A few years ago, social media marketing was considered an auxiliary expense, a luxury mostly reserved for big businesses and influencers. Direct mail, emails – it all worked fine for the smaller companies. Today, mega platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Snapchat (very effective for paid ads, but best saved for Part ii) are essential tools for your strategic marketing programs. These marketing platforms are used by all competitive, large, medium, and small businesses. HVACR contractors using these platforms are seeing real benefits in the form of traffic, leads, and conversions.
In 2022, social media marketing has become an integral part of a marketing plan. And since the pandemic, it’s more popular than ever. With everyone working remotely, social media and online engagement are your best marketing tools. Conversely, those of you who are not yet using social media for marketing, are missing out on customers and conversions.
Is Social Media Marketing Worth the Hype?
Some traditionalists still choose not to invest in social media marketing, opting instead to put the money to good use in other places. And certainly, there are proven benefits in those more traditional media investments. But before you redline the paid ads option or even the organic posting idea, read on.
If you found out you were missing out on an additional 5% of new customers monthly, by choosing to utilize only email lists, word-of-mouth referrals, or direct mail, would you rethink your plan? According to Statista, Facebook and Instagram growth has been exponential since 2017:
…roughly 2.91 billion monthly active users as of the fourth quarter of 2021, Facebook is the most used online social network worldwide. The platform surpassed two billion active users in the second quarter of 2017, taking just over 13 years to reach this milestone.
Considering social media is shared with friends, and friends of friends, its power is mighty and far reaching. And considering a post or paid post can be highly targeted to your customer demographic through tailgating, hash tagging, likes, comments, surveys, polls, paid ads, sales ad shares, and more, it’s a must-have. Engaging in social media is a smart move. But is it fiscally smart? Well, since you will start small, you will be able to assess that quickly. Let’s assume a small strict budget and examine the benefits.
Below is information on the best use of social media if you have only a small amount to invest but still want to keep your business more competitive. The truth is, you can measure the ROI on ads and posts, almost immediately. So, if you aren’t seeing ROI, invest less – it’s that simple.
1. Organic Social Media Does Not Need to Cost a Thing
While it’s true that paid ads are an eventual must-do upgrade in a social media plan, as a first step, simply posting consistently, with nice pictures and good info, will add traffic to your website. If you decide that all you want to do is post organic content, then here are some useful tips. You can hire an intern to work for college credit. Make the intern your social media coordinator. No person under 30 needs any social media training. Post consistently. This lets followers know you are reliable and makes them want to come back. Post great pictures. Poorly lit pictures or no pictures, tells the followers you aren’t a serious business. If you don’t have pictures, you can post articles (the picture in the articles will automatically populate) as long as you post a link to the article. But be sure to say why you are posting it, i.e., professional installation of a replacement unit, maintenance tips, customer service and more. And make sure your social media posts are sending followers back to YOUR website as well. In the beginning, post at a minimum, on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. TIP: If you are a 40+ business owner, don’t disregard Instagram. While it has a younger demographic, it has become one of the most competitive social platforms for business advertising. Remember after you post, comment with hashtags that signal who you are, so that people can find you. An example might be: #HVAC #HVACRbusiness #HVACservices #contractors #MilwaukeeHVAC. Also, make sure that when people like or comment on your posts, answer them back, “like” their comments, or invite them to follow.
2. Paid Advertising for Pennies
To the anti-social media holdouts --- you are a rarified few, but this is for you --- paid advertising can be as little as your Starbucks budget each month. Sure, you can spend thousands or millions on Google ads and paid social. But you can also try boosted ads or set a budget on paid ads.
Boosts are a great place to begin, and they work. Our recent Tops in Trucks posts to advertise the upcoming fleet design contest – winners announced in June – increased reach and impressions from 200 viewers to 1675 viewers in two days by running a boost. And it costs less than a donut and a cup of coffee!
