Why Contractors Fail at Social Media

It’s hard to not notice the headlines.

“Small business leverages social media to win customers.”

“Twitter saves business from brink of bankruptcy.”

These are the stories that make the papers. What you don’t see is that most businesses, and most HVAC contractors, are struggling to make social media work for their businesses and customers. A recent Junta42/MarketingProfs study found that nearly seven out of 10 companies feel they are failing at social media.

This is less than impressive.

So, why are so many contractors failing at social media?

It comes down to one thing…

In order for social media to work, a business has to be interesting.

When I talk with HVAC contractors about social media, the first question they ask is “why would anyone care about what I have to say?”

Yes, why would they? Well, let’s look at your website. Nice picture of the family warming up by the fire, or playing with the dog. And thanks for all that product information. All in all, a perfect online brochure.

None of that is worthy of sharing. Simply put – your customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your family. They don’t care about your product lines. They certainly don’t care about the stock photo on your home page of the Brady Bunch. So, how do you make them care?

Before you can get any traction at all with social media, you have to figure out the answer to this question. How DO you get people to care?

Stop thinking about the tools; things like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Start thinking about the story. If the daily newspaper was just blank paper - no ink, no images, no stories - would you open it up? Of course not.

Contractors tend to get infatuated with the tools. “What’s our Facebook strategy?” This is the wrong question to ask.

The right questions are “What can we talk to our customers about that will really engage them? What can we develop that will position us as real home comfort experts? Outside of our products and services, how can we help our customers succeed?”

The answers to those questions will unlock your social media success program.

Here’s how it works:

• Step 1: Understand what your customers’ informational needs are. Think of them as if they were readers of ContractingBusiness.com magazine. What do they need to know?

• Step 2: Find out where your customers are hanging out on the web. If it’s on Facebook, then you need to be there. If it’s on a community forum site, you need to be there as well.

• Step 3: Connect with them through those sites. Be real. Be human. Be helpful.

• Step 4: Consistently create helpful information for them. Home comfort tips. Ways to save energy. Give them information on how to live better lives as it relates to your business.

• Step 5: Deliver that information through the right social media sites. Be sure the main content originates on your website or blog (that’s your asset) and then syndicate that information out to the social networking sites that your customers use (with links back to your site).

Note that social media comes last in this list.

Now, wait at least six months, and you’ll start to see the needle move.

Remember, social media is like butter…it goes well on lots of different kinds of food, but eating butter by itself can make you sick. Social media can make your marketing work a little better, but you have to start with something that’s interesting first, or it’s just a waste of time, especially for your customers.

Joe Pulizzi is CEO of SocialTract , a blogging/social media service for HVACR contractors. Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. SocialTract is a division of Z Squared Media, LLC . Joe can be reached at [email protected] . For speaking needs - http://joepulizzi.com.

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