The title of the workshop was Relationships + Technology = Success! This was a TNLA Management Workshop held in Galveston, Texas January 15-16th, 2010, yes is does still exist post hurricane Ike and it was not too far from my house. Too bad it was January, cloudy, about 50 degrees for the high and let’s not forget the 20-25 mph winds. No surfing for me, not that I would on a good day, the creatures of the sea might get me!
I was happy to see this all come together as it had started as just a seed of an idea in a TNLA Educational Committee meeting. For me being a Gen Xer in this industry can really drive a person mad, if you are a Yer you must be full blown insane, as this industry is so slow to adapt to technology. Hey I am not the only person to think this, just read “Time to Change…My MANTS Epiphany” by Plants Nouveau’s President Angela Treadwell Palmer http://www.plantsnouveau.com/2010/01/10/mants-epiphany/ I am a fan of her page on Facebook so this is how I saw this posting, yes a person in the industry in Texas is reading what a person in Maryland is thinking, this is the magic of social media. I did comment on it as well, mentioning this very conference I was about to attend, more on that later. There are still people that tell me they don’t do computers. Really? Why????? How do you stay in touch with the world? You are not staying in touch with me if you only see me 2 times a year at a meeting. The people who choose not to adapt to technology will be left behind.
The up and coming customer is young and they use technology, including social media to communicate. To get new customers and to retain old customers we must speak their language, times are a changing and quickly! If you are using print media to get the word out, sorry, whether you like it or not print is going away, digital is faster and cheaper so if you are not digital you are already falling behind. For instance, if you do not have a Website, how will people find you? How many people actually use the Yellow pages anymore? Why, if you can just google it. If you do have a website the next step is to make sure that you are near the top when a person searches for key words related to your business. If you are a Houston retail garden center, make sure you are in the top results if somebody googles “Houston Retail Nursery”, for instance. If you are not, there are ways to get there, just do the research! I do not own any yellow pages books, they are just useless clutter in my opinion, btw I am not the only person who thinks this. Perhaps you are old school and think word of mouth will get customers to your business. This is true, it will, but this is a slow method and can take years to build clientele, this is like comparing snail mail to email. If you want to move things along faster I think social media is your answer, the new word of mouth if you will. Not only is it faster, the reach is a lot further! For example, you have a garden center, I go there, tell a few people, maybe they go there, tell a few people and so on. Now let’s fast forward to the age of social media. You have a garden center, I go there, I tell my 150 friends on facebook that it rocks, so the message is already getting to more people in the first step and even better, instantly. This can work against you as well, if a person has a bad experience they can spread the word via social media too, so be on your toes and make sure to please the customer! One way to see what people are saying about you is to use Google Alerts, just found this out at the conference from Terry Brock.
So I have set alerts for both Magnolia Gardens Nursery and April Herring. Already I am getting hits. For Magnolia Gardens I found the Houston Chronicle has used photos from our Website, hopefully they have asked somebody…not me! Also I got a hit on my name. Remember the MANTS Epiphany I commented on, well, leave it to Google Alerts to let me know Angela has written another blog article with my response! This is great, now I can be sure to tell her thank you in case I would have missed it otherwise. Now you can see what people are saying about you, good or bad, so you can respond, let technology work for you!
Now let’s talk about how a business can promote their product or service via social media. There are rules to follow if you want to be successful! You need to first focus on a few sites if you are new, Terry Brock says YouTube is the first thing you should do. I also think a blog should be first. So get some video to compliment what you are writing about in your blog. Consistency is key, if you are not active on your sites you will not be successful. Once you have content you can spread the word via Facebook and Twitter. Nobody wants to hear about you getting up to use the restroom but they would love to hear you have just posted a new blog article or a new video on YouTube on topics that are of interest. For me that usually involves new plants or something I am doing at the nursery. It is very important to be real on these sites. People want to know you are human. Damian Skinner mentioned that 80% of your post should be about your life while 20% can be about work. This way people get to know you as a person. You become more approachable especially when people feel they have common interests with you. So, no posts saying “Buy, Buy, Buy today only 50% off!!!!!” Instead, provide people with information, build relationships and the orders will come later once there is trust, just give it time. A good example of somebody that has done a good job of this is an Irish man I know by the name of Pat FitzGerald. Pat is just a good, honest nurseryman is Ireland that loves his new plants. He is truly genuine in what he says and people love to chat with him about all sorts of things and because of this he has built up a fan base he now has people all over the world talking about his plants. Black Adder, Tuxedo and Everillo to name a few…and yes I want some too! Wow, that rhymes, HA! This is one example of being real and how you can get social media to work for you. While at the conference I saw another very specific instance of social media working for a retail nursery. There is a nursery in California that sells plants online called Annie’s Annuals. There is a website in California that posts all sorts of information for us apartment dwellers who want to garden called Life On The Balcony. Annie’s Annuals sent Fern, the young lady who runs LOTB a box of veggies that they are trying out as a new product. I am not for certain but I believe these two have met via social media. Anyway Fern planted the veggies and wrote all about it. She has a ton of followers so this is a good way to spread the word of great product. I read some of the comments and people were asking if she had visited Annie’s Annuals, she said no. Another person said you must go visit because a visit to Annie’s Annuals is better than good sex. To me that is good advertisement for a company. All of this through the magic of social media, just remember the relationship comes first.