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And the Award for Best Social Media Skills Goes to...

May 16, 2011
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Kimberly Schwartz

There are many stereotypes floating around this industry of stodgy old HVAC contractors who completely ignore social media. But once you enter the realm of social networking and media, you quickly find the progressive contractors who are using online social tools to grow their businesses.

Here are three contractors I’ve stumbled across who have impressed me with their mad skills in social media. Consider this column a sort of paper-plate-awards presentation in honor of their impressive social networking.

TERRIFIC TWEETER

The award for Terrific Tweeter goes to Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electrical of Warren, Mich. Yes, they are close to my home, and yes, that may have influenced my decision, but that’s OK because this isn’t an official NEWS contest.

What I love about Flame’s tweets is their local relevancy for the metro Detroit market. They tweeted about the depressing snow in April, about the Red Wings’ playoff performance, and more. Their tweets are locally relevant enough to catch my eye every time and - hopefully - the eyes of other homeowners in the area who are in need of HVAC service. Last time I checked, Flame’s Twitter account had more than 500 followers.

FABULOUS FACEBOOK-ER

The award for Fabulous Facebook-er goes to Mode Comfort & Air Quality of Powhatan, Va. Mode’s owner, G. Todd Rice, recently sent me a message stating, “Social media has been a godsend! Tried other outlets but the virtual world is where the clients are.”

One way that he’s attracting those clients is through his Facebook page. Rice compared his efforts on Facebook to old-fashioned fliers: “I sent out 2,800 fliers, which I delivered by hand over the course of three weeks, and didn’t get one response. After one week on Facebook, I got an $8,500 job.”

On Mode’s Facebook page, I particularly love the “Before and After” photo album. My favorite series in this album shows the before and after shots of the installation of a new 2.5-ton heat pump at a home surrounded by azaleas. The caption of the final photo reads: “No azaleas were harmed in the installation of this system. Remember we are trained professionals; do not attempt this at home.”

That’s not only funny and clever - it also promotes how well he treats his customers. Brilliant.

GROUPON GURU

If you haven’t heard of Groupon yet, you are living in the dark ages. (But here’s a quick explanation just in case: Groupon is a website that offers a deal-of-the-day coupon to subscribers in local geographic markets.)

I’m a loyal Groupon subscriber, so I was very impressed one day when I opened up my email to discover a Groupon being offered by a local HVAC contractor. (Yes, I know this is another local guy, but hey - this just goes to show how easy it can be for contractors to reach their local market through social media.)

So the Groupon Guru award goes to Sun Heating & Cooling of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. I was so impressed that Sun offered this Groupon that I called the company to ask how they pulled it off.

About a year and a half ago, owner Henry Abrams decided that he didn’t want to miss the boat on social media, and he tasked his director of operations, Lee Weinstein, with pursuing social media across all avenues. According to Weinstein, “When you deal with social media and you deal with Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter, you always look for your next opportunities and options.” And Groupon, as it turned out, was just the right vehicle for Sun’s next opportunity. The contractor offered two coupon options through its Groupon, and the deal tipped within a few hours.

Weinstein explained that it wasn’t a quick process because Groupon is very picky about the companies it chooses to work with. Plus, there’s a huge backlog of companies trying to get in. “It took us months to get contact with them, but once they accepted our ideas and coupon, they ran with it very quickly,” he said.

And it was all worth it because the company has seen great results as new customers have redeemed their Groupons. “People are ecstatic about it,” Weinstein said.

These contractors are evidence that it’s possible for HVAC companies to be social and successful online. Kudos to them and all the others who are establishing themselves in social media.

Publication date: 05/16/2011
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