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10 creative ways for tile and stone to shine on social media

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Our Coverings 2015 Speaker Blog Series continues with a guest post from Christine Whittemore, Chief Simplifier of Simple Marketing Now LLC, an inbound marketing strategy consultancy.

Can you imagine any products more visually inspiring than tile or stone? With colors that can be riotous and elegantly subtle, designs that defy Mother Nature, geometric shapes that excite the brain, textures that invite both eye and hand to get involved and all of which can be limitlessly combined into breathtaking patterns…Why not make tile and stone products shine for those looking to transform spaces with them? Make them come alive online with social media!
Why Bother With Social Media?
Because social media networks are where our customers spend time as they get ideas about transforming their spaces with tile and stone products. As Arpi Nalbandian from Tileometry states in Social Media: It’s Not All About You,  
“The tile and stone business is about visual inspiration and 80% of potential customers begin the buying process online.”
As they explore online, they will come across visual inspiration on social networks especially since online and social media content have become increasingly visual. (See How Visual is Your Online Customer Experience?)When it comes to tile and stone inspiration, Pinterest and Houzz frequently come up.
According to A Complete Guide to Visual Content,
“Content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without. This oft-cited visual content stat is evidence that visuals have been vital to online success for some time. The original study from content platform Skyword came out in 2011… [Our brain simply] processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text.”

(Image credit: https://blog.bufferapp.com/a-complete-guide-to-creating-awesome-visual-content – article “A Complete Guide to Visual Content” referenced above.)
How to Shine on Social Media: 10 Creative Ways
If you want to shine online and on social networks, you need to share consistently and regularly over time — just as you do in real life sharing stories about the new products you offer. The 10 recommendations below will help you develop a content strategy, so you don’t run out of content ideas and images and can consistently shine on social media.
#1 – Think of your core customer groups. What information is most important to them when they’re in the market for tile and stone? Are they looking for design inspiration ideas or installation recommendations? Where do they hang out online? The more you understand who you have in mind and what’s important to them, the better you’ll be able to share content that they value.
#2 – Develop those ideas into content buckets. Take what you know about your customers and create content categories or buckets. What’s valuable about creating content buckets is that you can start to organize your content ideas and plan out how to share them so you aren’t repetitive yet are relevant.
#3 – Do keyword research. Remember that your customers search for you online, using words – even for visual content. That means that you will need to use words to describe your images and those words need to make sense to the people searching. In other words, banish industry lingo! Look for relevant #hashtags, too, to associate with your content. You may notice different themes depending on the day of the week. Perhaps it’s #TileTuesday or #MosaicMonday; consider piggy-backing off of those themes.
#4 – Brainstorm how to visually capture/support your content buckets. Even in a word heavy format like a blog, you need images. Where will your images come from? Can you take your own installation and before and after images? Can your suppliers help you? Will customers share photos with you? Can you purchase images or access Creative Commons images? Plan ahead so you don’t run out of images.

As you gather your images, be sure to create meaningful file names for them. A file name like green-glass-tile.jpg is more descriptive than image-123.jpg. Keep in mind that different social networks have distinct image requirements. Houzz only accepts high-resolution images. Narrow, vertical images are best for Pinterest. (See Always Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes.)
#5 – Develop a style for your images. As you develop your content buckets, you may want to develop a style that becomes associated with your business. Perhaps it’s how the image is taken, the perspective you use, or the tool you use to edit your images (e.g., Canva can help to add creative flair).
#6 – Create and commit to a calendar. This will save you! A calendar forces you to plan out content ahead of time. It also allows you to integrate what else is happening in your business into your content. Your calendar should look several months ahead; it should also provide more detailed guidance for your daily or weekly content plan.
Consider using your content buckets as a way to parse out content – in many ways, as a publication would with ongoing series and regular segments. You may want to dedicate one day every week for installation or maintenance best practices, for example.  
#7 – Pick your social networks and decide how you will customize your content to suit the personality of each network. Multi-purposing content on different social networks is an effective way to get full value out of your content; it’s also a great way to reach different audiences. However, it can’t be exactly the same on each network. How will your content differ from one network to the other? How will the tone change? It’s ok to focus on just one network, too.
#8 – Identify fellow tile and stone peeps in social networks. Social networks are social and about interacting. Be on the lookout for others in the tile and stone industry who are active socially and support them. They will do the same for you. Look for relevant hashtags (e.g., #TileTuesday, #Coverings2015), look for relevant chats (e.g., #KBTribeChat, #InteriorDesignChat). Find out who’s active on those networks and band together. Experiment, learn and share.
#9 – Connect your social activity to real life. Social networks are the digital equivalent of ongoing networking events, town picnics and church events. Ask your customers where they hang out and find helpful information online. Ask them what they like. Invite them to be involved in what you’re doing. Highlight your social activity in your newsletters. Promote it on your website and in-store. Make it part of how you do business.

#10 – Keep the shine fresh! Have a plan of action for keeping your social and visual presence fresh – just as you keep your showroom up-to-date and welcoming. Check your social inboxes for new followers and mentions; acknowledge conversations, regularly interact and share fresh content. Monitor specific search terms and hashtags. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your fellow tile and stone social media enthusiasts!
How do you make your tile and stone ideas come to life? What creative ways have you embraced so you shine online and socially?
For more information on how you can leverage image-based social media platforms, please mark your Coverings 2015 agenda, and join Arpi Nalbandian from Tileometry and me as we present Image is Everything! How Houzz and Pinterest Steer Clients to Your Tile/Stone Business: A Case Study and Guide for Visual Online and Social Success. Our session is scheduled for April 15, 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM.
Learn more about my co-presenter in Tileometry’s Arpi Nalbandian Talks Social Networking for Business
Until then, you can connect with me via my website http://www.SimpleMarketingNow.com and my blogs:

Flooring The Consumer – http://www.simplemarketingnow.com/blog/flooring-the-consumer
Content Talks Business – http://www.simplemarketingnow.com/content-talks-business-blog
The Social Flooring Index – http://www.simplemarketingnow.com/blog/social-flooring-index-blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CBWhittemore
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SimpleMarketingNow
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/cbwhittemore
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/cbwhittemore/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Simplemarketingnow

Join Christine for her sessions, “Image is Everything! How Houzz and Pinterest Steer Clients to Your Tile/Stone Business: A Case Study and Guide for Visual Online And Social Success” on Wednesday, April 15 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM and “Social Media in the Stone Industry Forum” on Thursday, April 16 from at the Orange County Convention Center during Coverings 2015.
Click here to view the full list of Coverings 2015 conference sessions. Don’t miss this session register now for free to attend!