You know that hilarious but risqué video or photo you took? It was so cool — until your prospective boss found it. And, darn, you can’t just remove it from the Internet, either. So I guess the picture of you in too-small underpants sporting a rainbow wig while holding a bowling ball is going to be around for a while.

That problem is small compared to what happens when businesses use social media poorly. I’ve published the report by the social marketing experts at HubSpot that show the Top 40 Most Liked businesses on Facebook. None of us were happy to see home contractors ranked No. 37, just below funeral parlors.

Why the rotten performance? It’s not the rainbow wig episode above (or, we hope not), but it is more likely a few of the following.


According to word-of-mouth and social-marketing expert Gary Spangler, most businesses do social media wrong. Follow these rules to make sure you don’t fall into a social media trap.

Action No. 1: Be Clear — Social media and online marketing must be transparent and honest. Clearly communicate offers, conditions, and guarantees. Testimonials (Federal Trade Commission [FTC] ruling here) must announce that atypical results are not typical and/or what the average results might be. Every now and then, it’s sheer genius to admit a flaw in a product of yours. Credibility soars.

Action No. 2: Have a Policy — Let your staff know that posts are restricted to certain personnel and must be proofed before posting. Let them know how you’re using it, get input from them on what they’d find useful on an HVAC contractor site, and begin posting those ideas.

Action No. 3: Watch Friends’ Posts — If you have friends or partners on your social pages, make sure they agree with and follow policies. If not, unfriend them.

Action No. 4: Be Willing to Accept a Critique — It’s going to happen. Somebody’s going to say their drunken poodle is a better plumber than you are. Respond to online criticism with a cool head, because you can’t take it back once it’s said. If you’ve made a mistake, admit it, mention how it should’ve been handled or that this experience changed company policy, and move on. Again, bonus points for being human, unless, of course, you’re a drunken poodle.

Action No. 5: Disclosure — If there’s a financial incentive or partnership among endorsers on your site, you must say it (FTC again). Half the time someone invests with you, it’s because you’re excellent, so don’t hide it.

Action No. 6: Monitor Industry News — Learn from others’ mistakes and successes. If you see missteps, take notes and precautions. If you see a good idea, incorporate something similar.


Now, here are some frequently asked questions we get about social media. As you can see in my answers, I’m extremely serious and helpful, in a seriously helpful manner.

Q: What is the best informative post that receives the most response?

A: We have more than 100 that are supplied to our clients across the nation, and the best-received posts generally include a combination of humor and useful information. Our No. 1 is a photo of a fat, gray cat with a post that says: “If you’re a/c or furnace filter looks like a large gray cat, it’s probably time to change it. Here’s how…” And that goes to the main website where we’ve supplied both a how-to article and a video detailing the process. This has gotten a huge response, and, as you’d imagine, many likes and even more service calls.

Our No. 2 post is titled, “Top Questions My Technicians Get,” where we begin to answer a question on Facebook that is linked, again, to the site. These, too, result in lots of likes and service calls.

Q: How do you budget your time on social media?

A: This is a particularly hot subject. Since we’re in the business of marketing directives, here you go: Spend no less than 20 minutes and no more than one hour per weekday on social media.

Post no less than eight times per month, but no more than 40 times per month (or twice a week up to twice a day). Clearly, both of the above assume you’ve pre-written posts and set them to launch and intersperse with streaming posts that are made on the fly. If you do not have pre-made posts, you are choosing to take way more time and become way more random while divesting of the 70-30 content-to-promotion ration so often recommended.

Q: Do contractors need social media?

A: Yes. Because I said so. Actually, you don’t need social media. You don’t need wrapped vans. You don’t need direct mail. You don’t need shoe covers. (You see where I’m going with this?) You only need social media as it advances your relevance, taps into a different audience, assists in boosting image and top-of-mind awareness (TOMA), quietly — but not explosively — generates leads, and regularly builds community. Those may sound subtle and avoidable, but they have become part of the marketing fabric of today’s consumer.

Publication date: 12/14/2015

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