How important is social media to your marketing strategy? Do you have an active presence on social media — or are you just there? Or maybe you’re not on social media at all. While there is a lot of debate as to how much social media matters in your business strategy, most would agree that it makes sense for a business to at least have a presence on some of the most popular platforms. After all, there’s no question that your customers are there. Reportedly, there are approximately 3 billion internet users across the globe and 2 billion of them have active social media accounts. Getting involved on social media is a great way to engage with clients and meet them where they’re at.

A lot of companies make the big mistake of just copying what others in the industry are doing, says Chad Diller, landscape industry certified technician, ISA-certified arborist and account manager for Landscape Leadership. They might see a post that a brand they respect puts up, and they’ll do something just like it. What that ends up doing is make you look like every other landscaper out there. That’s a big problem when the name of the game is differentiating yourself. When every landscape company out there starts to look exactly the same, it’s not doing much for your business — or the industry as a whole.

Of the various social media platforms out there (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram being the standouts), Facebook seems to be the most popular among landscape companies. Glen Baisley, marketing and customer service director for Neave Group Outdoor Solutions in Wappinger Falls, New York, says Facebook gives you “a lot of bang for your buck” when you invest in it as a marketing tool.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that only a small percentage of your audience is seeing your Facebook posts if you aren’t investing in boosting their reach,” Baisley says. “For just a small amount of money — typically we do $25 to $50 — you can expand your reach to a pretty big target audience.”

Of course, Baisley adds, it’s important to know who you want to target. Neave Group varies their social media strategy based on which application they’re using.

“We would never go after a commercial market on Facebook,” Baisley says. “But we might try to target some commercial accounts using LinkedIn. You need to know your audience.”

Michael Mayberry, chief technical officer for Level Green Landscaping in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, says he uses different social media outlets for different purposes, as well. Instagram is their portfolio where customers can see a lot of job photos, while Twitter is a constant and ongoing voice for the company. LinkedIn is more focused on recruiting potential new hires, whereas Facebook is where Mayberry has an ongoing dialogue with customers.

Mayberry says his approach to Facebook is using it as a tool to keep customers aware of what Level Green is up to as a company. Since they have a very family-like atmosphere and like to convey that to the customers, Mayberry uses social media to wish team members happy birthdays or to congratulate them on achievements, such as new certifications.

When using social media, it’s important to research and use hashtags appropriately, adds Mayberry. Understanding how and when to use them, and thinking outside of the box, will help attract people to your content, he says. Mayberry uses hashtags all the time on Instagram but never on Facebook and very rarely on Twitter.

Terra Phelps, president and handler for Utopian Landscapes LLC, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says that one of the things they like most about Facebook is how closely they can target their audience in posts. They typically go after a more affluent customer population, and Facebook allows them to focus their reach to that specific audience.

“I think Facebook is a brilliant place to invest marketing dollars,” Phelps says. “They have a lot of really useful tools that allow you to be very targeted in your approach.”

One area in which Facebook has been particularly helpful to Utopian’s business is in their holiday lighting services. In fact, Phelps says the most they’ve spent on a Facebook ad was the $300 they invested in a holiday lighting post that ran for seven days. Because it is such a time-sensitive service, Phelps says social media has allowed them to get the word out early and generate valuable leads.

“One of the biggest pushbacks I get is when we reach customers too late and they say, ‘it’s not worth it to invest the money when they will only be up for three weeks.’ So, we really went for an early push this year,” Phelps says. “One of the most helpful tools from Facebook was a tool where the customer could fill out a form if they were interested. We generated a ton of leads using that.”

Baisley has also used Facebook for a stronger holiday decor push, and he says the service has easily doubled in sales since last year because of it. He says that Facebook was a great way to start marketing early.

“In the past, we started our push for holiday decor too late,” Baisley says. “This year I did a whole Christmas in July theme and used Facebook to get ahead of the curve.”