We are often asked about social media and its applications for IT service providers. While social media is undoubtedly more important for consumer brands, it still plays a valuable albeit limited role for those trying to sell to businesses as well. Join eBridge’s Devin Rose and Jason Park for a discussion about how you can best utilize social media in your marketing mix.
Devin: Welcome everybody, to a webinar from eBridge Marketing Solutions and The Host Broker. My name is Devin Rose and I’m joined by Jason Park from eBridge and from The Host Broker as well and today we’re really pleased to bring you a webinar that is on a topic that we get asked about a lot at eBridge and that is – what is the role of social media for IT service providers?
So before we get into the presentation, I wanted to give you a little bit of information about The Host Broker and about eBridge Marketing Solutions. You might already be familiar with The Host Broker and my boss Hartland Ross. The Host Broker is a brokerage for MSPs, web hosts, and other IT service providers and we’ve been in business for over 15 years and if you’re interested in any help with either acquisitions for companies or interested in growing your customer base with or selling your own business, you can reach out through thehostbroker.com. We do have a free evaluation available and there is a mailing list of opportunities for companies to acquire that we distribute weekly.
eBridge Marketing Solutions is the marketing side of our business, serving mostly the same sort of companies MSPs, web hosts, and other IT service firms. We’ve been in business for over 20 years. So we really know this space, what works and what doesn’t, and we’re hoping to share some of that wisdom with you today in regards to social media. We do offer a full range of marketing services and if you’re interested, you can reach out through ebridgemarketingsolutions.com where we have some more information about our services there as well.
And joining me today is Jason Park from eBridge and Jason, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jason: Yeah for sure. I have about 15 years of web development and digital marketing experience. I’m always interested in anything also to do with pop culture in terms of movies and television. So that’s kind of like my hobby, and my other hobby is really…I love helping companies grow their brands and my philosophy is to incorporate data and design as well together.
Devin: Thanks, Jason. And so this really brings us into the presentation for today and in regard to the role of social media.
We’re starting off here with the slide that is asking what are the key differences between organic and paid social media, as that is an important dichotomy to understand. Jason, do you want to tell us a little bit about the key differences?
Jason: For sure. So organic social media refers to social media posts that appeal to people that follow you or have people discover you. So, that’s basically posts that are usually involved, not really any kind of commercial buying type of posts, it’s mostly talking about the company, the people, the culture, and just maybe even reposting newsworthy items across the net. Paid social media refers to ads that will appear on Facebook and Instagram, and basically, it has a clear call to action. The goal is to reach new people and to have people engage with your post, either click to your website or start a conversation.
Devin: Gotcha. So the organic is the non-pushy, non-commercial advertising to your existing client base and versus the paid where you’re paying to broadcast a message, and I think that’s a key distinction is that obviously when you’re paying to broadcast your message out there, it is more ROI return-focused whereas on the organic side, because it’s not so commercial and because you’re not really getting strong call to actions, you’re probably not going to be able to track the commercial results of those so sophisticatedly, especially for because of some of the changes we’ve seen recently, which we’ll talk about later on in the presentation about some privacy trends with advertising and mobile advertising. We’re definitely losing the ability to track long-term results, especially for things like organic. So any other thoughts on the differences between organic and paid, Jason?
Jason: Yeah. You can also think of it as a funnel. So organic is mostly appealing to your core audience or your followers and paid is kind of like further down the funnel where the goal is…if you’re paying for a post or on social media networks, it should have ideally an ROI aspect to it. So the organic is mostly for building awareness, for building your brand and the paid is mostly for asking for an action of some sort that you can track.
Devin: Gotcha. And it’s probably good to mention here too that there’s been quite a change in the years or with the social media algorithms. So back in the golden days of advertising on Facebook, you create your company profile, you start sending out messages organic messages on your wall, and people would see them if they were following you because the feed would be chronological whereas nowadays what you see in your feed is much determined by how much engagement your post makes. So if you make a post on Facebook organically and it doesn’t really get much engagement at the very beginning, it’s not going to be seen by a lot of people but if there is that initial inertia, the momentum, then it might be seen broader but the takeaway there is that generally speaking the algorithms have become more restrictive, made it more difficult to reach people because they want you to go for paid.
So that’s kind of the game that’s at play. Here the organic isn’t as effective as it used to be and they want you to pay for it instead.
