Since 2005, when it launched, YouTube, www.youtube.com, has evolved from being primarily a place for uploading personal videos to an incredibly popular mainstream social media platform that an increasing number of HVAC and plumbing contractors use (free) to post promotional videos.
In early 2008, we did a search at YouTube for the term "plumbing contractor" and it pulled up 1,860 videos. We also did a search for "HVAC contractor" and elicited just 57 videos. The keyword "HVAC" resulted in only 679 videos. Most of the videos were basic and straightforward and featured graphics that listed the company name, services offered, website and phone number.
In late 2013, our query for "plumbing contractor" jumped up to more than 70,000 and a query for "HVAC contractor" yielded almost 100,000 results. Results for, while just plain "HVAC" reaped a whopping 358,000 videos.
The majority of uploads are relatively brief (generally this is a good thing) and essentially introduce the company via a montage of photos or live action video (some featuring zooms, transitions, fades, and/or time-lapse photography), and provide contact information, with or without voice-overs and added music. Some also include a direct link to the company website. As for the others, a random sampling shows that many genres are popular, including how-to's, troubleshooting, training videos, glowing testimonials from very happy customers, long-form talking head infomercials explaining a full range of services, and animated helpful tips directed to DIY homeowners.
While many YouTube videos have achieved less than a dozen views, a fair number have earned 20 or 30 or 100 views. A small percentage has accumulated thousands or tens of thousands of views, which may be a reflection of outstanding content that earned repeated viewing or word-of-mouth recommendations or because of successful efforts to drive traffic to a video from the company website, Twitter account, Facebook page or other social media presence. Likely, a good view count is primarily the result of the incorporation of a company's zip code, phone number (with area code), county, or geographic area served, as well as services offered as keywords and tags, enabling anyone looking for an HVAC contractor who serves a specific location to instantly find that company's video.
According to YouTube, more than one billion unique users visit it each month; more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute; and more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube, equating to almost an hour for every person on Earth. Many of the views are on mobile devices, with mobile views accounting for more than 25% of YouTube's overall watch time. Is your company ready for its screen test?
Document management solutions
Now on to another topic… Aimed at subcontractors, Project DocControl, www.projectdoccontrol.com, is a document management solution that facilitates creating, managing and tracking documents across projects. The program enables users to generate and track RFIs, submittals, change orders, pay applications, and other incoming e-mail from a contractor's Microsoft Outlook e-mail program. The user can customize templates and standardize documents within projects and among all projects.
Several features can expedite putting together and running a project. For example, contractors can track response times to RFIs and track average turnaround times per project. Users can attach cut sheets and drawings directly to a submittal log and track status, responses, approvals, turnaround time, and revision requests. It is also possible to import GC-required pay application forms and have the system auto-fill all required values and other information.
An equipment tracking module gives visibility into where rented tools and equipment are used and keeps track of rental periods and rental costs. Each user is assigned to specific projects, ensuring security on the project level. Module access is assigned on a user-by-user basis.
Files can be imported and attached to related documents. Because the program integrates with Microsoft Outlook, project-related correspondence can be copied directly into that project's correspondence log in Project DocControl. An optional Daily Reports module, accessible from any Internet-enabled computer, iPad or tablet, allows field personnel to record labor, equipment and projection details on any project.
COBRA, www.cobra-usa.com, is a modular and scalable business software suite aimed at sub-contractors. Modules include project management; material management; purchase order; payroll; mobile computing; service management; billing including time and material, service, progress billing, AIA billing, and flat rate; contractor accounting including accounts receivable, accounts payable, and general ledger programs; Kwik Estimator for residential and commercial estimating; and reports.
Project data is delivered in real time, with categories including job cost/work-in-progress, budget versus actual cost comparing, RFIs, submittals, work order, purchase orders, change orders (pending and approved), phase tracking, permits, and documents/photos.
A price book tool supports local supply vendor pricing, national pricing services, and customized pricing for various groups of customers (i.e. "best," "good," and "less than ideal"). The quote/pricing history enables distinguishing between the price quoted and the price paid for an item from multiple suppliers, to determine who has consistent pricing.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].