How to Use Twitter to Grow Your HVAC Business

March 9, 2011
Most contractors don’t understand Twitter. Nine out of ten HVAC contractors think Twitter is officially “stupid”.

Most contractors don’t understand Twitter. Nine out of ten HVAC contractors think Twitter is officially “stupid”.

That’s a completely natural response. Before I started using Twitter for business over three years ago I felt the exact same way. Now, twelve-thousand or so followers later, I can tell you that it has been one of the keys to growing our business by over 50% per year over that time.

There are many different marketing reasons to use Twitter. Most contractors jump in, create a Twitter presence, and then hope for the best. The better way is to identify exactly why you would use Twitter. Here’s an overview that will get you pointed in the right direction.

Goal = I Want to Build My Personal Brand

This is the preferred goal for most business people on Twitter. People like Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawasaki have leveraged Twitter to significantly grow their credibility.

The formula is simple, but takes time.

First, identify your niche (i.e., home comfort solutions in the Des Moines, IA, area). Be very specific. The more specific the better and the easier it will be to grow your personal brand.

Second, start by following customers, prospects and, most importantly, others who share the passion or interest in your niche subject. Try using Advanced Twitter Search to identify these people. Use a combination exact search phrases (“air conditioning”) and zip code range as part of your searches. Do this multiple times for your regional area and keywords. You’ll start to see certain people show up in the searches that you can follow. You can also use blog directory services like Blog Catalog to find people that are blogging about the same topics in your area, or even nationwide.

As you get started, don’t follow more than 15 people per day so that your follower to following ratio doesn’t look to out of whack (You’ll want to stay as close to 1 to 1 ratio as possible. Those people that have many more followers than people following them are usually seen as more credible, but it’s not a hard and fast rule).

Third, begin to share relevant and compelling information. If you don’t have a blog yourself, you’ll need to share information that your audience would find interesting. Remember, people don’t care about you, they care about themselves, so you need to share information about home comfort that is truly helpful. Andrew Davis, principle at Tippingpoint Labs, recommends the Twitter 4-1-1: share four pieces of helpful information that does not come from you, share one piece of information that is from you, and also share one promotional piece of information. This should be per day.

In order to manage this process, try using a Twitter management service like Tweetdeck, Tweetgrid or Hootsuite. Any one will work fine to both track and share your tweets. It will also make it easier for you to share information coming from other people. Tweetdeck, for example, lets you easily set up search phrases so that as someone mentions, “home comfort”, you’ll be able to see that tweet with the link to the article. If the article is worthy of your audience, you can share it (or retweet it).

If your goal is personal branding, it will take about six months to really get moving in the right direction, so be patient. As a final note…you CAN position yourself as a thought leader without your own blog, but it’s much more difficult. Ultimately, you’ll need to share your own expertise to do the job right.

Goal = I Want to Drive Traffic to My Business

Our blogs at the Content Marketing Institute and Junta42 get about five to seven percent of total traffic from Twitter. Our SocialTract customers generally see about two to three percent of total traffic coming from Twitter, and this increases as they get more followers.

Follow the instructions above, but with one major change. In order to drive people back to your website, you need to do two things in much greater quantity. First, you need to create original and interesting content on your website. Having a blog is a must to do this. Second, you need to share other people’s information at an even greater rate. Why? Because if you share their information, they’ll be more likely to share your information. When you retweet someone else’s content on twitter, you want to be sure to call out their Twitter handle, so they know you are sharing their information and can repay the favor. Mine is @juntajoe.

Goal = I Want to Build Relationships With my Customers and Partners

Once you start doing all the above, you can actually have conversations with customers and partners on Twitter that can either lead to business, help with referrals, or increase customer satisfaction. SocialTract customer Theo Etzel not only leverages Twitter to promote his blog posts, but also to communicate with customers and prospects (in this tweet , he is thanking followers who retweeted his post —a great example of what you need to do on Twitter).

Services like Flowtown can take your customer or prospect database and find their social media identities (you can also do this one-by-one with Twitter Search). Once you know which customers are on Twitter, you can follow them and help spread their information and have conversations with them.

Think of this type of tactic as the ultimate non-sales customer touch. If your customers are sharing your information or chatting with you on Twitter, odds are they will buy from you as well.

Goal = I Would Like to Drive Direct Leads From Twitter

So, the last concept is used by a number of local service professionals, but you need to be careful.

First, go to Twitter Advanced Search. Next to “any of these words” type in your keywords like “air conditioning” or “heat pumps”. Under places, type in your main zip code and range of at least 50 miles. Then click search.

You should see some interesting results, many about people complaining that their heat is not working or that their AC is on the fritz. When you see the results page, click on “Feed for this Query” to put the RSS feed in your RSS reader (i.e. Google Reader). Here is an example for the 10026 zip code.

If you see an opportunity, you can respond directly to them through Twitter with something like the following:

Hey @prospect. Sorry to hear that your heat isn’t working. If you need help, let us know. We are right down the street and can get you up and running.

An even better example would be:

Hey @prospect. Sorry to heat about your heat pump. Check out this article on how to fix that problem here [link to article]. If you still need help, let me know.

There is a mechanic in my area that only uses this technique to drive new business, but please be careful, some people may think it’s strange that you are “listening” to them.

With Twitter, Facebook or any other social media tool, we often get infatuated with the bright, shiny objects and forget that these are marketing tools. As a marketing tool, you need to know the reason to use it. If you don’t have a good reason to use Twitter, don’t do it.

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 -