Check out the transcription for the Digital Marketing for Contractors Podcast: Social Media – Why Do It? below. Click this link to listen to the podcast.
Today we are going to get into the always interesting topic of social media. Janet, I know this is one of your favorites. So social media, like I said, is an interesting part of the digital marketing mix because we all know that it is something that is out there and is a significant part of our world.
I think contractors know that their customers and potential customers are in the social media spheres and are using it and are checking out their business there. But I think if we’re honest, from a business standpoint in particular, there’s just a lot of confusion and even frustration around social media and what we are supposed to do with it.
Why do we even need to do it? Should we be doing it? What should we be doing if we’re going to do it? There’s just a whole lot of frustration and confusion over what role social media should play in business and in marketing. So let’s just dive in and talk about it.
The Expectations of Social Media for Contractors
Janet, when you’re talking to a client or a potential client, what do you hear them say about social media when they are first asking questions?
I really hear two ends of the spectrum. On one end, there’s that groan “What is this? I don’t want to do it.” That’s one end. And I would say 80% of our clients fall into that category, especially the owners, maybe not some of the folks on their staff.
Then on the other end of the spectrum, I will talk to prospective clients or clients who, in my opinion, have some unrealistic expectations about what organic social media can do for them in terms of lead generation. So I almost feel this professional responsibility to unwind that expectation.
Maybe they have been led astray by somebody in the digital marketing world or found a vendor who has promised to optimize their social media profiles for cheap, selling the idea that they can generate all the leads they could ever need just from Facebook and Instagram. We’ve never seen it work that way when you’re talking about organic social media.
What is Organic Social Media?
When we say organic social media, what are we talking about? What does that term mean? As opposed to what other kinds of social media are there?
So there’s paid versus organic social media. Paid social media is when you boost a post or run a paid campaign. We’re not talking about paid. Organic social media is just the content that you’re posting on your business profile about your business, most likely on Facebook and Instagram. It’s not paid to the platform, so it’s technically free, but your time is not free.
One of the things I hear talking with clients is this general consensus of it being a hassle, like you said, it’s not free. You pay with your time. And I think that’s where the sense of frustration comes from. “Is this kind of a time sink for me and for our business?”
The Frustration Many Contractors Have with Social Media
You feel like you’re spending a bunch of time to post something that looks professional and hopefully it’s going to help your business. If you’re posting before and after pictures, pictures of your crew, what you do, and the communities you serve and you don’t see any leads from it – that’s where I hear the most frustration. When we are on a call with a client, we’re talking about a whole bunch of different things, but at the end of the day, the question is, “where are my leads?”
Absolutely, I hear that too. The results are hard to measure when it comes to social media. What is a like anyway? What does that mean and how does that help my bottom line as a contractor? What good is that actually doing me? Even on our end, working with all the digital marketing tools that help us calculate all those things, they are legitimately hard to measure.
The Benefits of Using Organic Social Media for Contractors in Home Improvement
So let’s break down the benefits. Why would you do it? Why would you spend any time doing it? The main thing that I talk about with contractors when I’m explaining what we do for their social media and why we do it is that social media is not primarily about lead generation, but it is important to their overall lead gen strategy. It’s like a supporting actor.
Here’s an analogy. It’s sort of like if you’re going to buy a car and you know you’re going to spend a lot of money on it. It has to be reliable, get you from point A to point B, and you are going to need it to last you a significant amount of time. You want to make sure that the money spent on it is going to be worth it.
So you do some research. You look up that car and the business selling the car but then you also use some third party sources, like a Carfax report, something else that will help you figure out if this car is safe, reliable and if you’ll get a fair price from the dealer. You’re using a whole bunch of other things outside of just the car and the dealer to figure out if this is going to be a good purchase.
Building the Customers’ Confidence
You’re looking to build confidence in the decision that you’re trying to make. So I tend to tell contractors, social media is really playing those same kinds of roles in helping their potential customers be able to make a confident decision about spending a significant amount of money on whatever remodeling or home service project they’re jumping into.
What Instills Confidence in a Potential Customer?
So what would make a homeowner feel confident about their decision? If we go back to the pre-Internet days, which weren’t that long ago, and you needed a new roof put on your house, you either looked through the Yellow Pages or had to ask your neighbor, “Hey, neighbor, do you know anybody?” and there’s a lot of risk there.
Who do you know that’s trustworthy? You’re going to have to give them a deposit, and then trust that they come back. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of mistrust on the homeowner’s side in the home improvement space because there have been some bad actors there. We talk to contractors about this all the time. You know the bad contractors in your area, and you don’t want to be one. You want to demonstrate to your prospective customers that you’re not a bad contractor.
How Social Media Comes into Play
So the role that social media plays, if we go to my admittedly old school analogy, is the modern-day version of the Yellow Pages or asking a neighbor. Instead of going to the Yellow pages or a neighbor, you’re going to Google a specific roofing company, or “roofers near me,” and then you’re going to get a list of roofers and you’re not going to know which ones to trust.
Your neighbors may not have ever needed to replace a roof, so they can’t help you. So you look at a couple of websites, reviews, and then you’re going to go to their social media page. You go to their Facebook business page, and you’re going to look to see if this is a legit business or if they are going to take your deposit and disappear.
So social media answers many questions for prospective customers. “Is this business established?”, “Are they in my community?”, etc. You’re trying to establish yourself and your business as trustworthy so that a customer really could choose you and have confidence that they’re making a good choice. But you’ve got to be consistent. If you’re inconsistent with the way that you post on social media, then customers are going to look at that and they’re going to end up choosing someone else that they feel like they can trust more.
