August 9-11, 2022 | Wisconsin Center | Milwaukee, WI

Getting the Most Out of Your Social Media Accounts

There are over four billion social media users in the world. To put that number into perspective, there are only 7.38 billion human beings in existence at this moment. That means that over half of everybody on the planet uses social media. We all know a social media presence is necessary for any business, but there’s more to it than just having a profile on Facebook or Instagram that you update when you remember it’s there. Getting started on social media, gaining a following, and reaping the rewards seems like a daunting, time-consuming task, but with a little forethought and dedication, it can be a rewarding experience.

There are over four billion social media users in the world. To put that number into perspective, there are only 7.38 billion human beings in existence at this moment. That means that over half of everybody on the planet uses social media.

We all know a social media presence is necessary for any business, but there’s more to it than just having a profile on Facebook or Instagram that you update when you remember it’s there. Getting started on social media, gaining a following, and reaping the rewards seems like a daunting, time-consuming task, but with a little forethought and dedication, it can be a rewarding experience.

Choosing a Platform…or Two
The first step to getting the most out of social media is, of course, being on social media. But with so many platforms to choose from, how do you choose the right one? You’ll want a presence on more than one, but you don’t have to sign up for every one. Stick to the ones you are familiar with or the ones that interest you. Already know your way around Facebook? Start a business profile there. Like to tweet and reply, and have a good understanding of the way the platform works? Go with Twitter.

Garden centers, however, are full of beautiful things to look at, so an account on a more visual platform, like Instagram, should be every garden center’s priority. If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, try sharing your expertise in Instagram videos and stories, YouTube videos, or even on TikTok, especially if you are interested in attracting a younger demographic. It’s important not to overwhelm yourself, though. There are only so many hours in a day to spend on social media, so don’t feel like you need to be on every single platform.

Once you’ve chosen two or three platforms to focus on, make sure you have a clear, consistent brand image across all channels. Use the same profile picture or icon, the same logo, and the same banner image everywhere. Just as importantly, make sure your voice is consistent on all platforms.

It’s also important to stay on top of changes to the social media landscape. It was all about Facebook five years ago, but changes to their engagement algorithms, negative press, changing perceptions, and the browsing habits and preferences of different demographics have pushed younger users away from the platform and toward Instagram (owned by Facebook, ironically) and Snapchat. In recent years, TikTok has replaced Snapchat as the social media platform of choice for short videos.

Now That I’m Here, What Do I Post?
Social media is free advertising, but it has to be more than just advertising to be of any use to anybody. When planning a social media strategy, think about your own use of social media. What kind of accounts do you follow? Who are your favorite brands and businesses on the platforms of your choice? Do you follow accounts that just post about their products and promotions, or do you follow accounts that post beautiful pictures, offer helpful advice, interact with followers, and make fun comments in a unique voice? Knowing what you like will help you determine what kind of content to post.

An owner of a garden center has a knowledge base and a set of skills that are in demand among a certain segment of social media users. The best way to gain a following and draw customers to your business is to be an expert, a mentor, and even a friend to your followers. People want to know how to care for their houseplants, when to plant their tomatoes, which herbs they can grow in their kitchen. Making short videos for Instagram and TikTok is the easiest way to share this knowledge, put yourself out there as an expert, raise awareness of your business, and ultimately win new customers.

But it’s not enough to just post. You have to post frequently and regularly. @houseplantclub on Instagram, an account with a million followers, posts almost every day. Their photos come from followers, who are then tagged in the caption. Gardening influencer @bigcitygardener also posts almost daily, and his account also provides a good example for engaging with followers. Beyond pretty pictures of plants and veggies, you’ll find informative graphics, instructional videos, and questions that get followers engaged and build relationships. These are not garden center accounts, but they do demonstrate how social media should be used: build a rapport with followers; that rapport becomes a community, which builds your credibility; that credibility raises awareness, builds trust, and drives followers to your business.

Planning and Dedication
All of this sounds like a lot of effort for something that probably won’t reap immediate rewards. It’s easy to waste hours of your day on social media as a user, and the same holds true for creators. It’s vital for already busy business owners to find ways to save time.

This can be done by taking some time at the outset to plan a strategy. Think thematically: you can brainstorm a number of posts for each season, and you can take a cue from the examples above to separate your posts into pictures of products, instructional videos, and informative graphics. If you post five times a week, you could post three pictures, one video (1 to 5 minutes in length), and one graphic. It could take you as little as a one hour out of one day to plan a week’s worth of content.

Think about what you hope each post will accomplish. Are you raising awareness of your business? Creating demand for your products? Persuading customers to choose your garden center over another? When you’re looking at coming up with 20-30 posts every month, breaking it down into categories can help save a lot of time. Finally, once you have all your content, it’s time to schedule it. You can use a scheduler like Hootsuite to schedule content for all of your accounts in one place.

Growing a Profile
When you plant a seed, you can’t see that seedling working its way to the surface. But you give it the right soil, the right environmental conditions, and the right amount of water, and you trust in your ability to make it grow. It’s the same with a social media profile. If you make a plan and tend to it regularly, you will see it bear fruit eventually.

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