Welcome to part 2 of iSqFt’s blog “microseries” that attempts to explain why your business should be involved in social media, and how to get started. (If you haven’t read part I yet, you might want to start there.) In this finale, we’re going to explore:
- Networking and joining the conversation
- Using #hashtags to engage in your business’ passion
- Branding—sharing your vision with others
- Cost—valuing the unquantifiable
1. Networking: When it comes to how many people will read your messages, you have to think outside your direct sphere of influence. This is the heart of “viral” marketing.
Imagine posting a message that talks about a new service your company is offering. Let’s say you post a message on Facebook saying that you’re now selling and installing Acme mitten-valve flange couplers. If just 10 people like or comment on that post, it will appear in the timelines of everyone they’re connected to. It will say, “Bill Ratcliff Likes Acme Manufacturing.”
If each of those 10 connections is connected to 100 people, which is a conservative number, that’s 1,000 people who could see your post. With that many connections, that many eyes, lots of people will be introduced to your company, creating new opportunities. Any one of those could be your next great sale or, even better, your next loyal customer.
With Twitter, your post will appear on the feed of everyone following you, and can be retweeted by anyone to all of their followers. No matter which platform you choose, the potential for a ripple effect is enormous.
Do this: Networking can result in (1) general learning/professional development and (2) new business. Take the time to find and connect with people and companies with interests that overlap with yours. Also, targeting is key when thinking about new business. Take the time to list out those you want to do business with—are they general contractors, subcontractors, design firms, and/or architects?
2. Using #hashtags to engage in your business’ passion: Maybe you’ve heard about search engine optimization, but it is a deep, deep topic. There are SEO experts who have built entire businesses on helping companies show up higher in Web searches. It’s a business category unto itself.
But if you just want to dip your toe in the pool, and you’re not quite ready to hand a consultant a big fat check, let’s talk about #hashtags. Here’s what Jennifer Cisneros, Manager of Marketing & Multimedia from Bio-Microbics, Inc.–a global leading manufacturer of decentralized wastewater, water, and stormwater treatment systems–has to say about it.
“We’re focused on #water and water-related topics. So few people understand what really happens before they turn on their taps and after the flush. We use social media to educate, encourage conversation, and engage those interested in #environment and #sustainable related discussions. We do that, at least in part, by using hashtags on Twitter, Facebook (yes, #keywords are searchable there, too), and other networks that allow descriptions, status updates, and Tags.
“As a manufacturer, we know our industry and our products; social media allows us to get to know our audience. Hashtags in front of any relevant keyword, like #water, #wastewater, or even #waterwednesday (yes, there really is such a thing) make it easy for people to find conversations on the things they care about. And it gives us the chance to engage them.”
Just as you can find relevant projects on iSqFt by searching for keywords, hashtags make it easy to find and engage in topics relevant to your business.
Do this: Decide what keywords you should focus on in your posts. If your company makes or installs mitten-valve flange couplers (or whatever), include that in your posts, but also include words that are tangentially related and have a broader appeal. #construction, #plumbing, and #manufacturing are all established hashtags. No matter what you do, there are hashtags waiting for you to join the conversation.
3. Branding—sharing your vision with others: You may be the only game in town, but it’s unlikely. Unless you work in a highly specialized trade (like wall-sized ant farms for schools) you’re going to have to work to define what separates you from your competitors. How do your customers find out about those things? If you have a website, and you’re tracking clicks, you probably already know how many people are reading your “About Us” content. You can’t ask people to dig for what’s special about your company, you have to show them.
On social media, you have the opportunity to talk about what matters to you and what should matter to your customers. You have the chance to establish your company as the expert in your field. When a contractor, architect, or whoever needs your services or products, they’re likely to remember you first, giving you a competitive edge over companies they don’t know. That’s the whole point of brand-focused advertising.
Let’s hear from Jennifer Cisneros from Bio-Microbics again:
“Social media has allowed us to talk about what we’re passionate about. A nice side-benefit of this is that it has improved our credibility and has set us up as the go-to experts on the subject. When people are looking for water solutions, they already know who knows a lot about it, giving us a competitive advantage: trust.”
Do this: Show the world your passion! Any topic can be fascinating if you can make it relevant and if you talk about it with passion. What does your company know better than any other company? Do your customers know that? If not, it may be because you’ve never told them.
4. Cost: Finally, there’s the money. You may be expecting me to say that social media is free, but we know better, don’t we? It’s clichéd, and true, that time is money. If you own a business you know exactly what hours cost, and all marketing efforts—no matter the medium—require people to create and drive them.
What makes social media a bargain is that there is no cost to set up a basic business page on the most popular social media sites. So the delivery vehicle is free, even if the content won’t be.
Do this: Create a plan that includes a budget for the amount of time that should be spent on social media, and create standards for how often you’ll post, and what kinds of posts you’ll create. Include time for reading other people’s posts and commenting and sharing. Yes, it feels like goofing off, but it’s not. Finally, don’t forget to measure your progress. Most social media sites will give you a way to track comments, likes, shares, retweets, etc. Keep a spreadsheet so you can see how you’re doing.
This is less about how to do social media—there are lots of those articles—this is about why you should be doing it. Your company’s website (you have one, right?) helps people discover your business and explore what you do. Social media is a great way to help people get to know your company’s personality and get a glimpse behind the scenes.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that social media is all rainbows and unicorns, or even that there’s no downside to it–every tool has a dangerous side. For instance, social media is public by its very nature, and you can’t control what others say. But if you treat social media with respect, start slowly, and learn all you can about best practices, soon enough you’ll be an expert with a following that wants to hear what you have to say.
Just do it.
 There is no cost to set up a social media account on any of the usual sites, but most will offer upgrades or add-on services for a fee.
This is the second in a two-part “microseries” that explores social media and how it can help your construction business connect, establish brand identities and, yes, sell products or services. Read part 1.