marketing.�

Despite the time and money spent on fancy magazine ads and funny television commercials, it is well known in advertising circles that wordof-mouth is the most persuasive factor in purchasing decisions. In fact, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust online reviews1. Social media is the new world conduit for word-of-mouth marketing. 67% of online adults use social media sites. In some Caribbean countries, as many as 100% of online adults use Facebook2.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


So, why social media marketing? • First, it’s an inexpensive alternative to the more traditional marketing campaigns such as newspaper, radio and television. (Social media, however, should not replace all other marketing activities.); • As noted above, word-of-mouth marketing conducted via social media platforms is a highly convincing form of marketing; • It has a wide, international reach; • It offers the opportunity to collect feedback from clients and to accordingly improve service offerings and delivery; • It enhances credibility; • It improves customer relations; • And lastly, a thoughtful social media presence bolsters sales. The truth is you can no longer opt out. Like it or not, your business is probably being talked about on social media platforms. Given this fact, it is better to take control of your company’s image by participating in the dialogue. When writing the perfect post or tweet be mindful that what works on Facebook will not work on Twitter. While each platform is unique, they


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


Planning Makes Perfect Yes, social media is exciting but do not jump onto Facebook or Twitter just yet. Planning is critical to social media success.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

1. Research what platform(s) will be most relevant to your target markets and your goals. Be mindful that the list below is highly abridged.






Advertise Develop communities Target specific audiences Engage customers Conversation Discussion prompters

Connect with professional communities

Use images to increase embedding of content in other sites

Use video to increase embedding of content in other sites

For example, an architect might use Houzz or Pinterest to connect; whereas, a musician might rely on YouTube and Facebook and a graphic designer on deviantArt.

2. What are your goals? If you don’t set goals, it will be impossible to gauge the effectiveness of your social media efforts. Some common social media goals include: • Raising awareness of your company and service offerings; • Improving search engine optimization; Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


• Building customer loyalty; • Increasing traffic to your website; • Gathering intelligence, for example, on customer needs or competition; • Lowering marketing costs; • Creating a new and relevant communication channel; • Identifying opportunities or leads; • Providing customer service; • Building your network. 3. Know your audience. What is the age group of your target audience? What is their social media adoption rate? Which social media platforms can you find them on? Check out social media statistics for your country or for your target market readily available online. 4. With your goals in mind, determine what kind of information you should share that would be most relevant to the platform and the audience. To do this effectively, listen to what is being said in social media circles about your company. Consider how your sector and your competition use social media. 5. Decide who will manage the social media platforms. Ideally this person should understand the company well and but should also be a strong writer. Building social media skills will be very important for this resource. Invest in training or encourage online research. 6. Use your ‘company voice’. Include key words that are unique to your company. Posts should reflect the core values of your company as well.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

7. While Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Pinterest/etc. are free to join, this does not mean that they do not cost anything. In order to have an effective presence, it is important to commit the time necessary for posting, engaging in conversation, answering questions and solving problems. This will amount to at least an hour a day – 22 hours a month – and of course, time is money! Consider also, you may need photos to enhance content (i.e. cost of photography and stock images). 8. Include all employees in the social media marketing plan. Employees are your best brand advocates. Encourage them to connect with the company on the social media platforms you have in common and to share information about the company that they are excited about. 9. Make sure that your company has a social media policy in place outlining what information can and cannot be shared. A well meaning employee can damage a company’s reputation. 10. Measure the impact of your social media efforts.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


Professional Profiles Do not begin engaging on social media platforms before ensuring that your profiles are complete and compelling. • Keep your personal and company accounts separate. • Fill in all the blanks. While profile templates vary from platform to platform, be sure that all the information requested has been filled in. Profiles are prime real estate in your virtual world. They provide a place to be creative and showcase your brand. Maximize on this. • Be sure all the basics are covered including company description, hours of operation, website, email, phone number, address. •

Profile pictures are important. No matter the platform, engagement increases with the use of a profile photo. For example, Twitter profiles with a picture have 10 times more followers. Of course, you should select a relevant and appropriate profile photo.

