Getting the most out of social media

Published:  07 April, 2016

Jonny Lawrence explains how social media can boost business for trades’ people.

Most of us engage in social media in some way or another and, for small businesses in particular, it can prove a low cost way of reaching customers and winning more work.

As a whole, heating and plumbing engineers have been slow to ‘get online’, with traditional word of mouth referrals still being the main way new business is drummed up. ‘Word of mouth’ has now spread from the physical to the virtual world, however, and for those positive reviews to reach further afield, it’s essential that savvy installers make the most of social media – in particular Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Logic4Training conducted a survey last year that showed the extent to which the internet has become ubiquitous for our customers – 9 out of 10 trades’ people own a smart phone or tablet. Despite this, only 29% of tradespeople asked had a presence on Facebook, showing that a trick is definitely being missed when it comes to effective and largely free self-promotion.

Benefits of social media

Find new customers: Social media dramatically increases the amount of people you can reach. On Facebook, for example, your posts are not only reaching your friends, or people that like your page, they may also get seen by the friends of those people, and their friends’ friends.

By linking to your website, social media can also help boost your search rankings and is another way of getting people to your site. You’ll need to keep content fresh, so keep posts up-to-date with case studies - including lots of pictures - client testimonials and blogs.

Communicate better: The other big benefit of social media is that it’s interactive. No longer is marketing a single-track medium, with a message being fired out in one direction. The audience can now respond and contribute to this message. Make sure you engage with your customers, be helpful, thank them for kind words and encourage testimonials.

From a marketing perspective, by monitoring how many ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ you get between one post and another you can see what works, and what doesn’t. ‘Direct selling’ is not the best approach for social media, mix your marketing message with humour and things you find interesting, such as industry news.

Which platform?

Facebook: Great for image and video sharing, plus end user interaction, Facebook allows you to engage with customers, with options to create surveys and competitions. If you have some marketing budget to spare, Facebook advertising can be a worthwhile exercise, with adverts targeted to your potential market - region, demographic, interests etc.

Twitter: Also good for posting images and pictures, twitter is more instant gratification, with tweets having a short shelf-life. Keep checking regularly so you can quickly respond to any questions and wade into discussions that could help raise your profile.

There’s lots of trade magazines on twitter too, so it can be a way of attracting their attention to your projects and stories.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is like Facebook for business, allowing you to reach decision makers, through the creation of an online ‘CV’. You can also implement a company page, but the most effective approach is as an individual – think of LinkedIn as ‘virtual networking’. You should come across as professional, make sure you list you and your businesses’ experience and try to get involved in some of the many forums, where you can demonstrate your knowledge. As with Facebook, there are targeted advertising options available – there is a lot you can do for free, however.

Many tradespeople are naturally more ‘hands on’ and the prospect of marketing through social media may seem daunting at first. The best way is to start small, with a simple twitter page for example, and give it a go. If you employ other people and you can trust them to not post anything too controversial, get them involved too. The more good tweets and posts the better.

Jonny Lawrence is digital marketing expert for Logic4training