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How important is Facebook in the dive industry?

PADI facebook

Today PADI hit the impressive mark of gaining 1 million Facebook ‘Likes’.

This not to be sniffed at milestone is massively impressive for the scuba industry, and is now statistically the largest online scuba community in the world. In theory, it means every time PADI make a “post” onto their page, it will be seen by 1 million people. Not bad at all eh?

But what does this mean exactly? How useful are these large numbers? Should your dive business be getting much more Facebook attention? Is Facebook really that important?

The reality may be a little less impressive. Out of those 1 million fans, it is unknown how many will be active Facebook users, out of those it is unclear how many will actually follow the PADI page, as users can “unfollow” or hide a page – meaning they won’t see anything at all. From the number that remains, are they online at the time of the post? Will they see it when they log in next, or will it have moved down their wall and out of site? And out of those people, how many actually care? Are they avid divers, are they even divers at all? Or are they Facebook users that like pictures of clown fish, or want their friends to think they are scuba divers to help make them look cool?

Social media networks such as Facebook can be invaluable resources for companies large and small. And for PADI to reach 1 million Likes, even with the help of some careful advertising, is no small accomplishment. This base of fans will aid them with promoting scuba diving in general, as well as PADI specifically. It is an impressive amount. In comparison Scuba Schools International has just under 35,000 Likes, SDI/TDI has just under 45,000 and NAUI Worldwide has just over 5,000. In contrast; 7 million people “Like” cuddling, 3.5 million like Chuck Norris, and 75,000 people “Like” Adolph Hitler. So what’s in a number?

The value of social media is still up for discussion, often in the DIVER office. PADI’s 1 million Likes is huge. However the reach is vague. Who are these people, where are they and do they actually dive?

Is it better to reach 1 million vague Facebook users, or is it more valuable to reach a much smaller, but core group of users? This is one of the arguments at the centre of marketing and advertising companies around the globe. If you want reach, social media can be pivotal. If you want focus, print is still regarded king. If you want a mixture, a specific website could be a good bet. It depends on the company and the end goal.

Advertisers, scuba stores, magazines and most scuba industry professionals want to know they are reaching people that will invest in their company. 5,000 Likes may be more beneficial than 500,000. They could be more dedicated, actively purchasing your product and showing a vested interest. They may be active divers, regularly spending money on gear, trips and courses.  They may be more likely to read and respond to your posts or articles. A targeted few can sometimes have a greater positive impact than a larger, broader demographic.

In todays current digital climate it can be very easy to get wrapped up in large numbers. Admittedly, it is unlikely large social media numbers will ever have a negative effect on your business. But it’s not always quantity that matters. Quality, focus and knowing who you’re reaching can be equally as important.

If you don’t have the large numbers that your competitors do, or if you don’t have the money to reach these targets, worry not. Use what you have wisely, target specific people and over time, you’ll see your numbers grow and those will more than likely be people that are interested in what you’re selling.

Take a leaf out of PADI’s book, put some time, effort and even money into Facebook. Communicate to your existing customer base, whilst appealing to a new one. Promote a community, promote sharing, but try and focus on people that will help your business grow.

Some quick Facebook tips for your dive industry business:

