Social media: 66 tips and tools to grow your business

Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, like, SEM, poke, Tweet, fan, hashtag, SEO, Instagram, Google+, graph, feed – it’s easy to get lost in the world of social media and digital marketing. Whether you’re trying to get started in social media or just looking to do it better, it can be a daunting task.

In this special editorial package, we’ve got 66 key nuggets to help your business improve its customer service, increase sales and get the most out of social media. The first 35 are here, then be sure to click on the links below to see the rest.

1. You don’t have a choice
You can’t hide from social media. Think you don’t have a Google+ or Facebook page? Don’t be so sure – check it out and you’ll probably find a page already exists for your business. When someone searches for your company what do you want them to find – a page with your message and interaction with clients or a page with out-of-date contact info and complaints about your business?

2. Know your reputation
It’s pretty easy to find out what people are saying about your company. Do a simple Google search with your dealership name and the word “reviews.” After that, you can set up a Google alert with your company’s name so you can be notified when things are posted about your company. (Go to

3. Harness the power of review sites
Many business owners incorrectly assume that online review sites like Yelp! or Angie’s List can only hurt you. The key is to turn those to your advantage. Whether your customers are buying a boat or having a prop replaced, ask them to leave a review of you on Google+, Yelp!, etc.

Make it clear to them that you are hoping to earn their positive review from the beginning of the transaction. This not only encourages those good reviews, it reinforces your dedication in the eye of the client to giving good service.

4. Craft a social media policy
Social media is powerful in ways both good and bad. There are plenty of high-profile incidents where employees have hurt a company by what they say on social sites. Having a policy in place that governs behavior is important.

“If our employees are representing us or one of our stores, we definitely have a specific way we want them to engage with our customers,” said Abbey Heimensen, MarineMax’s communications manager.

5. Put away the sales pitch
The biggest mistake you can make on social media is trying to sell. It’s all about engagement – you need to have a conversation with your clients.

“Just shouting out a message … that’s going to cause them to unlike your page, take your content and delete it off of their newsfeed,” said Josh Chiles, CEO of social media firm Engaged! “Make sure when you post content that you ask them questions, engage them and get them involved.”

6. Don’t try to do too much
Your company doesn’t have to be everywhere – especially when starting out on social media.

“Pick one platform and manage it well,” said Lauren DeVlaming, senior engagement manager at Dominion Marine Media. “It’s better than taking on six platforms and managing them poorly.”

How do you know which platform to use? Read on …

7. Start with what you know best
One good way to get started is to use something with which people at your dealership are already familiar.

“It may end up not being one where you’re going to get a lot of traction with your clients, but it’s a good place to start because it’s something that you know,” said Carly Poole, marketing director for Buckeye Marine in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. “Dedicate someone who knows about your business, has an understanding of at least one kind of social media and then do it consistently.”

8. Why Facebook?
If you’re going to be on just one social network (not what we’d recommend, of course!), then Facebook is probably the one to be on for the simple reason that it has the largest user base – more than 1 billion users worldwide. Two-thirds of U.S. Internet users visit Facebook on a regular basis. In fact, one of every seven minutes spent online is spent on Facebook and 618 million people visit the site everyday.

That said …

9. Know your niche
Are you selling to a specialty audience? Are you trying to reach a certain demographic? For example, the wakeboard community is very active on Twitter, Chiles points out. Networks also tend to skew in certain directions with their membership.

10. Target women with Pinterest
Is the mom with 2.5 kids your target? Then Pinterest needs to be a part of your marketing plan. No other site skews as strongly female as Pinterest: 25 percent of female Internet users in the U.S. are on Pinterest. That’s five times the male population on the online pinboard. Pinterest users also tend to be well-educated and have higher incomes.

“Pinterest is the next frontier for many dealers, but it makes sense in our industry,” DeVlaming said. “People like looking at pretty pictures and we sell beautiful boats. Done and done.”

11. First-time & minority buyers on Twitter
Trying to reach younger buyers? Think about Twitter. The aforementioned wakeboarders are a good example of the younger, vibrant communities on Twitter. Twenty-seven percent of Internet users 18-29 are regular Twitter visitors, as are 16 percent of those 30-49. Twitter users are also more likely to be black or Hispanic.

12. Find men on Google+
Google+ is an outlier among the major social networks in that it is the only one with more male than female users. Nearly two-thirds of its members are male. However, many Google+ members are not particularly active and only have profiles in order to use other Google services such as YouTube, Gmail, etc. At this point, its value as a marketing tool is limited.

