Strategies for Service Exporters - Social Media Marketing
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SERVICE EXPORTERS SERIES
A PUBLICATION OF THE CARIBBEAN NETWORK
OF SERVICE COALITIONS (CNSC)
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“Social media isn’t something
that you “do”, instead you have
to “be” social.”
Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies]
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MARKETINGThe ways in which we communicate are rapidly
expanding and evolving. From the first mobile phone
in 1973, to the birth of the internet in the 80’s, to this
week’s introduction of the latest social networking
platform, time and space are no longer the barriers
they once were for transmitting messages.
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In fact, the internet has made it possible to do business almost anywhere in
the world, at any time, without leaving home.
This is great news, especially for service providers. The internet has not only
established new means of delivering services, but provides an incredible
marketing platform, that, when utilized with expertise, can put the smallest
companies on par with the largest when it comes to visibility, credibility and
This booklet aims to assist service providers of this new world in mastering one
of the most important communications and marketing channels – social media.
With dozens of existing platforms and new ones continually emerging, it is
impossible (and not strategic) to have an effective presence on them all,
therefore we will concentrate on the leaders of this social endemic - the top
networks for business; Facebook and Twitter. Also addressed is LinkedIn,
Pinterest and YouTube.
Despite the variance between the numerous platforms, many of the tips
noted below can be modified to suit whichever social media site - and there
are as many as 500 of them - you believe will most effectively reach your
We will examine how to maximize on these major social media platforms by
learning about the trends in social media, best practices and what to avoid.
For service providers, where communication is an especially critical element
of the service delivery process, social media should be an important
element of your company’s communication and marketing strategy - and
by focusing on the areas noted below, social media can be a successful
element as well!
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Despite the time and money spent on fancy magazine ads and funny
television commercials, it is well known in advertising circles that word-
of-mouth is the most persuasive factor in purchasing decisions. In fact,
92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and
70% trust online reviews1
Social media is the new world conduit for word-of-mouth marketing. 67%
of online adults use social media sites. In some Caribbean countries, as
many as 100% of online adults use Facebook2
“Social media is the new world conduit
for word-of-mouth marketing.”
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So, why social media marketing?
• First, it’s an inexpensive alternative to the more traditional marketing
campaigns such as newspaper, radio and television. (Social media,
however, should not replace all other marketing activities.);
• As noted above, word-of-mouth marketing conducted via social media
platforms is a highly convincing form of marketing;
• It has a wide, international reach;
• It offers the opportunity to collect feedback from clients and to
accordingly improve service offerings and delivery;
• It enhances credibility;
• It improves customer relations;
• And lastly, a thoughtful social media presence bolsters sales.
The truth is you can no longer opt out. Like it or not, your business is
probably being talked about on social media platforms. Given this fact,
it is better to take control of your company’s image by participating in
When writing the perfect post or tweet be mindful that what works on
Facebook will not work on Twitter. While each platform is unique, they
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Yes, social media is exciting but do not jump onto Facebook or Twitter just
yet. Planning is critical to social media success.
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Target specific audiences
Connect with professional communities
Use images to increase embedding of content in other sites
Use video to increase embedding of content in other sites
1. Research what platform(s) will be most relevant to your target markets
and your goals. Be mindful that the list below is highly abridged.
For example, an architect might use Houzz or Pinterest to connect;
whereas, a musician might rely on YouTube and Facebook and a
graphic designer on deviantArt.
2. What are your goals? If you don’t set goals, it will be impossible to
gauge the effectiveness of your social media efforts. Some common
social media goals include:
• Raising awareness of your company and service offerings;
• Improving search engine optimization;
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• Building customer loyalty;
• Increasing traffic to your website;
• Gathering intelligence, for example, on customer needs or
• Lowering marketing costs;
• Creating a new and relevant communication channel;
• Identifying opportunities or leads;
• Providing customer service;
• Building your network.
3. Know your audience. What is the age group of your target audience?
What is their social media adoption rate? Which social media
platforms can you find them on? Check out social media statistics for
your country or for your target market readily available online.