Jason: That’s right and I think the term you’ll hear a lot is called “throttling the posts” or “throttling the views”. So yeah, ideally right now it’s turning into a more of a pay-per-play type of environment, especially for example if you have a thousand followers and people that like your page if you post organically, maybe less than one percent will see it unless you boost it.
Devin: Yeah, not very good, is it? That doesn’t make it as attractive to gain those followers as it used to be.
Jason: It’s a lot more difficult.
Devin: So most social media networks will have both the organic and the paid. In fact, I think they all do but which social media networks do you think are the most appropriate for IT service providers and perhaps we could walk through these one at a time here. So I was starting off of LinkedIn. How do you view the appropriateness of LinkedIn for IT service providers?
Jason: Sure. So, before we get into it, really the question is – where is your audience hanging out? So especially for MSPs, if they’re targeting upper management CFOs, most likely they will be around the age of at least 35 and up. So in terms of LinkedIn, it’s a much more professional environment where you can find people based on their title. So that’s a great place to start posting.
Devin: Yeah, for sure, and maybe we could contrast that with the next one and Facebook here where these days the audience on Facebook skews like probably too old.
Jason: Yeah, we’re finding that it’s doing older…Facebook will always have relevance just because of the huge audience that it carries but I would say LinkedIn can target a lot better and Facebook is just I guess slowly getting more and more irrelevant I would say.
Devin: Yeah, I would say so too. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon but I don’t really see it growing, I think it’s kind of peaked, especially with younger people, I mean teenagers these days, for instance, aren’t even on Facebook. So in terms of LinkedIn, you mentioned this already a little bit Jason but you can find people’s job titles on LinkedIn and one of the nice things about that is that people don’t usually lie about their contact information or their job information on LinkedIn. So if you are doing, let’s say lead generation on LinkedIn or something, you can be reasonably confident that the contact information you’re getting and all the other information is accurate whereas, on Facebook, you’re probably going to get some more fake profiles, fake names, stuff like that because people are a little bit scared about Facebook tracking them and stuff like that.
Yeah, and also just getting people in the right mindset. So I think that this is generalizing but I think when people are on Facebook at work their goal is to procrastinate, you’re not going on Facebook to get work done during the day, you’re getting a little mental break, right? So they’re not in the right mind frame to be reached on Facebook, which limits the appropriateness of tactics. I mean there are still some applications whereas on LinkedIn, people are going to be more in the purchase mindset.
Jason: Yeah, that totally makes sense.
Devin: Yeah, okay, and then on Twitter…Twitter is an interesting one for IT service providers. I think that used to be a little bit more popular but the problem is that people will use Twitter as a substitute for submitting support tickets. So it’s something you have to be aware of…it’s not really a good thing to be resolving support tickets in a public domain and people kind of like to go on Twitter just to complain to brands and try to kind of guilt trick them into giving them priority service or whatever. So that is kind of a fine line to walk with Twitter but it can still be good for maybe distributing if you’re like writing blogs and publish them regularly, you may as well publish them on Twitter too just because it helps get a little bit more eyeballs on them but yeah, what do you what are your thoughts, Jason, on the appropriateness of Twitter?
Jason: Yeah, I would say that if you have the resources to monitor Twitter, it’s great for a secondary level of customer service just because if people can’t reach your company by phone or by email and they’re frustrated, most likely they’ll vent on Twitter and so it’s good to have at least someone monitoring direct messages and seeing, and basically the strategy there is to use Twitter to respond back to these people and ask them to contact you directly or send or/and see if you can resolve their problems. So, if you do have the resources on your side in terms of staff, it may not be a bad idea to monitor your Twitter account and people tagging you.
Devin: Yeah, it’s a great point. I think the takeaway there for me is that you don’t want to have unresolved complaints on Twitter but if yeah, if you can come across like you’re addressing them and taking them seriously and professionally and you don’t have the resources to monitor it, then Twitter could be a good avenue as well.
And then there’s YouTube…so YouTube isn’t really thought of as a social media network like the others are but it is certainly evolving to be more in that direction as time goes on here and another thing to think about YouTube is that it’s not only a social network but it’s also a search engine. There are a lot of people doing search on YouTube every day trying to find videos and topics and that’s one thing…if like today we’re going to eat our own food here, where this webinar after we’re done is going to go on our YouTube channel we’re going to set up the proper channels, start chapters rather…so people searching for information about questions like it’s on the slide today can find it, so it’s more than just a video hub nowadays. It is a social media network and it is a search engine as well. What are your thoughts on the appropriateness of YouTube, Jason?