• Compose a thoughtful company description using important key words. These profiles can be found by Google, increasing your company’s reach. 14

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

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Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series



Persuasive Posts When writing the perfect post or tweet, be mindful that what works on Facebook will not work on Twitter, however, while each platform is unique, they both do have commonalities: 1. Be interesting! Make users laugh. Make them feel. Be relevant and timely. 2. Use proper spelling and grammar. Text talk is never appropriate. 3. Be honest. Do not lie to users. Lies have a tendency to be found out in cyberspace. 4. Be persistent and consistent. Post every day. 5. Do not post too many times a day. Bombarding feeds is the quickest way of getting unliked or unfollowed. 6. Encourage interaction. 7. Engage minimally in the ‘hard-sell’ over social media. Try the 80/20 rule used by many social media experts. 80% social/20% about the company.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

8. Respond. Leaving questions or comments unanswered sends a message that you do not care. 9. Moderate. Delete spam or inappropriate posts but do not delete negative comments. Instead show off your problem solving skills by getting to the source of the negativity, apologizing and fixing it. 10. Do not automate your presence through RSS feeds or by automatically sharing Facebook posts on Twitter (they may get cut short) or tweets on Facebook (hashtags have not caught on yet). 11. Experiment. Social media is thoughtful trial and error. Monitor the analytics, determine what works best, then do it again. 12. Have fun with it! This is not a business meeting or formal presentation. It is social media. Be social!

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series



Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

FACEBOOK “Facebook is the only website where your customers and potential customers visit often and for extended periods...”

Facebook is a multi-purpose social networking platform. Users can connect with ‘friends’, post notes, chat, share videos or pictures, play games, participate in groups, plan events, promote a cause or a business and much more. Facebook boasts 1.1 billion users, including 618 million active users3 – ‘active’ meaning that users check in daily. More importantly, one out of every seven minutes spent online is spent on Facebook. What does this mean? It means that Facebook is the only website where your customers and potential customers visit often and for extended periods (23% of users check their feed more than five times a day4!). While company websites are important for providing information and enhancing credibility, they usually get few visits and little engagement. Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


1. Post Regularly – It is better to not have a Facebook presence at all, than one that is rarely updated. A hardly-updated Facebook page negatively influences the credibility of your company. So, how often is optimal? You want to ensure that your post is included in as many feeds as possible, but at the same time, it is very important not to bombard feeds with too many posts a day.

For Facebook, the optimal number of posts might be one to three times a day. Facebook has incorporated engagement metrics called Facebook Insights. Become very familiar with these. Facebook Insights allows you to monitor the success of a post. Vary post frequency, post timing and post types and pay attention to the metrics to establish what works best for you.

2. Time Your Posts – According to, the best times to post for Facebook is as follows: Best: Between 1-4p.m. Peak: Wednesdays at 3p.m. Worst: After 4p.m. and weekends

Though this information might be relevant, only you know what’s right for your business. Again, the best thing to do is to monitor your page’s engagement metrics. By keeping an eye on your page’s Insights you can learn when people like your page, reply to your posts and add their own posts and use this information to boost engagement.

3. How to Post – Consider the structure of a post: • Use pictures – A 2012 study5 shows users are most likely to engage with posts with pictures;


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

• Get to the Point - Posts between 100 and 250 characters see about 60% more likes, comments and shares than posts greater than 250 characters6; • Use post titles. 4. What to Post – Social media is not about the hard sell. It’s about building relationships and credibility. So ask questions, answer questions, provide helpful information, problem-solve. Limit the number of self-promotion posts and share posts and questions from your fans. Most of all – listen.

When you do undertake self-promotion, use testimonials from customers. Remember word-of-mouth is especially effective.

With each post you want to be mindful of your Edgerank. Edgerank is algorithm developed by Facebook to govern what is displayed on users news feed and how often it is displayed – increasing the opportunities to attract more fans. Edgerank is established by factors such as likes, comments and shares – i.e. the more likes, comments and shares, the more news feeds your post will appear in.

5. Value Your Fans – Your fans are valuable customers or potential customers. Give them exclusive access to content, products, events or discounts.

Bear in mind, 34% of users are motivated to like a company because of promotions and discounts. Another 21%, are motivated by contests and give-aways7. It is not necessary for service providers to give-away large expensive items. Offering a free service or a discount is effective.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


6. Mix it Up – There are a lot of options on Facebook so keep it interesting: • Ask questions; • Use fill-in-the-blanks; • Try a Facebook survey or a poll; • Host offers or events; • Add video. 7. Call to Action – What do you want users to do? Include a call to action. Some examples are: • like the page; • visit the website; • tell us in the comments; • click like if … This statement can be fitted to anything. For example, it can transform a negative post into a positive one to generate likes. “Click like if you believe everyone should have equal rights.” 8. Upgrade – Use Facebook Ads to target the right users and promote your posts to extend longevity and reach.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


TWITTER “Hashtags enable you or others to find other tweets on a specific topic and engage in a conversation.”

