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Facebook Influencers (Part 1)

Two drycleaning presidents talk Facebook, and getting beyond the clicks

CHICAGO — Are you on Facebook because somebody suggested your business should, “Have a presence?!”

Is that all you care to be? A place-holder in cyberspace? Or do you want to make your brand stand out, and turn it into an influencer in the realm of Facebook? There is a lot more to social media than just being there.

You can educate, bond with, and entertain people with your style, your goodwill, and your positive attitude. Really, you can!

Two separate drycleaning business presidents are going to share their first-hand knowledge, experience and views all about Facebook — what works and what doesn’t — for reaching your drycleaning customers and going beyond just counting ‘clicks.’

Here we go now getting.... beyond – the – clicks.... with our first company president....

“We have connected with other brands in the past, especially trying to grow our audiences off of each other. For example, we went on a lunch break to a local restaurant and we were able to advertise on our Facebook that we were enjoying nice lunch at XYZ in the hopes that they see it and engage with our posts. Then we are now visible to their audience with the goal of getting more eyes on our page and our content.”

That’s Dan LaCarte, president of the drycleaning division of his family business Model Cleaners, based in Charleroi, Pa. This family-owned business is run by him and his four brothers. It was first started by their father in 1986, and has expanded from one small location to 34 locations and diversified into LaCarte Enterprises, with five separate divisions that employ over 350 employees throughout Western Pennsylvania, Morgantown, West Virginia and Northeast Ohio.

Are there challenges and surprises you didn’ t expect using Facebook in new ways?

“There are always challenges with social media and trying to capture that ‘lighting in a bottle,’” LaCarte says. “Everything you post you want to go ‘viral’ or be the best content you put out, but sadly that isn’t the case. We make great content daily and sometimes it can fall on deaf ears, so I would say that is a challenge.

“You have to just keep creating content and telling your story. Something will stick, and when it does its a great feeling. Then, it’s right back to the same process.

“The thing with social media is that most of your content has an expiration date and it get buried with everything else, so you have to always be on top of it and posting content. This is where most brands fail. They just make social accounts because someone said, ‘You need to be on social media to succeed,’ but there is way more involved than just making an account,” LaCarte relates.

“We have been very fortunate that we do not see too many angry customers or bad reviews coming through our social outlets. One of the things we were worried about is having a disgruntled customer or ex-employee say mean things about us online. Being very social, as we are, it can make you very vulnerable,” he points out.

Can you share a memorable ‘lesson learned’ about interacting with customers and businesses on Facebook?

LaCarte explains: “There was one instance that we bought a child in need a Christmas present which was part of a ‘What do you want for Christmas’ social media campaign.

“We did a great job filming the process of us buying the child the gift and using our delivery truck to deliver the child the gift right before Christmas. We thought this video would really get good engagement but it did not.

“We learned that the video we made was too long, it was over three minutes, lesson learned was when we do a creative video it needs to be under two minutes or people will lose attention on it,” he says.

“Best engaging posts thus far have been our Employee Spotlights and the special events we do for our team, such as cookouts, Christmas parties and turkey’s on Thanksgiving.

“Also,” he adds, “our company has six different brands with Model Cleaners, Fussy Cleaners, Williamsburg Cleaners, Model Uniforms and Model Apparel, as well as Stoney’s beer.

“So we try to incorporate the ‘universe of brands’ like the Marvel Comics, so for instance, if we do a video about Model Cleaners pickup and delivery, in the background you may see Stoney’s beer somewhere in the video,” LaCarte notes, referencing a subtle co-brand tie-in.

What do your customers like about your Facebook page? What does your team like about it?

“From the customer level, we like Facebook because you can show customers our process, show them all that it takes to clean and press an item,” LaCarte relates.

“Educating the customer on how we actually get a ketchup stain out of a white blouse. Showing this will gain trust among our customer base to keep coming back to our operation and also this may get new customers in as well, and also showing the process in a creative and fun way is helpful to keep customers continually engaged with our process,” he says.

“From the employee level,” LaCarte continues, “we like Facebook because you can post Employee Spotlights and show your appreciation to them for what they do for us and our customers on a daily basis.”

Showing the company culture on Facebook is important as well to his business.

“We do nice things for our employees such as having Christmas parties, giving turkeys out to them for Thanksgiving, having cookouts, and showing this can in turn become a strong recruiting tool for us in attracting future employees for our operation,” he points out.

Lastly, What tips can you pass along to other drycleaning owners and presidents who may be thinking about doing more on Facebook? Help them get beyond the clicks.

“Create your company’s own personality. Be unique and creative. Do not live in a box,” LaCarte relates.

“Show your process in a fun and creative way. Once you start it, keep at it and your audience will grow. Also, use your database. In our database we have over 65,000 e-mails, and every quarter we do a Follow Us On Facebook Contest. This will help your social media following continue to grow.

“There are Facebook ads to push content to Instagram, story ads, campaigns, follow contests, you name it. I think one thing businesses aren’t using right now to the best of their ability is using Facebook to create rich and eye-catching Instagram ads to pull people in. You have very little time to catch someone’s attention and Instagram stories allow you to at least try to grab them quickly,” LaCarte recommends.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.