4. With your goals in mind, determine what kind of information you
should share that would be most relevant to the platform and the
audience. To do this effectively, listen to what is being said in social
media circles about your company. Consider how your sector and your
competition use social media.
5. Decide who will manage the social media platforms. Ideally this
person should understand the company well and but should also be
a strong writer. Building social media skills will be very important for
this resource. Invest in training or encourage online research.
6. Use your ‘company voice’. Include key words that are unique to your
company. Posts should reflect the core values of your company as
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7. While Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Pinterest/etc. are free to join, this
does not mean that they do not cost anything. In order to have an
effective presence, it is important to commit the time necessary for
posting, engaging in conversation, answering questions and solving
problems. This will amount to at least an hour a day – 22 hours a
month – and of course, time is money! Consider also, you may need
photos to enhance content (i.e. cost of photography and stock images).
8. Include all employees in the social media marketing plan.
Employees are your best brand advocates. Encourage them to
connect with the company on the social media platforms you have in
common and to share information about the company that they are
9. Make sure that your company has a social media policy in place
outlining what information can and cannot be shared. A well meaning
employee can damage a company’s reputation.
10. Measure the impact of your social media efforts.
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Do not begin engaging on social media platforms before ensuring that
your profiles are complete and compelling.
• Keep your personal and company accounts separate.
• Fill in all the blanks. While profile templates vary from platform
to platform, be sure that all the information requested has been
filled in. Profiles are prime real estate in your virtual world.
They provide a place to be creative and showcase your brand.
Maximize on this.
• Be sure all the basics are covered including company description,
hours of operation, website, email, phone number, address.
• Profile pictures are important. No matter the platform, engagement
increases with the use of a profile photo. For example, Twitter
profiles with a picture have 10 times more followers. Of course, you
should select a relevant and appropriate profile photo.
• Compose a thoughtful company description using important key
words. These profiles can be found by Google, increasing your
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your professional network lives here.
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When writing the perfect post or tweet, be mindful that what works
on Facebook will not work on Twitter, however, while each platform is
unique, they both do have commonalities:
1. Be interesting! Make users laugh. Make them feel. Be relevant
2. Use proper spelling and grammar. Text talk is never appropriate.
3. Be honest. Do not lie to users. Lies have a tendency to be found
out in cyberspace.
4. Be persistent and consistent. Post every day.
5. Do not post too many times a day. Bombarding feeds is the
quickest way of getting unliked or unfollowed.
6. Encourage interaction.
7. Engage minimally in the ‘hard-sell’ over social media. Try the
80/20 rule used by many social media experts. 80% social/20%
about the company.
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8. Respond. Leaving questions or comments unanswered sends a
message that you do not care.
9. Moderate. Delete spam or inappropriate posts but do not delete
negative comments. Instead show off your problem solving skills
by getting to the source of the negativity, apologizing and fixing it.
10. Do not automate your presence through RSS feeds or by
automatically sharing Facebook posts on Twitter (they may get cut
short) or tweets on Facebook (hashtags have not caught on yet).
11. Experiment. Social media is thoughtful trial and error. Monitor
the analytics, determine what works best, then do it again.
12. Have fun with it! This is not a business meeting or formal
presentation. It is social media. Be social!
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Facebook is a multi-purpose social networking platform. Users can
connect with ‘friends’, post notes, chat, share videos or pictures, play
games, participate in groups, plan events, promote a cause or a business
and much more.
Facebook boasts 1.1 billion users, including 618 million active users3
‘active’ meaning that users check in daily. More importantly, one out of
every seven minutes spent online is spent on Facebook. What does this
mean? It means that Facebook is the only website where your customers
and potential customers visit often and for extended periods (23% of users
check their feed more than five times a day4
!). While company websites
are important for providing information and enhancing credibility, they
usually get few visits and little engagement.
“Facebook is the only website where your
customers and potential customers visit often
and for extended periods...”
