Canadian Rental Service

Social horizons

By Jim Chliboyko   

Features Business Intelligence

Your most regular customers probably never use social media. They are busy guys who spend their days on a job site or behind the wheel of a pickup truck and their evenings in front of the hockey game. Facebook, Twitter and the like are at best an occasional diversion, at worst, an annoying waste of time.

Reaching homeowners means reaching women

Your most regular customers probably never use social media. They are busy guys who spend their days on a job site or behind the wheel of a pickup truck and their evenings in front of the hockey game. Facebook, Twitter and the like are at best an occasional diversion, at worst, an annoying waste of time.

But look again at the first part. These are your regular customers. You don’t need to advertise to them – they already know about you. Your challenge as a business owner or manager is to find ways to reach out into new markets. Social media can help you reach demographics that may turn out to be even more important for the long-term success of your business than the people you reach today.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the social networking website Facebook, depending on how one measures it (it only really opened to the public in 2006). Facebook has come a long way, from being a distraction for a few Harvard kids, to what it is today: a distraction for tens of millions of people across the world.

While Twitter these days attracts a lot of the media’s attention – it’s apparently what all the kids are flocking to – we shouldn’t forget the impact and the engagement inspired by Facebook, arguably the granddaddy of successful social media sites (sorry, Friendster and MySpace). According to the Pew Research Centre’s Internet Project, 75 per cent of adults who are online use social media sites, with 89 per cent of adults 18 to 29 years of age being active in social media. And Pew adds that as of September 2013, 71 per cent of those online adults used Facebook, with 19 per cent of them using Twitter (as of January 2014), 22 per cent using LinkedIn, 21 per cent on Pinterest and 17 per cent using Instagram.


But it’s not just an American phenomenon. According to figures released last year, there are 19 million Canadians on Facebook – more than half the country – 14 million of which are active daily users. Also, 13 million of us are accessing the site off a mobile device. These numbers are higher than many global averages (per country). And across the globe, there are an estimated over 1.2 billion Facebook users, 750 million of which are believed to log on every day.

Analyzed by sex, according to the Print Management Bureau, in Canada “females are more likely than males to be Facebook users, with 74 per cent of females reporting that they used Facebook in the past month, compared with 66 per cent of males. Almost 60 per cent of professionals, and as many as 72 per cent of senior managers, used Facebook in the past month.”

And yet…

“The majority (of businesses) aren’t using social media to their full advantage,” said Chris Dabrowski, president of High Impact Public Relations. Dabrowski has some very simple advice for those who have delayed jumping into the metaphorical social media pool. “Embrace it and utilize the staff you have. You may have a small business of five to seven employees, for example. You may have someone on your staff that understands social media, although it may not be part of their job. If you aren’t familiar with social media, ask someone on the staff.”

Dabrowski encourages firms to use their employees’ talents, including what they know about social media. Essentially, you can keep it simple, but still have a presence. Dabrowski adds that many social media channels are free, though Facebook offers the option of paying for an ad campaign. “If you want to become more strategic, you can outsource,” he said. “But don’t use excuse that only young people use it. It’s an excuse that people have used in the past.”

In terms of specific channels, Dabrowski says, “Twitter’s more instantaneous. But they all serve a specific purpose. Facebook is, I think, most used across the globe. It’s more versatile. It’s really keeping track of people’s lives and historic events.”

Rick Moss uses social media – specifically, Facebook – to promote his own business. When talking to the owner of Kivik Equipment in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., for the October 2014 Canadian Rental Service profile “Back from Away,” he mentioned that he’d found targeted advertising on Facebook very useful, specifically since he’s located in central Newfoundland. Also, as many Newfoundlanders work out of the province, Facebook is a particularly important and well-used tool for keeping in touch with the folks back home.

“We have the habit of asking our customers, ‘How did you hear about us?,’” Moss says. Kivik, which is only 18 months old, is still in the early stages of brand-building. “We do radio and newspaper advertising, but we constantly get the answer, ‘Facebook.’ Facebook, by far, is the most efficient means of advertising.”

Moss mentioned that he also did find other, more traditional, methods of advertising useful but in terms of value for the dollar the Facebook option was the best, specifically for individuals who are shopping for consumables. (For getting commercial gigs or corporate customers, it’s still a matter of cold-calling, Moss says.) The authors of the Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising, Perry Marshall and Thomas Meloche, have even created an online quiz found at which judges how suited a given business is for Facebook advertising.

According to Marshall and Meloche in their book, there are four kinds of targeting one can do with Facebook: geographic, demographic, psychographic and sociographic. All those questions that Facebook has for you when you are opening your own account, and all the bits of personal information that you’re bugged about when you are on Facebook, have a purpose after all. Even doing something as mundane as “liking” a television show or product on Facebook will help marketers figure something out about you.