Twitter is referred to as a ‘microblogging’ service. Unlike Facebook, users messages are limited to 140 characters. These messages are known as ‘tweets’. Unlike Facebook as well, interaction with the platform is limited to tweeting, retweeting, photo uploading and direct messaging. While Twitter’s membership exceeds 554 million users, only 9.6 million of these are daily users (200 million are monthly users)8. A special feature of Twitter is the hashtag (#). A hashtag is a way of categorizing tweets based on a topic. Hashtags enable you or others to find tweets on a specific topic and engage in a conversation.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

1. Post Regularly - Similar to Facebook, tweet regularly but not too often. Vary the times you tweet to ensure that you reach more followers, but keep in mind the hours that are most effective for reaching your target audience

According to, the best times to tweet is as follows:

Best: Between 1-3 p.m. Peak: Monday - Thursday Worst: After 3 p.m. on Friday

Twitter is presently introducing an analytics feature to users which should be available shortly. The analytics tool will serve to better identify the ideal times to tweet. Presently, replies and retweets determine the success of a tweet.

2. Followers – Pick who you follow carefully to maximize on your twitter ‘return on investment’ and through twitter streams continue to find new, interesting and influential people to follow. 3. Hashtags – Use hashtags, but use hashtags wisely (see page31).

Tweets with one or two hashtags benefit from a 21% engagement increase over those with no hashtags9. However, there is a 17% decrease in engagement on tweets with more than two hashtags10.

4. Mix it Up – Compose your own tweets, retweet, try tweets with links and tweets without links. Remember to keep it interesting.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


5. Retweeting – Retweet users you hope to build a relationship with. Add your own thoughts to the retweet when character count permits.

Remember, a goal of using Twitter, or any social media platform is to build credibility, so while retweeting is an important element of the Twitter strategy, do not only retweet. Create content. Position yourself and your company as leaders in the field.

6. ‘Favorite’ Content – Each time you favorite someone else’s tweet they get a notification. This is a good way to get your name in front of someone. 7. Learn the Lingo – Twitter character limitations has resulted in many Twitter-specific abbreviations and acronyms. It is important to become familiar with these and to use them where appropriate: for example ‘RT’ – retweet, ‘MT’ – modified tweet, ‘DM’ – direct message and ‘#FF’ – follow Fridays. This helps build Twitter credibility. However, the endorsement of common Twitter acronyms should not be confused with an endorsement for text talk, which should always be avoided! 8. Be Now! – Twitter is about what’s happening now, so keep the Twitter app on your smart phone to engage anytime, anywhere. Do keep it focused on the areas related to your company. 9. Call to Action – A tweets retweet rate increases 12 times when you ask your followers to retweet it (it’s that easy!). 10. Auto-Direct Messages – These are impersonal. Instead connect one-to-one with a personalized direct message.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series



Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Don’t Do It! There are definitely actions to avoid on social media platforms. There are many examples of social media disasters that have had profound negative effects on the guilty companies.

1. Don’t Filter – It might happen that someone will post a negative review or tweet about your company. Never ignore it, but worse, never delete the negative comment.

A negative comment can be seen as an opportunity to show off your customer relations and problem solving skills. Negative comments also offer the opportunity to improve service and service delivery.

Acknowledge the comment, take time to understand the challenge, apologize and make your best effort to resolve the issue.

2. Avoid Personal Attacks – Instead of attacks against another company, brand or service, talk about the positive elements of your service offerings.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


3. Monologues – As stated before, social media is a conversation. Engage. Allow your followers to direct the conversation where possible. 4. Unfocused – Stick to your area of expertise. This is how to build credibility and attract followers. 5. Mixing Personal and Business – Personal and business accounts should always be kept separate. Customers are not interested in the fun you had over the weekend. 6. Measure Twice, Cut Once – An expression used by seamstresses - read your post over before it goes live, no post can ever be truly deleted. 7. Sharing Without Reason – If you come across an article or video from a third party website and you want to share it, explain its relevance.

Tell your followers why you found it interesting or how it relates to something you are doing in your business. Let them know why it’s worth their time.

