Social Media Guru Exposes Marketing Myths at ICCFA Conference

February 15, 2016
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This article is being shared with the permission of Funeral Service Insider ( a weekly newsletter for funeral professionals)

Sporting bleached jeans, white sneakers, a black puffy vest and hoop earrings, Ryan Thogmartin definitely stuck out at the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association’s Wide World of Sales Conference in Las Vegas.

And that’s not even mentioning his mohawk.

While some might argue such an assemblage is a faux pas for someone making his living in a profession that leans toward the conservative side, he was – whether he realized it or not – making a point: You need to stick out to be noticed.

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That’s particularly true in the world of social media, where Thogmartin makes his living as the owner of Disrupt Media, a full-service social media agency specializing in social media strategy, content creation, management and reporting. He’s also the founder of ConnectingDirectors.com, which shares news funeral professionals.

To dominate social media, funeral professionals need to shift some of their focus from advertising outlets that no longer hold as much pull as they once did, Thogmartin says. “How many of you in the last six months have actually opened a phone book to find a phone number?” he asks. “We aren’t really using these forms of marketing anymore. Most of the time, we are just pulling up Google and searching.”

In addition to Google, funeral homes need to devote more attention to Facebook – and that doesn’t mean only taking advantage of its free features. “Facebook is one of the least expensive ways to engage with the general public,” he says. “If you do Facebook ads correctly, you can stretch a small budget quite a ways. For about 25 cents, you can reach on average 1,000 people. .”

One of the reasons funeral homes are reluctant to get involved with social media, however, is that they are under the mistaken impression that their best prospects are not online.

Thogmartin tackled this myth head on in his presentation, citing data from the Pew Research Center that show that since 2001, the 55 and older age group on Facebook has grown more than 80 percent. Now, almost a third of all senior citizens are on Facebook, he says.

Another myth, according to Thogmartin, is that social media management can be automated. “It’s not really valuable,” he contends. “You need transparent content – content that shows humanization – and that can’t be automated.”

By its very nature, social media needs a hands-on touch, Thogmartin says. “You have to engage back and forth because that is where the value is,” he says.

One of the best ways to engage with fans on Facebook is by using humor in your posts, Thogmartin says. It can break down stereotypes, such as the idea that funeral professionals are cold and always dress in black, he says.

It also helps to reveal some of your personal side. For instance, Pray Funeral Home in Charlotte, Michigan (a Disrupt Media client), recently shared a family photo featuring members of four generations – three of which are involved in the family business and a little guy that might one day take over the whole enchilada. The caption reads: Here at Pray Funeral Home, our family looks upon our tradition and heritage with great pride. We are so blessed to have four generations together. From left to right: Tyler, Joe Sr. and Joe E. with Anders pictured in the front.

The post garnered 317 likes and helped the firm differentiate itself from competitors without such a strong legacy of devotion to the profession.

Devising an Approach

As the owner of Disrupt Media, Thogmartin focuses on crafting a goal-oriented approach to social media. “Without goals, how do you know it works?” he says.

It’s also important to determine what time of day is the best time to post content. It can be different for every business, Thogmartin emphasizes. “You need to find out why content works,” he says. “You need to find out how to optimize your Facebook budget to make sure you are spending the least amount of money for the maximum amount of engagement.”

While Thogmartin thinks it’s a great idea to get help with your social media marketing, he shares these tips for those firms who are managing their own efforts:

  • Post different types of content: This includes photos, text and also video. Too many firms overlook video, he says.
  • When uploading video, upload it directly to Facebook. “Facebook prefers that because it is in direct competition with YouTube,” he explains. “Uploading a native video directly into Facebook is far more valuable than posting a YouTube link (because it will appear in people’s news feeds more).”
  • When posting images, make sure they are a good size for Facebook. “If there is a lot of white area (which will happen when the picture is too small), typically people don’t engage with those posts,” Thogmartin says.
  • When you post a link on Facebook, wait for the link to populate and then delete the code for the link in the status update field. By doing this, your post will show up to more people.
  • Don’t post too many items on your page. “We’ve backed our clients down to three to five posts per week,” Thogmartin says. “It gets better reach and engagement than when we flood the news feed with two to three posts per day.”
  • Post more selfies of you and your staff so that your fans get to know you better.
  • Boost certain posts by spending some money on Facebook, and/or launch a Facebook advertising campaign. “Facebook is not free: It’s absolutely a pay-to-play network,” Thogmartin says. “You have to boost content strategically so more people will see it, and then you need to buy Facebook advertising to drive more traffic to your site.”
  • Do not click on the “promote this page” button on your business page: Stick with boosting certain posts or creating Facebook advertisements that you target to certain audiences. If you click on “promote this page,” Facebook will guarantee you get a certain amount of new likes for a certain amount of dollars. While you might end up with more fans, they won’t necessarily be the best prospects, he says.
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