One of the best aspects of Facebook advertising is its ability to target potential customers and target them with some precision. For instance, you may want to get the attention of married people, ages 30-50, who own homes and live the area best served by your store. Or you may want to reach out to men of a certain age in your area who, say, like to watch HGTV and work in the trades. Or, for that matter, women in your area who watch HGTV and who work in the trades.

As for the types of groups he’d target on Facebook, Moss said, he might focus on central Newfoundlanders who had cottage properties. “The culture in Newfoundland is very cottage-oriented; these guys want excavators to bring to the cabin to do work on the weekend,” he said.

Some have found that Facebook is pretty successful when looking for potential customers by sex. “We also do some targeting of women customers,” said Moss. “We brought in pink work boots and pink hardhats, women’s safety coats. We push out products for women in trades, like gear from Moxie Trades) We often get comments like, ‘My wife saw that on Facebook.’”

But why target one sex over another, and why women? According to various statistics, women have the majority of purchasing power in their households, though the actual figure is notoriously slippery to capture. The figure of 80 per cent is often cited, though the Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy Blog took this figure to task a few years back, noting that whenever this claim was made, it was never backed up by actual sources or cited measurements. The Numbers Guy did cite one 2008 study which had the figure in the mid-1970s: the percentage of all household purchases and services for which women were responsible in the home.

Niki Koubourlis is the woman behind Bold Betties, a Denver-based start-up which primarily is looking to get women into the great outdoors, but also rents out outdoor equipment to women whose mudrooms are under-equipped. “With social media and PR, we’ve been really targeting women,” said Koubourlis, who also uses other social media sites for promotion, as well. “Our social media following is mostly females. We’re using Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. It’s an easy way to reach them.”

Facebook brings together many elements marketers consider valuable: great reach at low cost, an engaged audience and the ability to constantly change and update your message.

While Koubourlis’ ultimate goal is to have Pinterest become the main social media driver for her business, she’s relying on Facebook now. Hers is an event-heavy business, like Mountain Equipment Co-op or the Running Room, and that helps promote Bold Betties. It’s too early for her to pay for a Facebook ad campaign at this point, as they just started in August, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t use the site. “Our Facebook page is linked to our meet-up group. We announce meet-up groups on and that’s linked to our Facebook page,” said Koubourlis. “A lot of what we post are daily posts, or we let people know anytime we have a new blog entry. Or contests, also.”

“I think Facebook is still the most important one. For women of a certain age, over 30, they use it. Women under 30 use Twitter and Instagram. Instagram is the one that we’ve started lately and that’s had the fastest growth.”

Back in Newfoundland, Moss said he likes the way that Facebook runs things. “It is inexpensive. You run a campaign, pick a budget and it’ll tell you how much. If you spend $100, in my geography, that will probably give you 15,000 to 20,000 hits. And you can look at analytics after the fact, and gear towards likes or click-throughs.”

There’s no shortage of information available about Facebook’s advertising program. Simply go on the site (if you are not on Facebook at this point, consider investing a few hours getting familiar with it, even if you are just checking out business rivals or looking up old high-school friends) and look for the ads. They’re pretty subtle, but they’ll pop up anywhere, including the times when you want to get a better look at a photo. The photo will pop up in a new box and there’ll be an ad there, near the caption. On your own timeline page, assuming you’re looking at it on a desktop, the ads will often be on the right-hand side. There are two links hovering above the ads. One says “Sponsored” (which brings up an “About Facebook Ads” page) and the other says “Create Ad.” You can dive right in and start messing around with the settings before forking over your credit card information, just to see what comes up.

Of course, there are plenty of things to learn about Facebook advertising. One important thing to know about Facebook advertising is the difference between clicks and impressions. Every time an ad is shown on a Facebook page, it’s called an impression. That’s just referring to its appearance on the page; whether the ad is clicked on is another thing entirely. Facebook also supplies periodic reports: the statistics by which a company can tell how their Facebook campaign is doing.

PR guy Chris Dabrowski says there are some mistakes to watch out for when a company begins an online presence, whether one is dealing with Facebook or any other kind of social media site. One is, “not paying enough attention to it and giving the sites the attention they deserve.”

Most of all, you can use Facebook to simply get the word out. Says Dabrowski, “A lot of times people take their knowledge about their own business for granted. There’s a lot of info that doesn’t necessarily have to be fresh and exciting. There are things that they can refresh people’s knowledge about, re-introducing and re-communicating the way they do business or an award they won in the past. It keeps people informed and interested.”

Compared to your father’s rental store, your homeowner market is more female and more likely to look for products online before ever leaving the house. And that goes double for anyone under the age of 40. One of the great advantages of Facebook is you do not have to be an HTML coder to use it and set up an attractive online presence. Most of the work is done for you inside the standard template. Best of all, you have an opportunity to engage your customer one-on-one – just like at your store counter. You owe it to yourself and you business to give it a try.

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