Take this product and try selling it using social media -- go!
Almost without thinking, you’ve probably already figured out the first couple of elements that would allow you to take on this task. If the product is a physical object, you might photograph it, for instance. Next, you’d summarize the key features and write your social media copy accordingly. You might film a video using the product (or create something animated, if it was a digital product) that explained how it worked. Once all the content was ready, it’s simply a matter of sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, either with URLs pointing back to your site or simply creating an ad that could be amplified via paid social posts.
Now try and do the same thing with a service. Any service.
This time you might be more stumped, and with good reason. Services don’t consist of standard parts -- whether physical or even digital in the case of software applications -- that can be easily marketed in the same way to every potential customer. What you’re “selling” isn’t necessarily going to be based on a competitive price point alone. The end result of marketing services on social media also isn’t always as straightforward as getting someone to click on a link and taking them to the e-commerce section of your web site. Instead, services may require an initial consultation or assessment long before a new customer signs on.
These might all be reasons small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners shy away from using social media to promote the services they offer. Unless they have some obvious models to follow, the creativity required might seem difficult to develop. Social media, after all, is more than just a place where you push messages out. You have to be able to respond -- quickly, and with value -- to whatever questions or comments customers might bring up.
For that same reason, though, social media marketing for service offerings can’t be completely overlooked. People may choose to use those channels to talk about your services whether you actively promote them there or not. Better to recognize that at least a portion of your target audience is probably on such services already, and that you gain a significant advantage in leading the conversation. Start now, and the strategy may be far less onerous to pull off than you think:
Theoretically, one service offering could be exactly the same as another from a rival company in terms of cost, quality and other factors. Your marketing should help emphasize your firm’s differentiator, and that means putting the spotlight on the people who will deliver it. Social media is actually a great channel to do this.
Rather than waiting until customers sign on to meet key members of your team, for instance, think about some of the following tactics to introduce them:
No matter what kind of service you’re offering, your company is taking customers on some kind of journey, and they shouldn’t be in the dark as to what it will look, sound or feel like. Social media channels often have some great built-in features to help you put the customer experience front and centre.
Imagine you’re near the end of a service engagement with a client that culminates in a celebration of some kind, even if it’s just a boardroom meeting with snacks. Asking their permission in advance, capture a few seconds of the positive vibes on video and through still images. These can easily be uploaded onto Instagram Stories or Facebook Stories.
As you win over more happy customers, rethink the way you develop and publish case studies and testimonials. You can still publish them to a resource centre, but you can also take snippets of case studies and testimonials to highlight the positive experiences of your target audiences’ peers. This could include video that gets posted on a corporate YouTube channel, a quote that gets saved as an image and shared on Instagram, or a LinkedIn post that weaves a case study into a thought leadership-style article.
Don’t forget that the service experience also includes the way your organization behaves on social channels in real time. That means not bombarding people with posts, offering genuine answers to questions, being professional in how you deal with complaints and so on.
Services can range from deploying software across a large company to filing tax returns for other small businesses, but the value can often boil down to some near-universal areas of value. These include time savings, increased productivity, cost savings and so on.
What if those end results were products -- how might you represent them visually or in soundbyte-sized ways? Without being too generic, it’s not hard to develop visuals around the concept of saving time, for instance, especially if you can reference real customers and use their logos in the background. Productivity can be captured by a bar chart showing the average across your existing customers of how much your service has helped them focus on other priorities.
Once you have a few of these in place, make them easily shareable on social media by sizing them appropriately and encouraging any partners or other relevant stakeholders to promote on their own social channels in addition to your own.
In almost all of these examples, meanwhile, you can also make use of paid social promotion tools to boost your reach and end results.
As with everything else, it all comes down to the content you create and the way you bring that content to your audience. Fortunately, even when you’re selling services rather than products, those are a few elements that stay the same.