The Social Media Garden: 5 marketing lessons taken straight from the greenhouse

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Social Network JugglingThis probably comes as no surprise, but gardening can teach you a lot of things. It can teach you about patience, perseverance, ecology, pedology, and aesthetics…but it can also teach you how to be a great social media marketer. There are a lot of surprising similarities between horticulture and social culture. Here are 5 lessons your garden can teach you about social marketing:

1.    You have to have the right tools.

If you’re going to toil in the soil, you’d better have a trowel. And a few seed packets, and a watering can, and a good pair of gloves. You can’t grow flowers without the right tools, and you can’t grow your marketing strategies without them either. Before you plant your social seeds, make sure you have the right tools on hand to see the job through to the end. Gremln can help you with that; our message dashboard, analytics suite, statistics page, team management features, and compliance tools can help you nurture your social media campaigns from seed to bloom. Depending on your situation, you might need other tools as well, like budgetary support and dedication from your co-workers. Figure out what tools make the most sense for your social campaigns, and have them in order before you begin.

2.    Your garden needs constant attention.

You don’t just plant a seed, walk away from it for three months, and return to find it blossoming into a beautiful rose. You have to give it regular attention. You fertilize it, you water it, you keep it from being choked by weeds. You actively care for it almost every day. The same should be true of your marketing strategies. Social media moves at lightning speed. Changes happen all the time (if you’ve used Facebook for more than a month, you know that’s true), and fan and follower interaction can be instantaneous. In order to seize social opportunities and engage with your fans, you need to give your social networks a healthy amount of time and careful attention.

3.    Some strategies are annuals; some are perennials.

Some flowers come back year after year, and some are just single-bloom flashes in the earthy pan. Having a mix of both annuals and perennials can help make your garden a visual delight. Well, guess what! Your social media garden should have this mix as well.

Social perennials are tactics you can come back to again and again; year after year, or month after month, or week after week, like Craftsman Tools’ “Mystery Car Monday” Facebook game, where they post a picture of a different car every Monday and ask their Facebook fans to guess the year, make, and model. Perennial tactics make it possible to establish content calendars and plan ahead in your social marketing plan, and they also give your fans and followers reliable content to look forward to.

Social annuals, on the other hand, like annual flowers, bloom once, then disappear forever. Links to interesting articles, spontaneous customer interaction, breaking news, and topical content are all popular examples of social annuals. These posts give your social strategies a sense of immediacy and timeliness. This timeliness is one of the major benefits of using social media as a marketing tool, and it’s important that your fans and followers see that you understand this concept.

A good mix of perennials and annuals in your social garden shows that you have a solid grasp on how to use interactive digital platforms and will give your marketing strategies strength and vitality.

4.    Plan for pests.

Sometimes it seems like no matter what you do to protect your plants, you can’t stop them from getting ravaged by Japanese beetles, or dug up by rabbits, or decimated by weeds. It’s a simple fact of gardening; sooner or later, you’re just going to have to deal with pests.

Unfortunately, the same is true for social media. There will be times when people who are unhappy with your product or service will take to Twitter to vent their frustration. There will be days when every comment on your Facebook post is peppered with vulgarity. And every now and then, if the Fates are conspiring against you with uncanny vigor, someone will take great offense to one of your tweets and start a vocal (and viral) backlash against your company. Sometimes there’s just no way around it; you’re going to come under attack by pests.

But just like there are solutions for warding off bugs, animals, and weeds, there are ways to dissuade social media pests. Quick and attentive customer support will salve most Twitter frustrations. A polite public explanation of the content standards to which you hold your Facebook page and an alternative suggestion for negative comment forums will help rationalize why you deleted some fans’ vulgar comments. A prepared social media disaster recovery plan will help soothe the pain of mass public backlash.

You won’t always be able to ward off negativity about your social media strategies, but you can (and should) be prepared to handle it when it occurs.

5.    If you want to succeed, learn from the pros.

Something I’ve learned this year is that no matter how good my personal garden looks, it will always, always, always look like a somewhat colorful trash pile compared to Chicago’s Botanic Garden. The reasons for this are obvious, and they are many. The Botanic Garden has a huge budget that is solely dedicated to growing and cultivating hundreds of acres of extraordinary gardens. The organization has a gigantic staff and a massive group of volunteers. They have a team of expert horticulturists and landscape architects on hand to guide the gardens’ growth. They have equipment that I’ve never even dreamed of. In short, they have exponentially more resources dedicated to their gardens than I will ever be able to put toward mine, and I will never, ever be able to compete with that sort of scope.

But I can learn from them.

Every time my wife and I go to the Botanic Garden, we get new ideas for our own garden. Flower types, color schemes, plant rotations…we draw all kinds of inspiration from those professional gardeners. I am supremely confident that our garden will get better and better each year because of the ideas we draw from the pros. And even though we’ll never have a yard nearly as beautiful as the Botanic Garden, the professionals there inspire us to succeed on a much smaller scale that works for us.

This should be true of your social media strategies as well. It can be all too easy to look at some of the majorly successful companies in the social media marketing space and get discouraged. When Coca-Cola gets 31,000 likes on a Facebook post, it can really take the wind out of your 5-like sails. But remember that Coca-Cola is a multinational company that’s over 100 years old and has one of the biggest brands in the world. If you’re a small business, then Coca-Cola operates on a scale that is exponentially larger than yours. Don’t get discouraged by a comparison between your numbers and theirs; instead, pay attention to the tactics they use to get so many likes, and adapt them for your own social strategies.

The Bottom Line

Like gardening, crafting a successful social media strategy is hard work. It takes time, patience, and a dedication of resources. You have to nurture the seeds of your marketing success if you want them to blossom. The more you work at it, the better you’ll become, and though you’re bound to accidentally kill a few begonias along the way, if you persevere, you’ll end up with a colorful and rewarding garden full of life and spirit.

 

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