What I've Learned From Using Social Media for My Bail Business
Social media, followers, friends, likes, fans, tweets, posts…..the list of social “buzz words” is never ending but what does it all really boil down to? Over the years I have come to embrace the term social media. Initially, my opinion was that it was a waste of time and basically some internet jargon thrown around that businesses were in a frenzy to figure out how to capitalize on.
As time went on I began to open my eyes a little more and understand how businesses actually were gaining benefit from being active on social media particularly on Facebook and Google Plus. I started to post signs in my office for people to like my Facebook page and follow my business on Google Plus. I watched my friends and followers grow so I was pretty happy as one could be for being as skeptic as I was about social media.
The challenge, however, was how do I use the social channels to actually grow my business? I think this is the ultimate question for any business owner and I continue to see people struggle as they try to figure it out. There is also the challenge of who is going to be responsible for maintaining the pages and posting enticing content. There is only so much you can post about your office staff and what goes on inside your office each day. After watching other businesses’ social media pages including other bond offices, I concluded that social media is an opportunity for consumers to be heard, an outlet for entertainment and a way to remind people that my business is out there when the need arises.
I think one of the biggest opportunities for a bail bond business to use social media is using it as a place for people to be heard. I’m not talking about people posting to your bail bond page about what they ate for lunch. I’m referring to your reviews. Use your social media as an opportunity for people to tell others what their experience was like when working with your bail bond business. Not only can it stimulate business from other consumers but it can also help you with your search engine optimization. Google and the other search engines pay attention to consumer reviews. The benefit is two-fold:
- Consumers are now more than ever reading reviews before patronizing a business so to have many positive reviews may win you some new clients, and
- The search engines consider the number of reviews and owner responses to reviews when they rank a website in organic search. In the eyes of Google, the business with the most reviews and responses will get more attention. The attention from Google can help you rank better than your competition.
Growing Your Following
When I look back at how I was able to get people to like my bail bond social media pages I used a variety of tactics. Everything from a regular email campaign inviting people to follow me, handing out flyers at events, making it part of my discussion with people once I bonded them out, putting a call to action in my signature line of my email, having signage in my office and a presence on my website. It’s been a slow and “organic” growth, but I have not noticed my followers tapering off. There are of course other means to growing your social following, however, that can involve a hard cost such as buying Facebook ads. These can work if you wish to spend additional dollars to raise your following.
Posting Engaging Content
Once I had a following I experimented with using entertaining content as a way to keep people engaged and continue to follow my business, sprinkled in with lighter news makers that were relative to the criminal justice system. For example, posting content about the Florida man who was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for throwing an alligator into a Wendy’s restaurant drive-through window. That’s the stuff I have found keeps people engaged but is also relevant to the bail bond business. It’s the entertainment value of this post that makes it a success and keeps people engaged with my Facebook page. Other content I have had success with is talking about changes in laws when applicable to charges I bond for. This helps to show that I am a subject matter expert and my staff and I are paying attention to changes in the laws.
Leveraging Social Media with Video
Video has also been very successful. People want to be entertained. The videos don’t have to be very long. A ten second or more clip may be all that you need to increase follower engagement. Employing user generated content can also be an easy way to grow your followers. Do a contest on the best video of a local event. Have people email you their video clips, you load them to your page then people vote. Tie a prize to it or just give the winner bragging rights for the top video. Your followers will tell their friends to like your page so they can vote on the videos too. This is one idea to increase your followers. This concept also works well for a photo caption contest. Posting one photo a week and asking people to submit their captions can be a fun way to keep people engaged with your business.
I have learned it’s about frequency and how often you are out there “waving your hands in the air” so to speak. People don’t call a bail bondsman until they are in need. Keep “waving your hands in the air” and when the need arises you may be the first bondsman they call on.
Managing Social Media
One last point that comes along with creating engaging content is the question of “who?” Who is going to post this content and manage your social pages? Whether you are a one-man band or you have several people on your staff. Dedicating one or maybe two people to manage your social media will be most effective to ensuring your pages are monitored for reviews and interesting content continues to roll out frequently. If you are short staffed and you personally don’t want to deal with your social media consider outsourcing the management of your pages to an agency.
If you have not yet embraced using social media to extend your reach, I highly encourage you to do so in 2016. All age groups and demographics are using it so if your social pages are non-existent you may be missing some viable customers.
About the Author
Author, Joe Von Waldner is a second generation bail bondsmen. He was licensed a few months after turning 18 and has been an full time bail agent for 32 years. He has owned several bail agencies and managed dozens of agents throughout his career along with active participation in the multiple local bonding associations. His Clearwater, Florida bail bonds agency, 49th Street Bail Bonds, is active in the community and participates in the Pinellas County Adopt A Mile program.
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