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1. Post Regularly – It is better to not have a Facebook presence at all,
than one that is rarely updated. A hardly-updated Facebook page
negatively influences the credibility of your company. So, how often
is optimal? You want to ensure that your post is included in as
many feeds as possible, but at the same time, it is very important
not to bombard feeds with too many posts a day.
For Facebook, the optimal number of posts might be one to three
times a day. Facebook has incorporated engagement metrics
called Facebook Insights. Become very familiar with these.
Facebook Insights allows you to monitor the success of a post.
Vary post frequency, post timing and post types and pay attention
to the metrics to establish what works best for you.
2. Time Your Posts – According to entrepreneur.com, the best times
to post for Facebook is as follows:
Best: Between 1-4p.m.
Peak: Wednesdays at 3p.m.
Worst: After 4p.m. and weekends
Though this information might be relevant, only you know what’s
right for your business. Again, the best thing to do is to monitor
your page’s engagement metrics. By keeping an eye on your page’s
Insights you can learn when people like your page, reply to your
posts and add their own posts and use this information to boost
3. How to Post – Consider the structure of a post:
• Use pictures – A 2012 study5
shows users are most likely to
engage with posts with pictures;
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• Get to the Point - Posts between 100 and 250 characters see
about 60% more likes, comments and shares than posts greater
than 250 characters6
• Use post titles.
4. What to Post – Social media is not about the hard sell. It’s about
building relationships and credibility. So ask questions, answer
questions, provide helpful information, problem-solve. Limit the
number of self-promotion posts and share posts and questions
from your fans. Most of all – listen.
When you do undertake self-promotion, use testimonials from
customers. Remember word-of-mouth is especially effective.
With each post you want to be mindful of your Edgerank. Edgerank
is algorithm developed by Facebook to govern what is displayed
on users news feed and how often it is displayed – increasing the
opportunities to attract more fans. Edgerank is established by
factors such as likes, comments and shares – i.e. the more likes,
comments and shares, the more news feeds your post will appear in.
5. Value Your Fans – Your fans are valuable customers or potential
customers. Give them exclusive access to content, products,
events or discounts.
Bear in mind, 34% of users are motivated to like a company
because of promotions and discounts. Another 21%, are motivated
by contests and give-aways7
. It is not necessary for service
providers to give-away large expensive items. Offering a free service
or a discount is effective.
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6. Mix it Up – There are a lot of options on Facebook so keep it
• Ask questions;
• Use fill-in-the-blanks;
• Try a Facebook survey or a poll;
• Host offers or events;
• Add video.
7. Call to Action – What do you want users to do? Include a call to
action. Some examples are:
• like the page;
• visit the website;
• tell us in the comments;
• click like if … This statement can be fitted to anything. For
example, it can transform a negative post into a positive one to
generate likes. “Click like if you believe everyone should have
8. Upgrade – Use Facebook Ads to target the right users and promote
your posts to extend longevity and reach.
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Twitter is referred to as a ‘microblogging’ service. Unlike Facebook, users
messages are limited to 140 characters. These messages are known as
‘tweets’. Unlike Facebook as well, interaction with the platform is limited
to tweeting, retweeting, photo uploading and direct messaging.
While Twitter’s membership exceeds 554 million users, only 9.6 million of
these are daily users (200 million are monthly users)8
A special feature of Twitter is the hashtag (#). A hashtag is a way of
categorizing tweets based on a topic. Hashtags enable you or others to
find tweets on a specific topic and engage in a conversation.
“Hashtags enable you or others to find other
tweets on a specific topic and engage in a
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1. Post Regularly - Similar to Facebook, tweet regularly but not too
often. Vary the times you tweet to ensure that you reach more
followers, but keep in mind the hours that are most effective for
reaching your target audience
According to entrepreneur.com, the best times to tweet is as
Best: Between 1-3 p.m.
Peak: Monday - Thursday
Worst: After 3 p.m. on Friday
Twitter is presently introducing an analytics feature to users which
should be available shortly. The analytics tool will serve to better
identify the ideal times to tweet. Presently, replies and retweets
determine the success of a tweet.