Maintain a Consistent Online Presence
Our definition of consistent includes two things. The first one is that you’re posting consistently on the same platform. There are so many social media platforms out there right now. Obviously, the biggest ones are Facebook and Facebook’s subsidiary, Instagram. But then you’ve got TikTok that’s growing significantly among a younger generation. There are hundreds of platforms to choose from.
Choosing Your Platform(s) Wisely
The point is you don’t need to be on all of them. You need to be somewhere and you need to be in that place regularly. So it’s not as good to post this week on Facebook and next week on LinkedIn and the next week on Pinterest as it would be to pick a platform and stay with it.
Don, you mentioned TikTok. Everybody’s talking about TikTok. It is a lot of fun. Is it where a bathroom contractor or somebody that’s installing James Hardie needs to post? Maybe eventually, but not yet. Your time is precious. Spend your time somewhere else for now.
Focusing on Your Target Audience
You want to try to choose a social media platform that matches the audience demographic of who your customers are. So for most of our home improvement contractors, they’re looking at customers aged 45 to 50+ that have disposable income and the ability to make some of these large purchases. By and large, that demographic is on Facebook.
Sticking to a Posting Schedule
So the first part is picking a platform that you’re going to be consistent on. The second part is just picking a rhythm of posting that you can maintain consistently. What’s more important is not how often you post but the fact that you are doing it consistently. If you can maintain a rhythm for yourself and for your business by posting once a week, then do that. It’s better to do a post once a week than to do three posts this week and then not post anymore for the rest of the month.
I’ve talked to enough contractors where they’re like, “man, I’m busy”. If we’re talking about demonstrating that you’re active, there are tools out there, and many of them free, where you can sit down for maybe one hour per month, make two posts and pre-schedule them. Now your business is posting twice a month on one or two platforms, and you look like you’re alive. That’s not a lot to ask.
Keep Posting Even after Business Picks Up
Now remember to stay consistent. Imagine you’re in your early days before leads started to pick up and you posted a lot to social media. Now your business is booming. You’re getting word of mouth referrals and you’re busy running appointments and managing jobs, but you haven’t posted in two years.
Some of those word of mouth referrals will hear about you and they’re going to see what looks like your abandoned business page. All of a sudden, the red flags are going up and that’s the last thing that you want to try to induce in your potential customers’ mindset. You don’t want them to find something that’s going to make them pause.
What To Post on Your Social Media
When we’re talking about building trust and confidence, you should post content consistently. It just needs to be content that shows off what your business is. You can post a picture of your staff wearing their matching polo shirts inside your office, celebrating your office manager’s birthday, just that picture alone. First of all, it communicates that you’ve got an office and you’re an established business that opens its door every day. That’s more than the classic “Chuck in a truck” that we all know about that’s going to roll up in a tattered old truck, try to take your money, and then vanish.
High Quality Photos
Obviously, you want to post pictures of the work that you are doing by taking good job site photos. And by good, I mean it shows the completed work that you have done, or maybe even before and after pictures of the work without pictures of ladders or buckets or paint brushes in the background or your thumb over the camera lens.
Highlight Your Authenticity and Quality
You want good quality pictures, but people tend to feel that if they don’t have these professional glamor shots then they shouldn’t post anything, or, alternatively, they just grab some manufacturer photos that look super pretty and super fancy. There’s a place for manufacturer photos. I think they can be really helpful, but we see consistently that those real life job site photos always do better because people can tell that you actually did this work. What we’re honing in on is authenticity and quality.
And as long as it demonstrates that you’ve done quality work and a product that people would be pleased with in or outside their home, then that attracts people more than a manufacturer photo that they know has been photoshopped. It creates skepticism as much as it creates ooh and ahh factors.
When to Use Manufacturer Photos
Here’s where manufacturer photos come in. Let’s say you’re installing Marvin Windows. There are all these different products you could make posts to showcase, that your company installs Marvin Windows. You just need to mix in real photos because people can tell the difference between what is an authentic photo of a job that you’ve completed in their town versus the professionally photographed and Photoshopped photo that just looks like anybody could have posted it.
Just keep those two things in mind, authenticity and quality, and hit on those topics over and over and over again. I really recommend this to our clients because they’re local contractors, they’re local businesses. I think it’s great to post some content that’s actually about your business and the people that work for your business. Let your community see who you are and to know that you’re real people.
Humanize Your Business
Say you post about your office manager just celebrating their 15 year anniversary working for your company. It’s fantastic because it communicates to people around you that you are real people that they can get to know. And you know Angi’s, Home Depot or any of these other national brand conglomerate contractors that work in your area aren’t doing that.
This communicates to people that you’re a local business and people do love to trust and support local businesses. The more that you can put a face to the name of your business that people know, the more it makes them want to support you in ways that are good for you as a local contractor.
In short, what we’re saying here is that social media is helping build trust and also brand recognition. If your trucks are branded or if you’re using branded yard signs during jobs, take pictures of that. Wait for a really sunny day and take a good shot of your yard sign in a customer’s front yard. If you’re doing any kind of community involvement or activity, maybe your staff is manning a table at a local 5K charity run, that’s also great content. It reaffirms that you’re a local business operating in the local community. It’s about telling the story.
We have only scratched the surface of how to use social media to build that trustworthiness and brand awareness for your business. If you have more questions about how to use social media effectively and what to do, we have a resource called “Dominate Social Media Marketing”, and it is chock full of tactics that every small business should be using to help you with leveling up your social media game plan. You can check out that resource at fatcatstrategies.com/social where you can download it right there on our page.