13. The SEO value of Google+
Despite its comparatively low value as a social networking tool, Google+ is very important as a way to make sure your company is found when potential customers search on Google. As a Google product, Google+ content results get prime placement in search results. At the very least, verify your business information and website on Google+ to boost your search engine optimization.

14. Have a plan
Like any outreach to customers, your social media efforts need to be planned. How often are you going to post? On what sites? Who is going to do it?

For example, Buckeye Marine uses a calendar to schedule all of its marketing efforts (including social media) and that calendar spells out when photos, contests and other promotions will be posted on Facebook, shared on Twitter, etc.

15. What’s the goal?
Part of the social media plan is setting goals. A good social media program is about more than marketing. It’s also about creating a community and offering another avenue for customers to contact you.

“The idea of social media is to personalize the brand,” said Gavan Hunt, vice president of sales and marketing at Cobalt Boats. “It’s another resource where people can see the passion that other people have for our brand. When they see it and share it, it becomes contagious.”

16. Be consistent
There’s nothing worse than a Facebook page or Twitter account that doesn’t get updated for weeks. Try to post at least a couple times a week. Remember, if you’re not posting, your clients aren’t seeing you.

“If you don’t have time to go in and do anything with them, you’re better off not being there at all,” Heimensen said. “No presence is better than lack of content.”

17. Think of “5 Questions”
Chiles recommends identifying the top five questions your customers are asking you today – then answer them in a blog, a post, a Tweet or a video.

“Then on a weekly basis, go back, and ask the next five questions,” Chiles said. “That’s a simple way to start figuring out what kind of content to create.”

18. Analyze the results
Once you start posting, see what generates the most interest. It’s easy to see what has been “Liked” on Facebook, re-tweeted or shared. That helps to shape future content.

“What are those conversations that have been most popular? What has been successful in the past?” said Dave Racine, vice president at Cramer-Krasselt, Evinrude’s social media agency.

19. Recycling is good
There’s nothing wrong with revisiting a popular topic. If a post on winterizing your engine, for example, gets good traffic, revise it and bring it back next year. Also don’t be afraid to share from others content that fits with your message (with proper attribution, of course.)

20. Respond to your fans
Most companies never respond to customer comments on social media. That’s a big mistake. Make sure you’re monitoring your various accounts so you know when somebody asks a question, posts a complaint, etc.

“If you just let it go, people will recognize that as you being complacent,” Poole said. “But if there’s negative feedback out there and you reach out to the person on that medium, people will look at that and say, ‘Hey, that business responded and is actually trying to solve the problem.’”

21. You can turn a negative into a positive
Paying attention can pay off, something that Cobalt recently experienced, Hunt said. A customer was disappointed because they didn’t receive a bottle of wine in a gift box as had been promised during the sales process. Cobalt’s social media team saw his post on the company’s Facebook page, passed it on to the regional sales manager and the dealer.

“The dealer called the guy and got him his box,” Hunt said. “It took about 15 minutes and the guy’s happy.”

It wasn’t a huge problem, but it was the kind of nagging little issue that can hurt how a customer feels about a brand if it’s not addressed.

22. Just one piece of the puzzle
Social media isn’t the end all and be all – it’s simply another tool in the marketing toolbox.

“It should just be an extension of what your strategy is anyway,” said Chris Berg, director of marketing at BRP Evinrude.

23. Don’t hide
It’s important to get the word out about your social media accounts to your existing clients. They’re going to be your best brand ambassadors. Make sure your social media accounts are listed on all your advertising, on your website, on truck signage, on direct mail pieces – if it’s going out to clients or potential clients, it’s got to be there.

24. Leveraging Facebook Graph Search
Facebook’s new Graph Search will make it even more important to engage with your customers – having them “like” your business page or mention the company in status updates, for instance. The search results focus on showing users the companies that their friends and family are fans of. With graph search it becomes more important than ever to have every part of the “about” section of your page completed and up to date with information such as location and brands carried, DeVlaming said.

25. Facebook’s new newsfeed
Facebook is rolling out a new newsfeed (basically, the default landing page for a Facebook user) that could drastically change the game for businesses on the site. With the new feed, users will have the option to choose from a number of different feeds as their default setting. One option is an “All Friends” feed. If a user chooses that, your business page information no longer shows up in the feed – unless one of their friends shares it.

“Up until now, the standard has been asking for a like, asking people to leave a comment,” Chiles said. “Now asking people to share is the most important. Sharing gets you into multiple feeds.”