2. Followers – Pick who you follow carefully to maximize on your twitter
‘return on investment’ and through twitter streams continue to find
new, interesting and influential people to follow.
3. Hashtags – Use hashtags, but use hashtags wisely (see page31).
Tweets with one or two hashtags benefit from a 21% engagement
increase over those with no hashtags9
. However, there is a 17%
decrease in engagement on tweets with more than two hashtags10
4. Mix it Up – Compose your own tweets, retweet, try tweets with
links and tweets without links. Remember to keep it interesting.
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5. Retweeting – Retweet users you hope to build a relationship with.
Add your own thoughts to the retweet when character count permits.
Remember, a goal of using Twitter, or any social media platform is
to build credibility, so while retweeting is an important element of
the Twitter strategy, do not only retweet. Create content. Position
yourself and your company as leaders in the field.
6. ‘Favorite’ Content – Each time you favorite someone else’s tweet
they get a notification. This is a good way to get your name in front
7. Learn the Lingo – Twitter character limitations has resulted in
many Twitter-specific abbreviations and acronyms. It is important
to become familiar with these and to use them where appropriate:
for example ‘RT’ – retweet, ‘MT’ – modified tweet, ‘DM’ – direct
message and ‘#FF’ – follow Fridays. This helps build Twitter
credibility. However, the endorsement of common Twitter acronyms
should not be confused with an endorsement for text talk, which
should always be avoided!
8. Be Now! – Twitter is about what’s happening now, so keep the
Twitter app on your smart phone to engage anytime, anywhere. Do
keep it focused on the areas related to your company.
9. Call to Action – A tweets retweet rate increases 12 times when you
ask your followers to retweet it (it’s that easy!).
10. Auto-Direct Messages – These are impersonal. Instead connect
one-to-one with a personalized direct message.
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There are definitely actions to avoid on social media platforms. There are
many examples of social media disasters that have had profound negative
effects on the guilty companies.
Don’t Do It!
1. Don’t Filter – It might happen that someone will post a negative
review or tweet about your company. Never ignore it, but worse,
never delete the negative comment.
A negative comment can be seen as an opportunity to show off your
customer relations and problem solving skills. Negative comments
also offer the opportunity to improve service and service delivery.
Acknowledge the comment, take time to understand the challenge,
apologize and make your best effort to resolve the issue.
2. Avoid Personal Attacks – Instead of attacks against another
company, brand or service, talk about the positive elements of your
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3. Monologues – As stated before, social media is a conversation.
Engage. Allow your followers to direct the conversation where
4. Unfocused – Stick to your area of expertise. This is how to build
credibility and attract followers.
5. Mixing Personal and Business – Personal and business accounts
should always be kept separate. Customers are not interested in
the fun you had over the weekend.
6. Measure Twice, Cut Once – An expression used by seamstresses
- read your post over before it goes live, no post can ever be truly
7. Sharing Without Reason – If you come across an article or video
from a third party website and you want to share it, explain its
Tell your followers why you found it interesting or how it relates to
something you are doing in your business. Let them know why it’s
worth their time.
8. Be Aware and Sensitive – Be aware of current events and be
sensitive during difficult times. Never take advantage of a tragedy
to bolster sales.
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Hashtags originated on Twitter, but have spread to Pinterest, Instagram
and, as of June, 2013, Facebook.
A hashtag is a pound sign (#), followed by a key word or short phrase, for
example, #TradeInServices or #ServiceExporter.
Hashtags identify topics. They serve to identify all other conversations
on the platform on the same topic, thereby connecting users not
otherwise connected. They can be used to organize posts, participate in
conversations and increase reach.
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Given that all major social media platforms now use hashtags, it
is imperative that we understand how to use them effectively for
1. Keep it Simple – Ideally, limit hashtags to one (no more than two)
per post. Keep the hashtag straightforward and obvious. If you are
the only person using the hashtag, then the purpose of the hashtag
– to facilitate conversations – has been made irrelevant.
