In today’s digital world, social media has definitely caught up with, if not surpassed, traditional marketing outlets. It gives contractors a unique opportunity to reach thousands of existing or potential clients in a way they never could before.
“I have spoken numerous times at seminars and to contractors’ associations on the subject, and I’m quick to point out that social media starts with the word, ‘social,’” said Rich Morgan, president of Magic Touch Mechanical in Mesa, Arizona. “It’s an opportunity to create a conversation and develop relationships with potential clients and maintain relationships with existing clients.”
While social media might seem like a cheap and easy way to grow your business, it’s not.
“Like everything in life, what you get out of it, there’s a correlation with the effort you put in,” said Ben Landers, president and CEO of Blue Corona Inc., a web marketing, analytics, and search engine optimization (SEO) company. “We don’t need to convince people to get on [social media]. They’re already on it. They need to be convinced to actually be active and have a strategy.”
It’s never too late to start. For example, Steve Schmidt, president of Frederick, Maryland-based Frederick Air Inc. didn’t start using social media until 2014. “That was when Dave [Schmidt] became our sales manager,” said Steve Schmidt, Dave’s father.
Steve Schmidt admitted that he didn’t really understand social media. While he had accounts set up prior to 2014, no one was paying attention to them because he didn’t know how to use them.
“As soon as I had someone in the company who knew how to handle social media, I said, ‘here – run with it,’” he said.
The Schmidts eventually decided to hire an outside company to manage the company’s social media accounts. “I understood that I couldn’t spend my time doing it,” said Dave Schmidt. To be successful, you either have to set aside the appropriate amount of time every week to do it yourself, or you have to hire someone you trust.”
“I manage all of our social media personally,” said Morgan. “I was an early adopter of social media and am well-read and practiced in this area. It made sense for us to keep it in-house. Social media is all about the ‘long game,’ not immediate demand service. I feel it’s better to use your own voice whenever possible.”
Social media spans many platforms — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Instagram, just to name a few — so, as a contractor, where should you start?
“The most important thing contractors can do is know who their customers are,” said Dave Schmidt “We know who our customers are. They’re a Facebook generation of people.”
“I’ve focused on Facebook and Twitter, as they have proven to produce the best results with regards to return on investment,” said Morgan.
And, when asked, Landers agreed that Facebook is by far the biggest social media platform.
When it comes to managing each social media site, Landers suggests contractors avoid posting the same content across all platforms.
“Every company generally has a voice, tagline, or company message, and most carry some overarching theme across your website, traditional marketing, and all social media,” said Landers. “I would not share the same content on LinkedIn that I share on Facebook. The context is different,” he said. “LinkedIn is business, Facebook is entertainment — in order to be successful, you have to have great content, and you have to understand the context.”
Contractors have to think about what’s bringing people to the platform they’re using. People don’t want to waste their valuable time reading useless information or advertisements. “We don’t post much but we curate what we post well,” Dave Schmidt said. “Community-based stuff — events or other charitable things we’re doing on behalf of the community — work best.”
The types of posts that tend to get the most engagement from followers are those that humanize the company.
“Social media enables us to demonstrate expertise in our field, put a personal and more human face to our brand, engage with and demonstrate we are part of the community, and promote our business in a friendly, non-sales-pitch manner,” said Morgan.
According to Landers, “When you look at the worst HVAC contractor Facebook pages, their posts focus on 10 percent-off furnace replacements. Then, five hours later, they post, ‘Here’s another coupon.’”
People tend to just scroll through stuff like that, he said. “They’re [contractors] on Facebook with a machine gun, shooting promotional messages at us,” Landers said. “They might as well run out on the street and throw business cards in the air — that’s also cheap, until you get a littering ticket.”
So, is social media the be-all, end-all for marketing? The answer is, no — at least not for now. While the majority of Americans are on Facebook or some other social media platform daily, very few of them are actively having HVAC problems in their homes or businesses.
“It’s different than being present on Google when someone is searching for a furnace replacement or repair company. I generally recognize search marketing as a higher priority than social media,” said Landers. “If a contractor is already investing heavily in search marketing, and they still want to continue to grow their business. The answer is Facebook.”
“Our industry is always going to be fighting the big-box stores,” said Steve Schmidt. “One way to fight with them is through our relationships. We have to be more than air conditioner fixers and market our companies accordingly.”
Morgan started focusing his energy on Facebook when he saw another business using it in ways he never thought possible. Steve Schmidt’s wake-up call came when he brought his son on staff. Landers said he realized he needed to promote his business on Facebook when he got a friend request from his mom. So, if you’re an HVAC contractor who hasn’t yet had that “Eureka!” moment — let the anticipation of the 2017 evolving trends be it. Welcome the New Year by allowing social media to turn your clients into friends and followers who “like” and “share” your stories within your community and across the globe.
2017 TRENDS TO LOOK FOR
Talkwalker, a social media analytics company, issued an article called “The Top Social Media Trends for 2017 – The Influencers View.” The company interviewed several social media experts to get their opinions on what contractors and companies should prepare for. The most notable ones are:
1) More Targeting and Integration — “Rather than it  being a revolutionary year, it will be an evolutionary one,” said Neal Schaffer, CEO of Maximize Your Social. Companies need to invest their money in the areas that will help them grow, not just target segments based on network size. “Brands should focus less on quantity of written content and, instead, have a ‘less is more’ approach by focusing on quality,“ he said. “The visual content area will help you truly cut through the noise and be heard.”
2) The Social Storytelling Evolution — Snapchat has changed the way we tell and share stories. Now, other platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, are beginning to follow in Snapchat’s footsteps, creating their own storytelling tools. “Given this, it would be beneficial for brands to start investigating and putting into action steps to add more storytelling elements into their social marketing plans — more immediate, multi-scene narratives that help better connect users to their brand stories and purposes, which really works to enhance the ‘social’ element,” said Andrew Hutchinson, content and social media manager at Social Media Today.
3) Businesses will Need to Learn to Sell on Social — “In 2017, businesses will have to figure out what works for them in social media. There’s been a lot of new platforms distracting from the end goal of selling,” said author, Marsha Collier. “Center on the psychographics [what your customers care about] versus their demographics.”
Publication date: 1/23/2017