I was eating dinner in a typical neighborhood restaurant recently when I overheard three separate tables talking about services like Facebook, Twitter and Google's Wave. That's when it hit me: the restaurant was the perfect metaphor for how social networks operate and interact. There are the loud tables, the ones that passionately share their opinions with one another and seemingly hope that their conversation is not only overheard, but will somehow draw in surrounding patrons. Then there are the corner booths. You know, the ones with the large group, out for some sort of celebration. Oh, and don't forget the single friends, guys and girls, catching up with one another and meeting new friends.
When you think about the changes in the way we communicate, it makes sense that these social media sites have become not only the method for conversation, but also the topic of the conversation itself. I declare that resistance to these trends and new technologies is futile. Stop treating this like the 800-lb. gorilla in the room. Learn a bit, get on board and help your business!
Keeping with our dinner metaphor, as an appetizer, let's break some of this down into a digestible format for contractors and use these new tools to help increase sales. Let's face it, at the end of the day, that's really what any marketing tool is about. And, yes, social media is a marketing tool.
As defined by Wikipedia, “social media marketing” is a term that describes the act of using social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other collaborative Internet form of media for marketing, sales, public relations and customer service. Basically, we can think of this simply as the Internet's version of “word-of-mouth advertising.” The explosion, however, of social networks on the Internet has simply changed the game. We've gone from the traditional word-of-mouth advertising, where people would tell a few friends about something (good or bad), to allowing the possibility for a rapid spread of information throughout the world in a few days, or even hours!
Picture this: you add a blog to your current Web site and post something of value (think expert tips from you to a homeowner, or that hilarious, brand-building television advertisement you created). With this post you were crafty and placed a ShareThis icon, which allows your post to be easily shared through a multitude of social media sites (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and del.icio.us to name a few). One person shares the post with their 250 friends on Facebook, and 10 of their friends do the same. You've got an army promoting your business, and all you did was click “post.”
Sounds great doesn't it? Seems simple too? It's not as simple as it may seem, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't start. Numerous leaders in the social media marketing space have key components to begin developing a social media strategy. Not all are the same, but many have core components that are similar. In a recent Webinar for PHCC members, I covered the following topics to help get started:
Define your goals: Start simple. What are your goals for this month? I'm sure you have an answer to that for your business. The same should apply to your social media marketing strategy. Goals can include creating additional leads, increasing your brand awareness, monitoring feedback about your business, or a variety of other goals. Listen, learn and identify what the “tone” and “language” of social networks are for your customer group/target market before implementing any communication with them directly.
Be selective: Think through your strategy. Hand-select your tools for a social media marketing strategy as you would for any new program. This has the potential to be a serious portion of your overall marketing plan and should be treated as such.
Be you: If you decide that a portion of your strategy is to engage with customers via blogs and comments on social networks, be genuine. Be consistent. Be you. At the end of the day your personal/company brand will come across as human if you are yourself. There are few examples of successful “imposters” writing blogs and publishing content on social media sites. Remember that people want to interact with people.
Technology is a tool: A good, solid marketing strategy with social media marketing as a portion of it will generate new business and keep your brand strong. All of these new social media sites are there to aid that strategy, not to be the strategy.
So, the next time that you are out to dinner, enjoying a meal and your favorite beverage with friends, think about the setting that you are in. Picture all of the tables around you connected by some common theme. What if the other tables' dinner conversation is about your business, or one of your technicians? Would you sit back and let them slowly eat away at your brand or would you step in and provide a positive message about your business?
Social media marketing can rapidly enhance your brand and business. It can provide the accelerant that many contractors need to boost sales. I encourage you to learn more about it. Ask questions and start small. Go contractors!
Elton Rivas is the director of marketing and corporate sales for Barnett Pro Contractor Supplies. Barnett is a national distributor of plumbing, electrical and HVAC products to service contractors. For more information about Barnett or one of its supply-chain solutions contact them at 800/288-2000. You can contact Rivas at [email protected], or at 904/254-7004 or via his LinkedIn page at www.linkedin.com/in/eltonrivas.