Social media presents two primary choices: get involved or be left behind. Contractors have heatedly debated that statement, along with many other social media topics, for some time. More often than not, however, the argument circles back to social media relevance. With the science of social media being so new, industry relevance is more a matter of opinion that could be masterfully argued from both sides.
Consider instead that the real social media stumbling block for contractors could be the inability to successfully implement a social media campaign and measure ROI on their social media efforts. More tangible than relevance, these limitations could be the cause of contractors’ frustration which makes them deem social media a waste of time, when in fact, social media is likely necessary to continue business growth in the future.
The following are some tips and hints that could help contractors get on the right path to social media success.
TIP NO. 1: STOP FOCUSING ON TRADITIONAL ROISome industries make big bucks using social media. Some don’t. Does that mean the ones that don’t make the money shouldn’t participate? Take Facebook for example. Matt Michel, author of Social Media for the Service Contractor, compares the social interactions on Facebook to “attending a chamber of commerce mixer.”
“Friends, suppliers, customers, and prospects are all milling around, talking with one another. The principle difference with Facebook is the interactions occur online, improving your efficiency; and your interactions aren’t limited to the people who can physically attend the event.”
The cost for these large networking sessions is nothing. There is a time investment, but there is no need to get out a checkbook to invest.
Most of the time, social media is not about writing an investment check or cashing a profit check. The benefits of social media are more subtle and indirect. Look for these non-traditional benefits in increased web traffic, increased word of mouth referrals, and increased leads.
To start measuring the success of a new social media effort, begin asking every customer where they heard about the company. Compile the data received from that question and begin to compare monthly totals. Taking into account referral numbers, website traffic increases, and the positive networking situations that occurred online, contractors can begin to see that social media should have places in their businesses.
TIP NO. 2: CONSIDER IT SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETINGIf it helps to justify the time spent, don’t consider Facebook, Twitter, etc., as social media. Consider them as the next evolutionary step in marketing. Admittedly, most of an HVAC contractor’s current customers are satisfied with email marketing and a company’s improved web presence. The next generation of customers, however, is no longer content to let sellers blast a one-way corporate message; they want to participate in the conversation. These new consumers don’t just want to be heard, they demand to be heard, and they demand to be heard on the platform they choose.
“Social media is the best way to not only reach our clients, but these platforms also create a path to an open, two-way dialogue with our clients and future potential clients,” said Rich Morgan, president and CEO of Magic Touch Mechanical Inc. in Mesa, Ariz. “Social Media has and will continue to play a growing role in our business and more than likely will replace other forms of reaching out and connecting with prospective and existing clients.
Contractors who begin to integrate social media into their marketing mix often find that a conversation is already occurring, and many times, they are readily welcomed into that conversation. Consider the reaction of those who find out that a company has a new venture into social media. Participants and users don’t often comment, “Why in the world are you here?” In fact, more often than not, comments made on a business’ new social media platform are something like, “Welcome! It’s about time,” and, “Glad to see you finally made it here.”
“Social media is vitally important. People go to the web first for all investigating, so being there with a dominant presence is a must,” said Greg Crumpton, president of AirTight Mechanical Inc., Charlotte, N.C. “We will continue to be online in all aspects we now know, as well as the emerging trends that many of us do not even know about yet.”
SOCIAL MEDIA HINTSIf a contractor doesn’t have a Facebook page, it is time to get one. That is hint No. 1. Hint No. 2 is to create a Facebook campaign that isn’t strictly about corporate. It is important to have some humanness in the robotic tone being spewed from a Facebook page. Without the humanness, people will not interact with the content. They will view the page as a one-way broadcast that is not interested in them as a user or as a customer.
“Avoid company hype; it gets you labeled as spam,” Michel warned. “Hype is for the yellow pages, newspaper, and broadcast. If you can’t help but hype yourself avoid new media. You are going to do your brand more damage than good.”
To help spice things up and avoid hype, add a few photos of satisfied customers and interesting installations. Talk about satisfied customers from their point of view. Better yet, let them speak. The best thing salesmen can do is ask for the sale. The best thing contractors can do is ask everyone the company interacts with to “Like” them on Facebook and “Follow” them on Twitter. Put social media logos, links, and requests into every piece of printed or electronic marketing. It is important to continue to cultivate a company’s audience.
What most audiences like is a balance between too much and too little information. Facebook is easy to clog up quickly. Posting there just a few times a week is arguably enough. Remember, every time the company posts, it shows up in the feed of those who have “Liked” the page. Show up too often with unimportant info and it is a good way to get booted from a customer’s newsfeed. With a Twitter account, a company has constant and instant access to its followers. The changeover in information is so rapid that posting to Twitter three to five times a day could be considered the minimum.
“Twitter is closer to real time than any other form of social media,” said Michel.
Real time might sound like overkill to an HVAC contractor, but imagine being able to access an audience when an interesting jobsite comes up, a solution to a tough residential challenge is found, or major news in the company breaks. To help share the responsibility of tweeting, it is often suggested to have multiple people in the company post at least once daily. This not only provides different viewpoints of the company, but it also provides a different tone to the Twitter account.
CHOOSE SOCIAL MEDIASocial media is on the rise and ever changing. New territory is being discovered, old territory -like email - is being improved, and ancient territory - like bulletin boards - is being obliterated. The time to begin a social media campaign was probably two years ago, but it is not too late to get in the game. There is a learning curve to social media and this fact makes it important to learn the technology, set specific goals, and ensure those goals are realistic. If the company doesn’t have the time or the staff, there are plenty of social media natives in high school that would be thrilled to help someone overcome the social learning curve.
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