Messing about on boats with social media

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When it comes to social media for business, Sarah of Dorset Marine Training prefers Twitter and Instagram over Facebook and LinkedIn. That was something of a surprise to me, so I asked her to explain.

I was interviewing Sarah as part of my occasional series that explores how small Dorset firms are using digital marketing, and in particular, social media. There’s a lot we can learn from one another, and I’m a keen advocate of collaboration and sharing wherever possible.

A shared love of being on the water

Sarah Quinn runs Dorset Marine Training alongside Dominic Coleman. Their previous careers had nothing to do with boats, but outside of work they were often on the water and trained as freelance instructors.

Two years ago, they plunged into working for themselves, launching their new business for the 2017 season. When I asked Sarah what drives them to do what they do, she had a clear answer: “We enjoy being on the water, and we love training people to use boats, so they can also have fun on the water.”

They operate mainly out of Poole and have two RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) which are kept busy on training duties most of the season. They run RYA Powerboat Level 2 Courses and use a 47ft Trader for their motor cruising courses, such as Dayskipper.

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Not a natural with digital marketing

Sarah drives the social media accounts for Dorset Marine Training, but admits she had to work at it. She began by taking free courses through GetSet for Growth. These gave her the confidence to start using the various social channels and answered many of her more technical questions.

Equipped with knowledge, she began posting across several social media channels, starting with Facebook. Most of her posts are sent from her Android smartphone, and they’re shared during her short breaks during the day. Such as when she’s enjoying lunch on a pontoon.

Over the last two years Sarah has developed a preference for Twitter and Instagram, although she also posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. “They are more conversational,” she explains. “Twitter is great for building relationships, for getting to know people.” She’s a fan of virtual networking events, such as #dorsethour and #elevenseshour.

The place for social media in the business

“We have had business from our social media posts,” says Sarah. As an example: “Someone local started following us because they were interested in what we were sharing. They liked our style and signed up with us for a course.”

While many of their customers are individuals or families wanting to learn for pleasure, some are business owners needing to acquire or brush up on their skills.

Sarah regards their social media accounts as offering potential customers an insight into their friendly, approachable yet professional way of providing training. Many potential customers come through the website or word of mouth but use the social accounts to validate how Dorset Marine Training operates.

Part of their style is to be both fun and ‘in the moment’. Horizons aren’t always straight and images aren’t edited to find perfection - they’re just as they are, straight from the camera.

Fortunately, being on the water makes it really easy to snap great images. Yachts in the sunshine, sunsets over the coast, swans and seagulls. Sarah loves sharing glimpses into the sights she sees almost every day and is happy to accept that her pictures won’t be perfect. “I simply don’t have the time,” she says.

During the winter months these great pictures can be harder to come by. Sarah’s solution is to snap photos of their theory training courses - where they use toy boats to add a splash of humour.

Sarah’s advice to others using social media for business

“Don’t be afraid to explore, and don’t be disheartened that no one seems interested in what you share”, she says. “Many people see what you post but don’t engage (with likes or comments), so you don’t know they’ve seen it.”

Perseverance is important. Keep posting and if people do like it, the numbers following and engaging with you will grow. It’s encouraging when you meet people at an event and they say: “Oh, I follow you on social media.”

Sarah continues to experiment. She recently had a go at boosting a post, spending just £1 and successfully generating new enquiries.

If you want to follow Sarah’s posts on social media, follow Dorset Marine Training on the following channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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