Dale Blasingame-The effects of social media encompass our lives on a daily basis. In the not too distant past, there were many individuals, groups, and companies that thought perhaps social networks were just a passing fad. Fast forward to present day and it seems that line of thinking was a complete contradiction of what we are currently experiencing. Take a look around you and you’re likely to see someone updating their status on a social media outlet, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or something else.

Social networks are a place that people can go to find news, learn more about companies, and interact and engage with friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. Individuals congregate there to talk around the water cooler about breaking news, events of the day, and funny viral videos. Additionally, social media are where people go to get advice, referrals, and answers to questions.

Here is where businesses in the service industry, more specifically in the HVAC industry, come into play. The consumer’s mind seems to be consistently on social media. So what better a place to find the consumer than on social networks?

Can a solid presence on social media benefit you as an HVACR contractor? You bet it can.

For the service industry, the approach to social media is unique to other social media users and other industries that partake in Facebook and Twitter. Social media can have a strong and beneficial impact on your business, depending upon the way you choose to use them.

Twitter provides the opportunity to search keywords in our local market. We have used this tool to search words such as “air conditioning” or “heater,” so that when anyone tweets about their system, we have the opportunity to respond and help when we can. We have connected with multiple people this way — and have even been able to be of service to tune or fix their HVAC system.

Enhance Minds With Educational Insight

Social media are the perfect platform to educate your audience. Heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration are not common water cooler topics and they are not exactly what you would consider sexy conversational pieces. Part of the challenge with using social media for HVACR contractors is that it is difficult to find topics to share with your audience, because there is a good chance they will not understand the technicalities of the information you would like to share or the content may bore them.

Educate in a functional manner: In using social media for your business, avoid jargon (like VRF or MERV rating), but if you have to use it, make sure you define or explain it. While you may know this information like the back of your hand, your audience, most likely, does not. Provide in-depth detail, but do not be so in-depth that the information is flying over the head of its recipients.

You are the expert when it comes to your service industry. Find interesting ways to educate, such as showing pictures of bad vs. good ductwork. Help your audience to come to know the industry through the eyes of the expert. Make it fun for them to read, share jokes related to the heat or the cold (even if they’re cheesy, you’re still engaging the reader with something other than heavy, technical content).

Open the Door, Communicate, and Develop Relationships

One of the roles social media can play is to let people behind the curtain and show your audiences who you are as a company. In a service industry, people have to feel comfortable letting service employees into their home. The customer may feel more comfortable and trusting because you have built a relationship of trust and understanding with them through social media. Let them in to your social home with confidence, and they’ll be more likely to let you and your employees in with more trust and comfort.

Use best practices to open the door, without swinging it too far open: The goal is to win potential customers over by developing relationships and provide resources or at least keep the company at top of mind. If this comes from it, then great — but if not, at least we were able to forge relationships and educate.

Value Customer Feedback

In the service industry, reviews are essential. Instead of just being a review, it becomes a conversation with people — not just something they read. It makes doing a good job even more important. Social media also serve as a reminder to each of our staff members, particularly service technicians because of their regular visibility, that everyone is watching, observing, and everyone is on social media, so it’s important to ensure staff members are doing everything in the best way (e.g., driving, etiquette, etc.).

Understand the impact of feedback: Feedback can be both positive and negative, but it’s what you do with it that makes the difference. Online reviews are like gold in the HVACR industry. Be grateful for the great ones and when you happen to get one that’s not so great, learn from it, and use it as an opportunity to improve your employee or technician training. Most importantly, RESPOND to feedback. You can clear up a negative situation in no time by sending out a technician to right something that may have gone wrong. And be sure to thank customers for reviews — both negative and positive.

Our Twitter followers and Facebook fans provide fantastic relationships and wonderful value for us when they pass on referrals or just let their friends know that we are here to help, educate, and better the community.

As Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, states, “80 percent of all Twitter usage is on mobile devices. Can you imagine what that could mean to your brand if someone has a negative experience and you aren’t out there to control it?”

Steer Clear of Barefaced Promotion

Sure, some sales have been made through social media, but that is not the explicit purpose of why we use social media. We have yet to issue a blatant promotion for our company, yet the relationships we’ve created via social media have led to business transactions taking place. We view social media as customer service tools and not sales tools.

Avoid turning your customers away: Don’t overcommunicate or spam other social media users — fans or followers — with constant links to your website. Contractors seem to stick to merely posting links to their website and blogs, but it’s important to have a conversation with your followers and keep them interested.

The impact of social media for any business is beneficial if the company uses the networks in the appropriate way. If you’re wondering what impact social media can have on your contracting business, the answer is this: Social media provide a way to communicate and connect with your audiences that no other outlet does.

Publication date: 09/05/2011