Jason: Yeah, so again if your company has the resources of creating videos and focusing on maybe even the educational aspect of your business, for example how to solve basic router problems, basic issues with connectivity for your network and things like that, it could be a great resource and when people look and seek solutions and they find your company, again, it could be a great branding exercise to say “Hey, these guys know what they’re doing. I trust them. What you said worked. I’ll remember you guys in the future for potential services.” So again, it’s kind of using the educational aspect, making videos that way to kind of dangle the carrot a little bit and again just to build awareness of your brand and that you’re out there in different channels
Devin: Yeah and building that credibility and also forgive me for using a buzz term here but like the “social proof” aspect of it we’re seeing someone face to face and as in your example of solving a route or issue or whatever hearing someone talk through that it is going to establish that social proof expertise. So yeah, YouTube is definitely a good option for IT service providers.
We still have TikTok here. So, Tiktok is a little bit of an outlier here and that obviously it’s a platform catering towards teenagers. So what’s the point of including TikTok on the slide today?
Well, the thing about TikTok is it’s kind of similar to Facebook where even though the audience isn’t perfect, it’s so popular that there are going to be decision-makers there. It’s so broadly popular, it’s not just teenagers who are using it, it’s a whole wide variety of people even though it skews towards teenagers and interestingly, very recently Tiktok came out with a new lead generation ad unit specifically trying to target B2B. I actually haven’t had a chance to experiment with it yet. If you’re interested in trying it out, give me a call. I would love to set up a campaign for you but it’s certainly interesting seeing a social network for teenagers offering B2B ad units. What are your thoughts on that, Jason?
Jason: Yeah, you can’t count to talk out in terms of the audience…it’s just exploded in the past year or so, and the variety of people that are on it. Again, I would say if you do want to reach your target market on TikTok, you can’t go wrong with going through the educational route in terms of content. So think about the type of content you want to post. Again, it could be inside jokes for IT people…you might have a massive following of people, and then again it’s great for brand building.
Devin: Yeah, for sure and it’s worth noting too that Tiktok’s advertising platform and capabilities are fairly rudimentary right now and it’s a good time to get in because I think there’s a trend where we’re already seeing they’re increasing their pricing for their advertising because it’s pretty effective and I think at the beginning they were offering quite a discount but anyway, it’s probably a good time to get on to talk because it’s I don’t anticipate it getting less competitive or cheaper. It’s probably going to get more competitive as time goes because I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
Then there’s Reddit there. So Reddit is an interesting one. I’m a big Redditer, been on there for like 10 years and I’m a supporter of the site. One thing I’m not a supporter of, though, is on the paid social media side of things. Their advertising is abysmal. I’ve tried many times for B2B. I’ve never gotten any results, no matter what I’ve done. So I really don’t view the appropriateness of Reddit to be on the paid side.
Having said that, on the organic side there is more opportunity, especially if you’re an MSP that is focused on a particular vertical. If there’s a vertical on Reddit that corresponds, sorry if there’s a subreddit that corresponds that vertical being involved in that conversation on Reddit. It is going to be big and it will get you leads and this is another one where we practice what we preach. We’re involved on Reddit in terms of MSP topics and I can tell you firsthand that it’s a very good lead generation activity. Just make sure that you focus on adding value, answering questions, and stuff because Redditers are very adverse to advertising. So it has to be a value-add sort of an activity but if you do have a community on there that’s worth reaching, it can be a good option.
Jason: For sure, and for all the social media networks, if you’re not familiar with them, I advise you to sign up and spend a few weeks just browsing the platform. Every channel has its own culture. So Reddit as you mentioned is very particular. They’re you know they’re a very different group than people that are on Facebook.
Devin: 100% agreed. And we’ve read…one thing that’s a major difference is that people are anonymous on Reddit generally speaking. So it’s a little bit weird as a business doing kind of lead generation activities to an anonymous audience but all I can say is that you can get real business connections on Reddit. I know because we’ve done it ourselves.
Okay, so we’ve touched on a little bit of this already but what role does organic play for IOT service providers and what are the main things that come to mind for you, Jason? And we talked about the reach into your existing client base. What are some other things that come to mind for you there?
