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Taking Care of Business: Social Networking and HVACR

December 15, 2008
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John R. Hall

The wildly popular “art” of social networking began with such industry staples as MySpace and FaceBook and have now spun off into many other forms of cyber interaction. “Share” is now becoming a real buzzword for people, groups, or businesses to send their own messages into cyberspace, hoping that dozens, hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions will be able to view these messages and become instant friends, prospects, and ultimately customers.

Your customers? Why not?

Do you think you have an interesting story to tell or wish to market a product or service but you have doubts that people really care enough about HVACR to even open up your story file? What makes HVACR interesting enough to keep common Web surfers from adding HVACR to their spam filters? Well, I would like to believe that if an HVACR-related story is presented in an interesting and thought-provoking theme, with a hook-‘em lead sentence or paragraph, then chances are it won’t fall victim to the delete button.

A lot of you probably belong to one or more networking groups, either through a local community organization like the Chamber of Commerce or an independent community-networking group such as Business Networking International (BNI). In fact, BNI has been running an online poll of visitors at www.bni.com, asking, “Where does most of your business come from?” Of the 5,318 replies, 71.7 percent said it came from networking/referrals, while a paltry 12.2 percent said it came from advertising. Mind you, the survey was a tad jaded because visitors to the site were interested in business networking. But I think it is safe to say that most business does come from networking/referrals, which includes word-of-mouth.

The point is networking is a form of sharing. The more you share, the better your chances of landing new business (or landing friends if that is your bag).

WHAT ARE THESE SERVICES?

I’ve dabbled a little in social networking, some of it by accident because I monitor my teenagers’ MySpace pages. It’s amazing what some kids say about themselves for the whole world to see. My guess is they will regret broadcasting some of their personal information over the World WIDE Web when they get older. But I digress. I also have been bombarded with ways to move my stories and Web postings up the page view ladder by groups like Google and Yahoo!. If I took the time to learn all of the ways I could share information via the Web, I would never get any work done. (Yes, I do get some work done.)

But there is a value in what some sharing services have to offer. In case you haven’t heard of these services, here are a few more besides the ones I have already mentioned: Reddit, Digg, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Windows Live, Newsvine, Mixx, and Technorati.

You can learn more about each by typing the name into a keyword search or type the word into your browser. Each of these services can help spread your message - whatever that is - to a targeted audience.

You can begin by posting interesting, attention grabbing stories on your own Website (which you have and monitor all of the time, right?). If you use eye-catching keywords like sex, your chances of getting the story “caught” in the sharing net are even greater. But I doubt that sex and HVACR are used in the same sentence very often. Think of different words.

YOU DON'T WANT TO BOTHER?

In case you haven’t noticed, the Internet has been taking over as a leading marketing/advertising generator. Ask me the last time I picked up the Yellow Pages to look up a business. I can’t even remember. I don’t even know why I bother keeping those big yellow dust catchers around.

Why should I get out of my comfortable chair to look up a business when I can do it right from my computer? (Yes boss, I am doing my “research” during my breaks, at lunch, or after business hours.) I have found the perfect position to sit in my office chair and read about other businesses.

The point is - I am lazy! But I am not alone. Millions of people prefer to get their information via the Internet and that includes marketing and advertising, too. I’m sure that everyone reading this column, all six of you, would like to market yourselves to a bigger audience with the mere click of the mouse.

And you can forget about spending $400 to get a new customer - spend a few pennies. For that meager investment, you can afford to divvy up the sharing “experience” to one of your techno-geek employees (a moniker that most of them are proud of).

Share your story with many people who know little or nothing about you or HVACR. You’d be doing all of us a favor.

Publication date: 12/15/2008
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