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Published: Wednesday, 11/14/2012

Social media usage important for local businesses, expert advises

BY REBECCA CONKLIN KLEIBOEMER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rachel Johnson addresses talks about social media today to members of the Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce. Rachel Johnson addresses talks about social media today to members of the Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce.
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When the Perrysburg Area Chamber of Commerce gathers for monthly luncheons, members often are invited to give "30-second commercials" by standing in front of the group and touting their business.

Rachel Johnson, coordinator of institutional advancement for Perrysburg Schools, presented social media tools that would help them do that and more online.

"Especially for those of you who are running the show yourself," she said at the meeting today at Carranor Hunt and Polo Club in Perrysburg.

Ms. Johnson encouraged local businesses to engage in things such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ because the more of them that are connected, the easier it is for others to get started.

"I see it as something we need to do as a community," she said.

Debbie Priest, marketing manager for the Waterford at Levis Commons senior residences, said she kept up with personal friends on Facebook but wanted to learn more about how to utilize it for her business to connect with residents and their families.

"This is exactly what I needed," she said.

Ms. Johnson said she had empathy for those who may be feeling anxious about what to post or how to interact with the audience. She said she had the same concerns during the recent school levy campaign but overcame them by committing to communication and setting a strategy to keep the flow of information going.

She suggested a tool such as Hootsuite, which is free, to help organize efforts on different platforms -- ones that exist now and ones yet to come.

"Whatever the new thing that they invent next week that changes everything," she said.

Hootsuite allows a user to schedule social media posts, a plus on live platforms like Facebook, Ms. Johnson said.

Mike Dibling, of Dibling Floor Covering and Interiors in Maumee, which was recognized today as a new member of the Perrysburg chamber, said such a scheduling tool would be useful.

He maintains Facebook pages for his floor firm, the Maumee Uptown Business Association, and his personal account, as well as a Twitter account for baseball and softball leagues in Perrysburg. Consistency is an issue, he said.

"I go in streaks," Mr. Dibling said.

Ms. Johnson said knowing one's audience can help target a message and raise its effectiveness. Tools such as Facebook's Insights show demographics like who is following the posts or how far the market reach has grown.

There are 34,380 people on Facebook in Perrysburg's 43551 ZIP code, she said.

"This is a huge place to reach out and communicate," Ms. Johnson said.

There are even prime times throughout the day for the best likelihood that people will see a social media post, according to research, she said. Audiences peak throughout the day at 7 a.m., 5 p.m., and again at 11 p.m.

Once-a-week posting is a good beginning place for a commitment to social media, she said, and the best time to do that is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

She said she understood concerns about opening up one's business to online interaction that could yield undesirable comments. However, she said, in year and a half that she has been managing the school district's social media, she has had to remove only one comment and that was because it was a DJ selling services for graduation parties.

Even comments that are thought of as negative can be turned into positive opportunities, Ms. Johnson said.

"With every piece of criticism, there's a request too," she said.

She said that during the school levy campaign, someone posted a harsh question about funding. Through a series of responses from the school and other questions, that person ended up defending the campaign in the comment section on The Blade's Web site.

Ms. Johnson encouraged chamber members to look at the social media pages of other businesses like them and to look for best practices.

"It's OK to mimic what you like. ... That's totally fair game," she said.

She emphasized that the key was commitment to a social media strategy.

"It can be slow-starting but just keep trying," Ms. Johnson said.

Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at rconklin@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter @RebeccaConklinK



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