Over the past decade, social media has moved beyond novelty and has become a way of life. Sudden technological changes have left many HVAC contractors playing catch-up, to a certain degree. While acceptance of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other sites is still growing, there is no doubt that each has a role in the HVAC industry. But, of all the social media sites out there, which are most important to use? What content should be posted? How often should that content be posted? These are all reasonable questions for contractors to be asking and, luckily, sufficient answers exist.

“Residential contractors should focus on websites used by consumers,” said Ben Landers, president, Blue Corona Inc., an inbound Web marketing, analytics, and optimization company. “Facebook is obvious and popular, and if a business has a target audience in the age range of 35-60 — the age group that’s embracing Facebook more and more — it makes that much more sense to use the platform.”

“We recommend Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus,” said Jennifer Eitzmann, social media director, Hudson Ink Inc., a contracting marketing organization. “Google Plus does not have the active user base of Facebook, but is important for search engine optimization (SEO) because it’s run by Google. Facebook is a big hitter for contractors because it’s so visual and it is designed for a demographic that they serve. Twitter’s popularity is still biggest on the West Coast, so it is more important to be used for West Coast contractors.”

Best Posting Practices

Contractors (and all companies in general) have to be very careful about how and when they post information on social media platforms. Post sales pitches too often and there is a risk of irritating your customer base by “spamming” their timeline or Twitter feed. If posts come too infrequently, then you are not making the most out of what the platforms have to offer.

“First, contractors need to recognize Facebook is not primarily a marketing platform,” said Landers. “It’s like a help desk — a place to answer people’s questions about your business. I see contractors posting blog after blog and tip after tip. You want to share content that adds value to your prospects and customers. Are you sharing something unique? Is it useful? Make sure you’re gearing content for the platform. Most people are on Facebook to catch up with friends and use it as a news source, and it’s important to remember that.”

“Posts should be an 85 percent to 15 percent mix between informative stuff and sales pitches,” said Eitzmann. Anything to help the customer is valuable. How-to-videos and blog posts are always popular. Entertaining jokes about your business, pictures, and good graphics that have people in them can be used, as well. Facebook posts should be sent out once a day, while three to four times a week means you are on the right track.”

It is also important for contractors to know the difference between Facebook and Twitter. Both are immensely popular sites but serve largely different functions. Eitzmann and Landers both suggest treating them differently, with Twitter being a great place for real-time updates.

“Twitter is about what’s happening at the moment,” said Eitzmann. “I tell contractors to use Twitter as an update site. Let customers know when your trucks will be late, or provide bad weather information that pertains to them.”

“Twitter is a gamble,” said Landers. “It’s great at real-time information. There is a search feature, and you can find relevant news right away. Use it as a way to let people know when technicians are suddenly available and can make visits. SproutSocial, Hootsuite, and TweetDeck allow better control over Twitter. Most content is OK on both Facebook and Twitter for smaller to mid-size contractors, but I think the next big thing is location-based, real-time marketing on Twitter for forward-thinking contractors. As some things are adopted and embraced, and a younger generation starts buying houses, it will become more popular.”

The “better control” Landers mentioned in reference to sites like Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and SproutSocial is the ability to schedule social media posts, manage multiple profiles from one page, and interact more easily with other users. It can sometimes be overwhelming when contractors do not have a dedicated social media person on their team, but using one of those services makes the job easier.

Grammar Police

There is more to social media than knowing when and where to post relevant information to customers. Contractors also need to ensure they are getting their messages across in the right way. In that regard, grammar matters. Misspelling words, capitalizing every word in a tweet, ignoring punctuation, and using abbreviations can turn people away from a product immediately.

“Grammar is honestly very important for contractors,” said Eitzmann. “They need to proofread every post for accuracy. Everyone struggles with that at first, and it’s nice that certain programs allow users to edit posts, but first impressions still matter. Someone is going to see that original post without the edits, and you really must come across in the proper light.”

“Yes, grammar matters for contractors on social media, but it depends on the target audience, to a degree,” said Landers. “For example, Bethesda, Maryland, has more PhD’s than anywhere else in the country. Those folks judge how smart people are by their grammar and how they write. If a contractor is targeting an upscale demographic like Bethesda, then grammar becomes even more important. Always err on the side of being grammatically correct, but also realize the world is changing. There are certain societal norms, especially on Twitter, that are accepted now that show you are savvy.”

Social Media Mistakes

Those grammatical mistakes are where some of the biggest no-no’s in social media come from. Eitzmann said that not proofreading a post is the most glaring mistake she sees, and, yet, it continues to happen. However, it’s not the only problem contractors encounter.

“Contractors should have a firm social media policy in place,” said Eitzmann. “Don’t just leave managing accounts to someone on staff with no oversight because that can lead to problems. Also, make sure to monitor news in the industry, and share it with fans. If a contractor gets critiques, they need to be clear and transparent about them.”

“I have seen plenty of contractors who have icons for social media pages in the top-right corner of their website only because everyone else does,” said Landers. “Do not create and link to those accounts simply for the sake of it. You don’t want customers clicking on those links and finding a Facebook or a Twitter account that is barely ever updated. It will drive them away. Only showcase those icons if you are actively updating your accounts.

“Being authentic is also important,” continued Landers. “It’s a mistake to allow a busy life to get in the way of doing what’s best for your business. Instead of just doing what your competitor is doing, try to be unique and set yourself apart. People want to get to know your character and identity. All of this helps establish your unique brand.”

Publication date: 2/2/2015

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