We won’t know the full impact of the newsfeed change until we start to see some data about how users are choosing to use the new options, Chiles said.

26. Don’t just share links
One of the easiest things to do on social media is to put out a link to an article or item that you think your followers would be interested in, whether it’s from your site or another one. But don’t just post a link – tell people what it is, why you’re posting it and why they should engage with it.

27. Use photos – and tag them
Facebook posts that include a photo are much more likely to get read. With the new Graph Search and newsfeed, it’s even more important. The new feed design puts a greater emphasis on photos, including an “All Pictures” feed. When posting photos be sure to always tag them with your location and company name – this will also help them show up in Graph Search.

28. Targeted Facebook ads
Another way to show up when people are on Facebook is to pay for it. Facebook ads can be targeted with incredible detail and can be very effective. Want to reach users that are married, college graduates that enjoy camping, are fans of a certain boat brand, have kids and are between 35 and 40? That’s possible to do.

“That is how you reach a fresh, brand new audience that didn’t even know you existed,” Chiles said.

29. Develop a strong landing page
Whether it’s a targeted ad or a post or tweet designed to appeal to a certain demographic, you have to make sure you send them to a specific landing page. If the post is about your service department, don’t just send them to your homepage – send them to the exact page on your site that talks about your service department.

30. Give stuff away
One of the best ways to get your message shared is by running a contest or giveaway of some sort. That has been very successful for Buckeye Marine, drumming up attention by giving away small prizes like boat show tickets or gift certificates.

“It’s not anything of huge dollar value,” Poole said. “We still get tons of interaction, tons of friends talking about the contest.”

31. Keyword your YouTube videos
Videos can be another great method of reaching your potential buyers. Posting them on (Google-owned) YouTube also makes them more likely to show up on Google searches – if you use the right keywords.

“Make sure you have a good title that describes what the video is about, make sure you have the description filled out, you have the tags filled out,” Chiles said. “If you leave that information blank the likelihood of that video being discovered on a search … goes down dramatically.”

32. Make it easy to contact you
It’s one of the basics, but is an all-too-common mistake: Make sure your contact info is there on any YouTube videos you post, on your Facebook page, on your Twitter profile.

33. It’s not free
The important thing to remember is not to go into the social media world thinking of it as free marketing. Beyond the obvious like targeted ads on Facebook and Twitter, there are very real costs involved in time and resources. To do it right takes a commitment that does take away from other aspects of your business.

34. Take advantage of free advice
The good thing about social media is that there is plenty of free information out there that can help you improve. (Simply type “social media webinar” into Google and you’ll have enough to keep you watching until 2020.) We’ve also got more information on (see below), including links to other resources.

35. Use the tools
There are a wide variety of tools – many of them free – that can help you with your posting, making it easier to post across multiple platforms, schedule posts and the such. Programs like HootSuite, Tweetdeck and their ilk can make life easier. (See the sidebar 8 Tools to impress on social media more information.)

For more tips and tools, check out these articles:

15 Twitter accounts you should follow today

8 Marine industry companies that get it

8 Tools to impress on social media

Evinrude founds an (E)-Nation



  1. This is excellent advice on so many of the top social media topics! This editorial goes to show how many moving parts there really are to using social media for business. Good job Jonathan and the Boating Industry team.

  2. It’s interesting to watch how the use of social media has made it more difficult to become successful online. You have to be really competitive today if you want to succeed. I’ve recently come across an article about a guy called Lorne Marr who set up his business here in Canada and then decided to penetrate the online insurance market. In the end he was successful and now he runs a multimillion-dollar business. But it’s crazy that he managed to achieve this using only PPC and SEO. Do you think it would still be possible today?

    • Stephanie, you’re right. With all the different channels available to grab our attention, becoming an online success story is much harder. However, it’s still possible. The big difference today from 10 years ago; you need to be more strategic, be able to multitask, be a creative writer and use tools to help you.

      PPC and SEO have become Social Ads and Social SEO. But with social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, you can target your message to a very precise audience. Which gives you a big upper hand you didn’t have 10 years ago.

  3. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips Jonathan! I love how you broke this down.It’s so true and so helpful!This is a great blueprint on how to get started using social media for business. I will save this article and use it as a reference.

  4. Just to remind everyone, Tip #3 is what is for! We are a review site that caters to and is designed for the marine industry, and we offer programs and tools to help providers with their inbound marketing efforts.

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