2. Do Your Research – Before choosing a hashtag, determine how it is
currently being used. For example, if the hashtag is being used in a
major marketing campaign, it may dilute the conversation you want
to take place. Even worse, many serious marketing missteps have
occurred through the misuse of a hashtag – using it to mean one
thing, when the conversation on the topic was of a different angle.
3. Stay on Topic – The hashtag should reflect the main topic of your
post, or relate back to your company. A trending, but irrelevant
hashtag will negatively affect your credibility to a wide audience.
4. Target Your Audience – It’s a good idea to indicate who your tweets
are intended for in the hashtag. For example, a good tweet for the
CNSC audience might be #ServiceExportTips.
5. Motivate – Use a hashtag that prompts users to complete a
sentence, share experiences or otherwise get involved in the
6. Promote – Make sure to include the hashtag in other marketing
channels to encourage more people to take part in the
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More Social Media
The top five social media platforms for businesses are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,
YouTube and Pinterest. Here’s a quick look at the three not covered above.
LinkedIn is a social media networking site for businesses
and professionals. With over 161 million members,
LinkedIn is namely used for professional networking -
helping to connect businesses with other businesses
(suppliers, service providers, colleagues, or like-minds).
The purpose of LinkedIn is not necessarily to gain
as many connections as possible, but to convert the
connections into future recommendations by establishing
Tip – Participate in discussions on LinkedIn groups to
learn from other professionals in your industry and to
showcase your own knowledge.
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It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words.
Businesses use Pinterest to showcase their talents and
offerings through images. Pinterest is most relevant to
service providers whose expertise can be captured in an
image, for example, fashion designers, photographers,
graphic designers, architects, chefs, entertainers, fitness
instructors, wellness practitioners and so forth.
Tip – If there are many images on your website of your
service offerings or products add a ‘Pin It’ button to make
the images easy to share with the Pinterest community.
Video consumption is growing at an exponential rate
and mainly via the YouTube platform. YouTube allows
businesses to share video content that educates, informs
or entertains. YouTube should not be used for ads (unless
they are very creative or funny), but rather to teach your
audience something new and establish expertise in an area.
Tip – Create a branded YouTube channel and provide the
content that your target market is looking for.
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Social media has fortified the strength of word of mouth marketing. Easy
to use platforms, expansive networks and the increasing motivation to
share experiences, means there is a great likelihood that your business is
being discussed, whether or not you are participating in the discussion.
The sensible thing to do is to take control of your social media presence
and the reputation of your company and to harness the same power
of social media to enhance your company image and strengthen
relationships with clients and potential clients.
Be forewarned, while social media can serve your company, it can also
prove to be a huge detriment if not done correctly.
Adopt social media. Embrace the above tips. Reap the rewards.
Please note, as the social media environment continues to change and develop, we will
strive to edit this booklet in two years (2016) to remain up to date and relevant.
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Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, 2012
ROI Research Inc.
Best Practices for Page Publishing and by Vertical
This publication has been developed for the benefit of Caribbean service firms and all of the
stakeholders who contribute to the development of the services sector in the region. Permission
is granted for the reprinting of any material in this booklet, subject to due acknowledgement of
Several industry specialists and experts have contributed directly and indirectly to this series.
Best practices have been incorporated where possible based on interviews with successful
exporting firms, trade support institutions and/or international best practices. Several key
documents were referenced, including publications developed by the International Trade Centre
and the Government of Canada, as well as extensive internet research on the specific topics.
We wish to acknowledge and thank the many contributors, as well as those who reviewed the
material for content and accuracy.
This publication was authored by Michelle Hustler, Consultant for Service Development – EPA
Implementation Support Project, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
and Serena Henson on behalf of the Caribbean Network of Service Coalitions and through the
generous funding of GIZ.
For more information see http://c-nsc.org.
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With thanks to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für
Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH for
their continued support of the CNSC network.