  • Appoint someone from your business to be your social media guru – the younger the better, no one knows Facebook like a teenager! If you have no one willing, ask a trusted customer, in return for discounted goods or services.
  • Create a good profile picture, such as your company logo. Strong branding is important for your promotion.
  • Use your ‘Cover Photo’ well. Update it once a month or so. It can be a an attractive way of gaining attention. Use it to focus on an upcoming trip, special offer, course or point of interest. Create it specifically for that size and shape, rather than making a square picture fit into a rectangular space. Click here for images sizes.
  • Make sure your “About Us’ info is correct. Keep it short, with your name and web site URL in the first few words.
  • “Like” as many other scuba, ocean and diving related pages as you can. This will come in useful later.
  • Upload some pictures. Maybe of your shop, your charter, lodge, dives, social events… make sure the pictures are good. If you know a photographer, ask them to take the photos in return for a freebie. These pictures are your calling card, they will either make you look good, or they make you look unprofessional. Bad photos won’t do you well, get some good snaps.
  • Extend your brand. Make sure your Facebook page, website, business cards, logos, t-shirts – everything brand related is consistent, and professional. This is your public face, make it look good!
  • Post regularly, but not too regularly! What does that mean? You’ll have to be the judge of that, depending on your service and your intended audience. Multiple posts per day may just frustrate your users to the point where they unlike you, or hide you. One post every 2 or 3 days can be enough for most. This can increase during busy periods, such as the DEMA show or local events.
  • Post good content. No one wants to know what you’re having for breakfast. Make your posts valuable. Do you have a new product line in stock? Have you repainted your store? Make a post interesting to your customers. Is it something you would want to see yourself?
  • Post pictures. They do after all, paint a thousand words. Has someone just asked you to service a historic set of regs? Is your new product rolling off the production line? Take a photo and post it. Images grab people attention quicker and easier than text alone.
  • Share a video. But quality is important, there is a lot of bad video out there, so son’t share just any old footage, make sure it’s something of value to customers. This could be a professional promotional video, or a relevant YouTube video.
  • Promote discussion. Say something controversial. Get your Facebook followers commenting.
  • Get personal. Posted content should be relevant to your audience, but Facebook is also about personality. Be sure that your fellow Facebookers see your brand’s personality. You could post a staff profile once a month. You could share your “Head Instructor’s quote of the week”. Or it could just be a fun photo of your staff busy at work. Give your company a public face that people can identify with.
  • Run competitions. Hold a Photo of the Month comp, entries are posted into your wall, the one with the most ‘Likes’ wins a free mask, or air fill, or shirt, or just your admiration! Promote interaction.
  • Post content onto other pages. Remember those pages we said you should go and like? Now’s the time to make use of them. When you have something that’s really good and worthy of sharing, post it onto the wall of some of these pages. With a bit of luck they’ll like it and share to their followers. The more shares you get, the more people will be seeing your brand.
  • Post at the right time of day. Evenings are good. Lunchtimes too. Some say early morning. People tend to check Facebook when they’re eating breakfast and checking morning emails, or on their lunch break, or when they get home at night. Time well as bad timing can mean posts are lost and seen by only a few.
  • Post worth while information that provides a service. If you’re a dive shop or charter, provide a daily visibility report or tide table. Give people a reason to check your Facebook page each day. “Fish ID of the week” could be popular.
  • “Tag” people or other company pages. For instance if you are promoting a new line of SubGear products, make sure SubGear are tagged in the post. This will then show up on their page, and is more likely for them to share it.
  • Post a special offer. “10% off all purchases if you share this post”. Offers like this can create a flurry of sharable content for you, meaning you reach a lot of people in a short space of time, and hopefully give them incentive to visit or make a purchase.
  • Facebook promotions. You can pay Facebook to promote your page, or a single post. The cost of this depends completely on you. You can set aside just $20 a week or month. Or you can invest $200 a day. It’s completely up to you and is 100% customizable for your needs. Further more Facebook have made it very, very easy. Simply choose a post or page to promote, choose a geographic area, add in some key target words like “scuba”, and tell them how much you want to spend. Facebook will do the rest and your add will hit as many people within that budget. Even $30 per month can make a difference.

Set aside some time, and a little money for Facebook. It can be an incredibly cheap, easy and effective way of reaching a focussed group of people, or a larger, broader group. It can be used to promote your business to existing or new customers. But it is your public face, so tackle it well, not as an after thought. Include social networking in your business meetings, time plans and budgets. It’s their to help you communicate. And whether you’re the big cheese like PADI, or a small dive store with limited reach, Facebook can have an important use. There’s really no good reason not to be utilizing it in an effective manner.

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The Digital Diver column is written by Russell Clark; DIVER magazine Art Director, Multi Media Dude and Diver.  




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