3 small steps you can take to begin using these valuable online tools.
Social media is getting as hot as a high-efficiency furnace, blowing steady streams of information everywhere. Yet, many contractors aren’t warming up to it. They fear losing control of their marketing messages in an unfamiliar setting. Their fears could leave them in the cold, missing opportunities to interact with potential and existing customers.
If fear is keeping your company from using social media for marketing, now is definitely the time to take your first steps toward using these valuable tools.
According to Hitwise, an Internet traffic monitor that collects data directly from ISP (Internet Service Provider) networks, more than 25 million U.S. adults regularly share advice on products or services online. Another respected source, a market research firm called MarketingSherpa, reports that 58% of consumers prefer Web sites that have peer-written product reviews. This trend often is called Web 2.0, a term defining the change in the way people are using the World Wide Web. Internet or “viral” marketing and social networking through sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn fall under this umbrella as consumers incorporate them into their personal and business lives.
If you don’t know where to begin, take these three steps to begin using Internet marketing and social networking. Once you are comfortable with these, you can move on to other tools such as Twitter if you determine it makes sense for your company.
1. Start with Your Web Site
According to award-winning online strategist David Meerman Scott, the term “viral marketing” has taken on a sleazy connotation for many business owners and managers, but the truth is that good news and information can spread like a virus in a positive way.
The place to start is with your Web site. In order to be effective, you need to have a well-designed, user-friendly Web site. Think of it as your marketing and social media headquarters where everything begins and eventually returns.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is necessary for Internet marketing and public relations to be successful. You do this by using keywords associated with your business each time content is added to your Web site, blog, press releases, etc. This raises you on the results list of search engines and drives traffic to your site and your company, wherever it appears online.
2. Start a Blog
Start small with a blog and work your way up. Invite your customers and potential customers to interact with you, and in exchange, give them useful information. This could include tips on maintaining equipment, energysavings information, air-quality information, and other information that consumers are interested in. This process will enhance your credibility and potentially drive sales. Plan on updating the blog content once a week and checking it a few times a week to make sure that you’ve answered any questions that have been posted by your readers as comments.
The nice thing about social media is you are letting the consumers do the work for you. You’re giving them a place to go to ask questions, get answers, and converse with an industry professional and each other; and because you’re earning their trust, they will most likely turn to you when a job goes beyond what they think they can do themselves.
3. Start Social Networking
Many feel that social networking is only for teens and college students to share pictures of their parties and keep in touch with friends, but it is also becoming a valuable networking tool within the business world. Among consumers over the age of 55, use of blogs and social networking sites has more than doubled since 2006. A Neilson study revealed social networking sites’ traffic increased at a rate of 47% over the last few years. It is easy to establish a Facebook page or LinkedIn page for your business. You probably already have all of the information that you need; it’s just a matter of transferring the information to a new site.
Try out the tools, and see what happens. Invite customers to join your network.
Dive into Internet marketing and social media and see where it takes you. Begin in-house, if you or a staff member can do it, or outsource the job to a reputable communications firm that can help you set it up, and keep it up.
Kari Logan is co-owner of Minneapolis based C.E.L. and Chelsea Leines, contributing writer, implements social media with a focus on ROI within C.E.L.’s Social Media Incubator™ for small and mid-size businesses. Since 1988, C.E.L. has provided creative, effective and lasting public relations for businesses and organizations, including Nexstar® Network and its member plumbing, HVAC and electrical businesses across the continent. Find out more at www.celpr.com or call 888-235-2780.