Jason: Yeah, funny enough it kind of also involves building your reputation and credentials, really, because if a lot of people visit, if they do visit your social media, if they want to see when’s the last time you posted, right? So it kind of gives an idea of how active you are in terms of consumer response and things like that but in terms of organic, it’s a great way to distribute new content. Let’s say you have a new data server or something, it’s a great place to post that information where it’s more general than having a full-fledged blog post on your website. It’s also great for communication if there are more immediate needs in terms of…let’s say there’s network outages or any kind of other incidents to your network. So it’s a great way to get the word out there and have people reassure them that you’re on it and that you know that it exists rather than a static site and you know it’s harder to post information like that.
Devin: Totally agreed. Another thing that comes to mind for me is in terms of SEO, these social media networks have very strong domains. So they tend to show up very highly in search results. You can take advantage of that because your company profile is probably going to show up pretty prominently in Google results as well. So by having your Twitter profile, your Facebook profile, your LinkedIn profile optimized and filled out, it’s going to get your brand up there more in Google for relevant searches, especially for your branded searches which is nice and quite often these days are safe for Facebook, for instance, there’s reviews, company reviews and well quite often those are displayed in the search results as well. So it goes back to the idea of social proof. If you have an active Facebook account, you can get those reviews, you get that social proof.
Jason: And I have a little bit of an insider tip – if you notice when you do searches for companies you’ll notice their tweets come up pretty high organically. So if you have a Twitter account, I think there is an established relationship between Google and Twitter…for Google to post the latest tweets based on your keyword search, higher than other social networks…I think it’s still ongoing. So if you’re thinking of it, that’s another good reason for using Twitter as well. It could just give you more exposure on page one for people searching for your keyword on Google search.
Devin: For sure and putting yourself in the mindset of someone who’s like a new lead if they search your branded keywords and then they come up and the search that comes up is a LinkedIn account that has a couple of hundred followers there’s a Facebook account that has half dozen reviews and a four and a half star and an active Twitter account like it that all lends to credibility in a way that’s kind of hard to measure and hard to really narrow down exactly, like how much ROI that sort of stuff contributes but it undoubtedly plays a part invalidating your business’ credibility during that research phase.
Okay. And to contrast on the paid side of things, what type of ad units are the best for IT service providers. Jason, what comes to mind for you there?
Jason: So, a common type of ad unit from Facebook and Instagram…again, I’m going to refer to a funnel Facebook and Instagram are ideal for building awareness for your brand. So I would refer to that as the top of the funnel…so it’s also great for, sorry Facebook also has a great lead generation ad type where you can actually have a specific ad where you can input, where the user can put their information directly in Facebook, and Facebook will send you that lead generation information as well.
A third type of ad unit is retargeting because if you have the Facebook pixel installed on your website you can track people visiting your site and then retarget them later for a more of a call to action type ad afterwards. So that seems to be good…another ad type that you should consider using.
Devin: For sure. There’s a marketing cliche that comes to mind for me and it’s more about consumer marketing but I’ll say it here just to prove a point but the idea being that a customer needs to have seven interactions with your brand before they’ll complete a purchase. So, if you think about retargeting those terms, it allows you to re-engage with people who’ve already visited your website, already visited your Facebook account, and just getting a few more of those brown brand interactions to help move them through the funnel.
And we already kind of touched on the social media impact on SEO.
So let’s talk about the privacy trends impacting social media and this largely pertains to the IOS 14 updates that we saw. I think it was back in April. So this is very new, this is a current event and still kind of being sorted out I suppose but Jason what have you seen so far on the impacts of this new privacy legislation for IOS 14 on social media campaigns?
Jason: Yeah, so in a nutshell, the IOS 14 changes basically gives the user an option to opt-out of any kind of marketing based on the app that they’re using. If you notice, if you’ve gone into the app store, the Apple IOS app store, and looked at any app, you’ll see even more detailed privacy information in terms of what the app can see in terms of your information. So they’ve gone really, basically used more consumer-friendly in terms of having the user have the choice of opting in or out and this affects Facebook in a large way because their tracking ability and their retargeting ability actually is affected by this.
If people opt out they will be essentially flying blind in terms of tracking. Facebook is coming using different resources that they have to try to move around this but again, the accuracy is not as good as it was before IOS 14. So that’s one thing to be aware of.
Devin: And this is a trend I don’t see stopping anytime soon excuse me where I think we’ll see less and less transparency into attribution for marketing I think the trend is going to be towards consumer privacy over businesses ability to track and so we’ve already seen this with these recent changes, where it’s really only last click attribution that you can really do now with IOS 14. So, as before you might be able to get more data on like if someone clicked your Facebook ad but then converted a week later you’d be able to track that back to Facebook better but we’re losing that ability and I think that’s just going to accelerate going forward.
