Social Media Principles to Win Clout with Contractors

While the building and construction space may have been slow in adopting social media up to now, more companies are recognizing the importance of joining the conversation online to increase visibility, gather market information and build deeper customer loyalty. In a national research study conducted by Eric Mower + Associates Group B2B in 2011, 88% of general contractors, electricians, plumbers and HVAC specialists rated manufacturers’ websites as the most important source for finding information about brands and products — websites to which social media can drive traffic and foster engagement. When entering the social media space, keeping these principles in mind can give you the edge you need to make your presence robust and relevant.

1. Build a plan, enrich your brand

Social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are great tools to enhance your brand, a factor that more than 90% of respondents in Eric Mower + Associates’ 2011 study ranked as somewhat or very influential in decision making. Too often, however, marketers jump headlong into using these tools without considering how they fit into the organization’s marketing plans to reach traditionally difficult-to-target audiences like contractors. Formulating a social media strategy involves first understanding your current situation; understanding your audience and specific vertical markets; and determining objectives, messages and tactics. Only then should you engage your audiences through multiple channels and execute a truly integrated social media plan. Putting in the time to make a real plan now can save you from an ineffective campaign later.

2. Make it a narrative

Effective storytelling that has meaning to contractors is the key to enhancing interactivity and defining yourself as an organization and the value proposition you bring to potential customers. Your story has to communicate who you are, where you are going and why others should join you on your journey. Starting a company blog, combined with regular tweets to drive readership, is an excellent way to personalize your product and enhance its brand strength.

3. Commit the time, use the tool

Maintaining a social media presence is no small task, as real engagement requires more than a daily tweet or Facebook update. However, 50% of respondents in Eric Mower + Associates’ 2011 survey reported using smartphones on the job site to make purchasing decisions, look up information on brands and do pricing comparisons. Consider adding regular Facebook and Twitter updates to that mix to keep followers abreast of project developments, as the tool to ensure your social media platforms are up-to-date and engaging is already in the palm of your hand.

4. Monitor the conversation

Social media marketing cannot be a one-way, passive effort; instead, brand managers must be vigilant in monitoring and joining the conversations taking place online that concern their organizations. Numerous tools can help with monitoring and delivery of relevant social media information, such as Twitter dashboards TweetDeck and HootSuite, blog search engines Icerocket and Technorati, content notification service Google Alerts and social media monitoring software Radian6.

Social media is no longer a child’s game, and its potential for enhancing engagement and building relationships with customers is tremendous. Implementing a successful strategy is not easy, but by adhering to these principles, companies will see their social media efforts pay real, bottom-line dividends.