How to Build a Social Media Following for Your Water Lab

Does your water testing lab have a solid social media following? Social media may have started as a way for young people to keep in touch with their peers, but it has evolved into one of the most effective means for businesses to reach new and existing customers.

Why Social Media Matters for Water Testing Labs

Social media is so prevalent that if your lab doesn't have a strong presence online, you're missing out on golden opportunities to reach more customers. Furthermore, social media is part of your lab's reputation. You can't always have face-to-face interactions with customers, but you can build relationships online by responding to their comments on your posts, noticing who "likes" your content, and demonstrating thought leadership by sharing valuable insights on water testing trends.

Decades ago, water labs might have reached people by paying for advertising in local newspapers. Today, labs can reach customers with strong websites, search engine optimization, and social media strategies. The widespread use of social media likely includes many of your lab's current customers and potential customers.

According to Pew Research:

  • Today, 72% of Americans use social media (a dramatic increase from 5% in 2005).
  • Most adults use social media (ranging from 45% of the oldest adults to 84% of the youngest adults).
  • 77% of college graduates use social media.

The benefits of social media include: boosting your lab's brand recognition, keeping your customers engaged, communicating with a broad audience, networking with other scientists, and staying at the top of your customers' minds. Given these compelling benefits, it's clear why social media should be an important part of your lab's marketing plan.

Social Media Following Tips for Water Labs

There are many aspects of social media strategy, such as considering what to share and when, but none of these details matter if nobody sees your content. You don't just want friends and family to see your lab's posts — you want to capture and keep the attention of your customers and prospective customers. Here are five tips to help you enhance your social media following:

1. Consider the Platform

Social media trends are constantly changing, especially among younger audiences. But you don't need everyone in the world to follow your water lab. You need people like local homeowners, recreational water managers, government agency employees, facility managers, and agricultural professionals. Think about your current customers — find out which social media platforms they're likely to use and which platforms are realistic for your marketing resources. For example, Pew Research reports that YouTube and Facebook are the most widely-used platforms, but sharing interesting articles about water research on FaceBook is easier than creating a video series on YouTube.

One of the best approaches is to start with a few platforms at first and then analyze their performances over time. If in six months you only gain a few followers on Twitter but many local facility managers follow your lab on LinkedIn, it's okay to shift your focus and reset your strategy.

2. Hold Contests

Contests are a great way to boost your social media following. Offer a prize to entice people to follow your page, comment on your post, and tag their colleagues. You can make it as simple as including all of your followers in a raffle for a free water bottle or as creative as asking followers to share photos of their sample collection and awarding a free service to the person with the best photo.

SocialMediaToday suggests giving away prizes related to your brand to encourage engagement and participation from people who will become customers or fans of your water lab (rather than random followers who just want the prize).

Be sure to share the contest on your website, in your newsletter, and even include it in your email signature.

3. Follow Social Media Best Practices

The beauty of social media marketing is that it's not just about buying ad space — it's about sharing great content with your target audience. Instead of being directly promotional, share links, interesting tips, and educational videos related to water safety. This allows your audience to grow organically. When people engage with your content, their followers can also see you. So, think about what post gets shared the most often: Infographics that highlight water safety tips or a list of testing services your lab provides? Keep the message engaging, and showcase your knowledge and concern for your customer's safety.

Additional best practices include:

  • Using relevant hashtags to help people find you.
  • Being entertaining (memes and gifs aren't just for your personal social media!).
  • Using a more casual voice on social media than in other forms of written communication.
  • Keeping it fresh (update your lab's profile photos often and update business hours when they change seasonally).
  • Listening and responding to comments (don't forget, the world can see your response!).

4. Invest in Paid Advertising

Organic social media is the gold standard for gaining the right followers, but good old-fashioned paid advertising still has a role to play. Many platforms offer free trials for paid ads. And the entry-level ads fit into even the smallest budgets. Start building your social media following, and when you have at least a few weeks' worth of posts to analyze, take a look at which were the most successful. Then create similar content and spend a few ad dollars to boost those posts. SocialMediaToday points out that FaceBook's advanced advertising options can help you precisely target who will see your paid outreach.

5. Don't Buy Followers

Paying to get your lab's social media in front of more eyes is good. Buying random "bot" followers (fake accounts) is not. At best, this strategy wastes your money with a vanity following. It might feel good to have thousands of followers, but how will that help your water lab's bottom line? Even worse, these random followers can actually make it harder for you to reach the right audience because the algorithms behind social networks will start showing your posts to similar accounts (in that case, even more bots).

In the end, social media isn't all that different from real-life networking. If you're too quiet, nobody will know you exist. And if you're overly promotional, people will tune out your sales pitch. Consistently posting genuine, relevant content online can help you gain followers, and that could translate to more customers for your water lab.

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Kelly McSweeney
Science and Technology Writer
Armed with a master's degree in writing and a decade of professional work in scientific publishing, Kelly McSweeney writes about science and technology innovations. She translates complicated topics into stories that capture the curiosity of everyone from casual readers to technical experts. Kelly has degrees from Emerson College and the University of Vermont, and has worked on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics publications at Wiley, In Compliance magazine, and Pearson. Her articles about the latest research are published by ZDNet, Northrop Grumman, and Wiley.