So, the takeaway for me is that I think we’re turning more into an older school marketing environment where we’re not going to be able to measure everything. So it’s going to be more important to just do the right things and have confidence that you’re doing the right things. We’ll get you the results and it is going to be to measure and optimize and tweak, kind of what we’ve developed over the last 10 years but it will be interesting to see how that all shapes out.
Jason: Yeah, in a nutshell, Facebook ads and Instagram ads will still have an effect, in terms of sales it’s just very difficult to figure out exactly which ad and again to attribute their actual platform into causing the sale. So it’s almost like in the future you’ll have to use maybe an omnichannel approach to get more visitors to your website. So Facebook Instagram, Google ads, all that combined hopefully will create a halo effect and drive sales, you just won’t be able to attribute exactly which one of those levers that you pull cause the conversion to happen
Devin: And what are some social media challenges that are facing IOT service providers in particular? So we talked a little bit about answering tickets on social media and how that can be less preferable than just answering them in your support ticket environment. Another one that comes to mind for me here is social media is largely visual and IT service providers don’t have a very visual product and certainly working in marketing in the space, you can only show so many pictures of surfer racks and things and that’s what a lot of companies rely on. Its server racks and it’s the cheesy photos of people, supporting people with their headset on who are typically very beautiful people, suspiciously so. Those sorts of things aren’t effective visuals and if you put yourself in the mindset of somebody who’s searching for maybe a few different MSPs and comparing them. If you have photos that are just reminiscent of your competitors’ photos, it’s not going to differentiate you or differentiate your brand. So that is a unique challenge. Jason, do you have any thoughts on how you might be able to mitigate that challenge?
Jason: Yeah again there’s two factors. Make sure you have someone that can dedicate some time to creating a content calendar, being able to schedule posts and planning ahead of time really helps because it can be very overwhelming in terms of what I say, when I say it, who I am talking to. So developing that as a strategy can really help break it down to minute week by week posts
Jason: Again, from a few slides ago is to go on each of the networks that you want to try out and just absorb some of the content and see if it’s something that you can do. You’ll notice different patterns depending on each channel and then you’ll find out what appeals to you and maybe you can incorporate that into your social media strategy
Devin: Yeah and see what competitors are doing to you right on those networks, right?
Jason: Yeah for sure.
Devin: And I like the advice of planning in the head because you know finding featured images for blogs or for social media posts can be quite time-consuming, it’s often an afterthought then if you’re scrambling at the last minute to get it done. It can take half an hour to find an appropriate photo for a blog. I’m going through them all. So yeah it’s good to get ahead of that and you’ll probably get better quality images and if you were just to do it last minute and kind of accept these pictures of the server rack or whatever and then are there any other challenges that come to mind for IT service providers?
Jason: I would say just getting started and being consistent…that’s one of the main problems when other companies start social media, they may post once a month or even once a year. I’ve seen some…so make sure you do have dedicated resources and dedicated time because it is very time-consuming to continue but people like to see consistency if they see you posting on a specific date and time if you keep it up, eventually, you know it again it’ll build credibility and it’ll show that your company is very responsive. So that could be the edge between you and a competitor.
Devin: I totally agree.
The role of social media for most IT service providers is…
So in summary and no the question we were wanting to ask today is what is the role of social media for IT service providers and on the organic side of things generally speaking because it’s going to vary but generally speaking for MSPs and organic side of things, you should be thinking about sharing the content that you’re producing which will be going to your existing contacts you should be thinking about the SEO benefits as it pertains to reviews to having your cust you social media profiles show up in search results and also backlinks as well, and also to communicate in the event of network outages or security incidents, social media is a good way to reach your existing customers.
Then on the paid social media side of things, it’s a very good tool to share your content more broadly so, beyond your existing leads and customers and followers, it’s a good tool to generate brand awareness at the top of the funnel to get known in your local community or whatever market you’re going after. There are some good lead generation ads on Facebook and LinkedIn and more recently TikTok that are worth exploring and also to retarget to your existing contacts who visited your profiles or your website to re-engage with them and to be at the top of mind with them.
So with that, thank you very much, everybody for listening today to our presentation and we will pause here to see if there’s any questions from the audience.
Alright. Do you see any questions there? Jason, I don’t.
Jason: Not in the chat.
Devin: Okay. Alrighty. Well, again thanks everyone for joining.
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Jason: See you next time.