It’s Time for Social Media
February 16, 2010 - 10:09am

Residential Lighting: What is social media?

Debbie Weil: It’s the ability for people to interact online. They can talk to each other and exchange opinions on everything from politics to where to go on vacation. It’s not just words, but pictures, video and podcasts. Studies show that people trust other people more than they trust the media or advertising.

RL: Where do we start?

DW: Twitter is probably the easiest and most effective way to start. Put simply, Twitter is micro-blogging. You get 140 characters, about a sentence or two. It becomes like a blog with the most recent “tweet” at the top. For example, “Jack Smith, head designer, tweeting here.” People love that. Publish little updates.

RL: How do you get followers?

DW: By being interactive. Look around and see who’s talking about lighting — be it design, energy efficiency or cost, they’re talking about it. Use Twitter Search, or in Google Search type “lighting design Twitter.” Once you sign up for an account you have your own Twitter page, and then you can follow anyone you want. So, you might start by finding 10 people talking about things you’re interested in and follow them. You can write to them publicly. You put “@jacksmith” and respond to what he’s saying on Twitter, and he’ll notice.

RL: What would lighting showroom folks “tweet” about?

DW: Not just about the store or your products, but lighting design trends — or a story you read, say, in Architectural Digest, which you can link to. You should tie Twitter to your Web site by adding an icon and saying: “Follow us on Twitter.”

RL: What other options are available to social media beginners?

DW: I’m a huge fan of blogs. A blog is an interactive Web site, which means there’s a section on the site that’s updated frequently, usually every day, with news or a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going Customers can come and really get to know you. Two popular platforms are WordPress and TypePad. WordPress is free. TypePad has a small charge, but is better for non-techies.

RL: Do we need to both Twitter and a blog?

DW: You can put a lot more in a blog and be much more coherent with it. You can post pictures and link to pictures. With lighting, you have a lot of visual stuff, so you could post really cool photos of what’s new. If you’ve just come back from a buying market, you could post pictures. If you have a digital video camera, then interview interesting people for one minute each at the trade show. I recommend Flip Video. They’re affordable, easy-to-use models that have USB arm to plug directly into your computer. Just plug it in and upload the file to YouTube and, bingo, you’ve got a video you can plop right onto your blog.

RL: Will social media marketing really get results?

DW: Studies show that companies that are more engaged with their customers are making more money. So, you have to stop and ask: “Are we willing to listen to our customers, collaborate with them and treat them as peers? Are we willing to hear a little criticism? We only have so many on staff, but what if we tapped into a much bigger community for ideas, creativity and inspiration.” Ultimately, social media is really about doing business differently.

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