“Boosts” are previous posts that you then decide to make “sponsored” posts. It’s very simple. Instagram and Facebook will urge you to boost posts. Often you simply just need to click to accept the boost. The only slightly complicated thing is targeting, but both platforms will walk you through buyer preferences, targeting for gender and age demographics, location, industry and more. Also, you will need to add a credit card to your account (usually found in ads manager on the left or in your personal or ads settings, depending on the platform). But don’t worry, if you click BOOST and you don’t have a card attached, the site will prompt you for one. TIP: Choose to boost posts that have already done well organically. At the bottom of each post, you will see how many people your post reached. So, if on average, your posts reach about 200 people, and you notice that one post reached 400, then it performed well, much better than other posting for whatever reason. Boost that one. The good news is that you can set a budget for a boost as low as $5 dollars. I would suggest, if you are new to social media, and you have a limited budget, try $25 to see how it performs. More good news… If it does well, you can boost it again and again for the cost of your daily coffee each month. Also, Facebook and Instagram are the best platforms to try using boosted posts.
Bonus Tip: You can also run a fully paid ad. Facebook and Instagram walk you through the steps. It can be a little tricky without seeing the site prompts so if you get lost, go to Google, and type, “How do I post a paid ad on Facebook?” Again, an intern won’t need help, but Google is a great source.
3. Competitive Discovery and Tailgating
If you still aren’t convinced, let me share this little treat. You can use “discovery” and “tailgating” (or, hash tagging a topic in the search bar and then jumping into an industry conversation), to increase business. For instance, type in #seerrating to search in Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, to find prospective customers who are talking about SEER. If someone posted, “Does anyone know what’s considered a good SEER rating?” as an example, all the relevant conversations will come up.
Why are discovery and tailgating good tools?
1. The platform does all the research work for you.
2. You can answer directly and talk to that new lead.
3. You can join an ongoing conversation about a brand or HVACR issue or suggest that they call you.
Or you can choose to utilize the conversation to be educational, opting not to sell to them, but act as a leader in the field. But be sure to ask them to follow you. This person is a potential customer. It’s called tailgating and it’s amazing because it allows you to track all social media conversations happening about your industry, competitors, or even your own business. Paid ads do some of this for you too. TIP: Follow competitor pages. If the pages have a significant number of followers, invite those followers to follow you. Watch what your competition does well and learn.
Join groups on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I find this to be particularly lucrative on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. Look for all the HVACR groups you can find. Ask to join them. Once they approve you, you can post to the group and/or join in the conversation. If you are running a sale or a contest, have the need to share any news, it’s always great to post to the group. The bonus is that some of these groups have thousands of people in them, especially on LinkedIn. It can be very good for business. Be sure to look for geo-locational groups if you are a brick-and-mortar business owner. You might search for Milwaukee HVACR Groups or something similar. Some of the LinkedIn groups have hundreds of thousands of members. Consider how much that would cost in direct response mailers.
5. Better Customer Service
You are in business to do good business, create a loyal customer base, and to run a profitable organization for your employees. Social media allows you to hear the customers’ feedback in real time, what they like and don’t like. On these platforms, you can encourage customers to reach out to you 24/7 on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. You may think “I have a website…and they can contact us there.” That’s true, however social media users are online daily, sometimes for hours at a time. It’s easier just to click over to your page for one of the social media pages. Also, some customers prefer to search and inquire through social platforms, to get immediate answers on hours, services performed etc. If you aren’t responsive, you could miss out on a new or very loyal customer. Then there is the immediacy of it. For instance, if you’re running a sale, or recommending a service, you can post for people to see it immediately and that’s what drives traffic to your website. Lastly, if you want to brand your company to be known as the premiere service firm in your area, posting videos and articles on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, is the best way to position your company as the leader. TIP: Make sure the videos are informative, engaging and well lit. Poor-quality videos won’t help your business. And, these days, anyone with an iPhone can make a very professional looking video.
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If you like the information or want more, feel free to email me at email@example.com with your comments or suggestions. Finally, as we get ready to launch our new website in June, we are also rebranding our social media efforts. And, since we are on the topic, go follow our social media posts. You can learn from watching us too!
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Heather Langone is a social media marketer and Managing Editor at HVACR Business Magazine.