August 2011

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp

Social Media Pros and Cons

Marketing is the way we connect with others in order to build our business.

This is true whether we are employees, independent contractors or owners. If a business is not growing it is either shrinking or stagnating, neither of which are financially sound options.

In the past, we have used print media (newspapers, flyers or local magazines), direct mail (newsletters, thank you notes) coupons, phone calls and meeting attendance to become known in the community.

Now we are living in the age of the internet. It started with creating a web page that announced us to the world. Now, it has exploded into diverse forms of social media. These can be low cost or they can be very expensive. They can work well or be a financial bust. Let us look at the options out there and the up and down sides they may entail.

Facebook. To some it is a magic word, and it has totally changed the way people connect. We can set up a page for our business or market it on our personal page. However, if this venue is not handled carefully it can be a negative business influence.

I have seen business owners posting complaints on their Facebook accounts about how they "need" clients and literally beg for business. People are not attracted to someone who is desperate for clients. Likewise, if your clients are also your "friends," they will be privy to all of your comments. They will read when you are unhappy with a client as well as when you are delighted.

It is a double-edged sword. Also, consider how much you want your clients to know about what you do with your personal time. Do you really want them to know where you last partied, and what your latest travel destination was? How will this information affect your relationship with those clients? Will it make you closer to them, create subtle jealousy, or distract from your skill sets? It is worth careful consideration.

While we think of Facebook as free, it routinely offers paid marketing to members to enhance their visibility and to get one of those lovely positions at the top or off to the side of the pages. I know people who never click on these because they are afraid of viruses.

On the other side, these clicks are what the potential advertiser is hoping for and paying for. The fees are generally directly equivalent to the level of visibility generated. Therefore, the super deal may not be a real deal at all.

Google Adwords sounded like a magic solution to me. Then, I realized the tough learning curve involved and the many hours required to monitor, tweak and adjust to get the hoped for response. Now I am thinking the newly burgeoning firms that are paid to handle all of this for a business are a deal. The secret is that they must have a clear understanding of your business. It is like hiring a marketing firm for your spa that has no clue what a spa truly is – a misunderstanding in this relationship could be financially disastrous to a business.

In many cities, there are business pages that help people find specific types of businesses in a designated area. City Search is an example. However, this venue also requires maintenance. For best results you need to post specials, keep a blog going, get clients to post reviews and the list goes on.

Most recently, some of the phone books have gone to the internet and offer marketing in an effort to regain advertising dollars. Key factors include how frequently the information is updated so that the consumer finds new addresses, phone numbers and specials. Your friendly phone book may now offer both your business listing and an internet listing that will purportedly keep your ranking up in the search engines and facilitate clients finding you. As these are new, it will take time to get actual numbers to evaluate the success of these firms.

Twitter is another venue that allows businesses to fill last minute openings -- a good idea if your clients use Twitter. It will not help if your clients are not using it. The most common complaints I have heard about Twitter is a deluge of irrelevant information. Results are going to be very specific to the type of marketing it is used for and accurate tracking of responses.

Any or all of these venues may be beneficial, so the big challenge is determining exactly what the costs will be and how much time do you or your designated staff have to invest?. Is it wisher to do it yourself, or to find a vendor who will do it per your specifications on a fee basis?

The key to success will be clear communications between you and your provider so that they will be best prepared to make sure the results work for you. Yes, you can do all of this yourself, but it is time consuming and you must commit to it in order to ensure success. Likewise, if you choose an outside provider, you must evaluate their abilities and connection to the industry carefully.

Judith Culp, a CIDESCO Diplomat has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. A CPCP permanent makeup technician for over 18 years she served a 4-year term as a Director for the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, two years as their president. She is president of Culp Enterprises Inc. and CEO of NW Institute of Esthetics. Judy Culp is available for consulting. For more information visit www.estheticsnw.com.