8. Be Aware and Sensitive – Be aware of current events and be sensitive during difficult times. Never take advantage of a tragedy to bolster sales.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Hashtags Hashtags originated on Twitter, but have spread to Pinterest, Instagram and, as of June, 2013, Facebook. A hashtag is a pound sign (#), followed by a key word or short phrase, for example, #TradeInServices or #ServiceExporter. Hashtags identify topics. They serve to identify all other conversations on the platform on the same topic, thereby connecting users not otherwise connected. They can be used to organize posts, participate in conversations and increase reach.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


Given that all major social media platforms now use hashtags, it is imperative that we understand how to use them effectively for #MarketingSuccess. 1. Keep it Simple – Ideally, limit hashtags to one (no more than two) per post. Keep the hashtag straightforward and obvious. If you are the only person using the hashtag, then the purpose of the hashtag – to facilitate conversations – has been made irrelevant. 2. Do Your Research – Before choosing a hashtag, determine how it is currently being used. For example, if the hashtag is being used in a major marketing campaign, it may dilute the conversation you want to take place. Even worse, many serious marketing missteps have occurred through the misuse of a hashtag – using it to mean one thing, when the conversation on the topic was of a different angle. 3. Stay on Topic – The hashtag should reflect the main topic of your post, or relate back to your company. A trending, but irrelevant hashtag will negatively affect your credibility to a wide audience. 4. Target Your Audience – It’s a good idea to indicate who your tweets are intended for in the hashtag. For example, a good tweet for the CNSC audience might be #ServiceExportTips. 5. Motivate – Use a hashtag that prompts users to complete a sentence, share experiences or otherwise get involved in the conversation. 6. Promote – Make sure to include the hashtag in other marketing channels to encourage more people to take part in the conversation.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


More Social Media The top five social media platforms for businesses are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. Here’s a quick look at the three not covered above. LinkedIn LinkedIn is a social media networking site for businesses and professionals. With over 161 million members, LinkedIn is namely used for professional networking helping to connect businesses with other businesses (suppliers, service providers, colleagues, or like-minds). The purpose of LinkedIn is not necessarily to gain as many connections as possible, but to convert the connections into future recommendations by establishing credibility. Tip – Participate in discussions on LinkedIn groups to learn from other professionals in your industry and to showcase your own knowledge.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Pinterest It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words. Businesses use Pinterest to showcase their talents and offerings through images. Pinterest is most relevant to service providers whose expertise can be captured in an image, for example, fashion designers, photographers, graphic designers, architects, chefs, entertainers, fitness instructors, wellness practitioners and so forth. Tip – If there are many images on your website of your service offerings or products add a ‘Pin It’ button to make the images easy to share with the Pinterest community.

YouTube Video consumption is growing at an exponential rate and mainly via the YouTube platform. YouTube allows businesses to share video content that educates, informs or entertains. YouTube should not be used for ads (unless they are very creative or funny), but rather to teach your audience something new and establish expertise in an area. Tip – Create a branded YouTube channel and provide the content that your target market is looking for.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series



Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Conclusion Social media has fortified the strength of word of mouth marketing. Easy to use platforms, expansive networks and the increasing motivation to share experiences, means there is a great likelihood that your business is being discussed, whether or not you are participating in the discussion. The sensible thing to do is to take control of your social media presence and the reputation of your company and to harness the same power of social media to enhance your company image and strengthen relationships with clients and potential clients. Be forewarned, while social media can serve your company, it can also prove to be a huge detriment if not done correctly. Adopt social media. Embrace the above tips. Reap the rewards.

Please note, as the social media environment continues to change and develop, we will strive to edit this booklet in two years (2016) to remain up to date and relevant.

Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series


Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, 2012 Facebook 3 4 5 ROI Research Inc. 6 Best Practices for Page Publishing and by Vertical 7 8 9 10 1 2


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

This publication has been developed for the benefit of Caribbean service firms and all of the stakeholders who contribute to the development of the services sector in the region. Permission is granted for the reprinting of any material in this booklet, subject to due acknowledgement of the source. Several industry specialists and experts have contributed directly and indirectly to this series. Best practices have been incorporated where possible based on interviews with successful exporting firms, trade support institutions and/or international best practices. Several key documents were referenced, including publications developed by the International Trade Centre and the Government of Canada, as well as extensive internet research on the specific topics. We wish to acknowledge and thank the many contributors, as well as those who reviewed the material for content and accuracy. This publication was authored by Michelle Hustler, Consultant for Service Development – EPA Implementation Support Project, Deutsche Gesellschaft fßr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Serena Henson on behalf of the Caribbean Network of Service Coalitions and through the generous funding of GIZ. For more information see

With thanks to the Deutsche Gesellschaft f端r Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH for their continued support of the CNSC network.


Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Service Exporters Series

Strategies for Service Exporters Series: Social Media Marketing  
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