I'm very lucky that when I decided to go into business as a sole proprietor I had an early $5000 run in with the Yellow Pages and learned that marketing was going to cost something even if the phone didn't ring. It was the late 90's and the obvious answer was a website. About fifteen years later now and I still can get page one for any of the searches I really care about, and quite a few that I could care less about. Overall I see 2000 hits on 3 sites for a topic only searched for by about 500 people. Needless to say, that's pretty interesting.
Just a good site wasn't enough. I had to find a way to be unignorable! Better content and more of it was the plan for the phase one. I used my expertese and I wrote about my trade. I tried to write it out in a way that people could understand it and it didn't sound like a sales pitch. It was well recieved. Next was picture overload. I put up every project I could find and to this day about half the pictures you find in google or yahoo images is from one of my sites. Naming them with keywords and locations was crucial. Now we even have geotags built into pictures and numerous ways to place them if they don't have a location. Location driven search is certainly going to be the wave of the future as mobile devices and search engines get smarter.
When Facebook started to put out advertising marketing I tried a few ads for about two weeks and spent less than a couple of hundred dollars to determine that it wouldn't reach my target market and clientele. Apparently General Motors determined the same thing after spending 10 million. Who are these people and who listens to them? I suspect I could have saved them some money.
Twitter - When do I Tweet and does anyone but twits have time for this?
I have an inordinately high percentage of attorneys as clients. I suspect that's unheard of for a contractor but here's why. Attorneys do research. Lots of keywords and plenty of reading. They can't look for information about my trade without finding me because long keywords strings like "vinyl replacment windows dallas texas". That being said, attorneys don't have time to tweet if they're working. Twitter makes us real to some people sometimes, but it doesn't make us money. I use my twitter to track articles and pictures on the fly but not anything that I expect to get traction out of for marketing or business growth. It's a bit like my internet junk drawer. I can go find that silly article or that video of the cat that barks like a dog easily in here.
Google Plus - Better overall and you'll like it or we'll kill you and your family.
I once put a lot of pictures in Flicker, then myspace had it's business folder, my facebook page with 67 likes has about 5 pictures per like, but now Google Plus comes on the scene. Better layout, better look and even picture sharing has become something better done through Google Plus. Sharing a picture on Google plus gives you a location option that zooms right into the suburb or area you're working in. If I post an article about Replacement Windows in Richardson with a set of pictures that have geotags just houses down from my next potential client in Richardson, I have a good chance that Google will catch it and throw me in their direction.
Linkedin - Facebook for professionals, clients or contacts?
I'm a huge fan of Linkedin as it too has a huge potential client base. It's good to decide up front what your goals are in social media and here specifically as it will affect who you reach out to and what kinds of things you'll want to share and talk about. I use my linked in account to talk about small business more than home improvements and I suspect attorneys respect the professional attitude. Others might want people in their industry, me, not so much as prospects.
Hootsuite is my preferred tool for managing social output. Scheduling is the main reason. I've also noticed that some platforms are better for some tasks. My ipad is the winner for adding people on twitter as it's the fastest way to find and add good prospects. It's a good deal faster than a laptop or a smart phone.