How to use social-media marketing that goes beyond the hype.

Social networking for business. [Photo credit: © Persson.]

I like words. I find them useful. So I wonder why my teenagers spend countless thumb-frenzied hours texting gibberish and posting shorthand on Facebook when an actual conversation could’ve handled the urgent question, such as “Where’d U get the awsom lip gloss?”

Even adults with presumably something better to do send out time-wasting vibes from social sites. I mean, can you honestly espouse how full your life is if you just posted you have a chive stuck in your teeth?

Additionally, I - like you - have had some pretty obscure “friend” requests from decidedly nonfriends, including a guy who the last time I saw him, his hair was swirling in a toilet.

Yet inarguable to my relative disdain (largely due to my frustration in seeking a commerce angle) is the sheer size of social media. The 500-million-member gorilla that is Facebook is astounding. This, boys and girls, is a market to be reckoned with.

Two points to make here:

1. If you want to socialize, go for it. That’s the point. Have fun.

2. If you want to monetize, think strategically. Spending hours a day on social sites trying to justify that two to three leads a week are “really worth it” is counter-productive.

My current advice is 20 to 40 minutes a day for contractor commerce. (I’ll get to this later.) Why so brief?

Marketsizeand marketapplicationare not the same thing. There are a lot of people watching Jersey Shore, too, but I wouldn’t advertise Shakespeare tickets there. Somehow this doesn’t dissuade lots of newly minted online social marketing experts telling thousands of plumbers, “You’ve GOT to develop your social media! You HAVE to be there!”

You don’t have to do a blooming thing. Decidewhyyou want to participate first. For many of you, it can be a perfectly valid “no thanks.”

Yet tons of time is spent blindly chasing this market. Sure, there are tempting pockets of results, much like flecks of gold that tempt the panner to spend another few hours, days and years in consumed pursuit. By the time he sells his pan for a bus ticket home, he’ll have a lot of time to rethink options.

I want you to mechanize the panning, to maximize flecks and amass bullion. Fair enough?

The current love affair with social media and the finger-wagging for your presence fails to address a couple of key points.

Chart 1. Most 'liked' Facebook types. [Graphs courtesy of Hudson, Ink and Hubspot.]

Better Than Car Dealers

First, “likes” from social site users via exhaustive research done in the webinar, “Science of Facebook,” suggests bleak response for local service providers. Currently, service providers are ranked 29th out of 32 local businesses (see Chart 1). Home services ranked above car dealers, if that makes you feel any better.

Don’t yell at me; I didn’t do the survey. Hudson, Ink, pays $2,800 a year to be a HubSpot member; I figured you’d want a free peek.

The conundrum is that you must be known, liked and trusted to get a sale. And yet the market doesn’t ordinarily “like” home service businesses. I believe this is because you’ve been misled about social-media marketing.

Over-promoting your wares worksagainstyou. Too much “socializing” works against you. Slapping up a Facebook page or blathering 140 character Tweets every hour won’t create Brangelina popularity. So what’s the solution?

The Good News

Social sites exist for two reasons:

1. To create community. Define as you choose.

2. To allow instant multipath interaction. This mouthful means you talk back and forth, the group within the group. Not a monologue.

Both are fantastic reasons. Social sites enhance most every plumber’s desire for more word-of-mouth advertising. The raging activity level gives you unprecedented audience size. But you’ve got to work it right:

  • Define the community, the market. Where is your community hanging out? Who do they like? Are you neighborhood-focused? Make your page, posts and links relevant to the answers here. Speak to that community.

  • Define your role in the community. This is positioning. In the social world (unlike the advertising world), you’re socializing first and soft-selling second. Yet I see roles ranging from jokers, time-wasters and absentees to professionals. I’d strongly suggest the latter one.

  • Define how your role benefits the community. Start with, “What will customers get out of this?” If you start with what you’ll get out of it, you’re already fouled up. Socializing includes giving advice, responding to customer questions and concerns. Basically, if you don’t add to their customer experience, you’re wasting their time and yours.

  • Chart 2. Blogging brings social media success.

    Social-Media Marketing Strategy

    If you want to generate followers, friends, likes and leads, here’s how. On social sites, just as any social gathering, your role is to create conversation. If you stand around and wait for someone to say something that allows you to sell them, you’re not-so-politely unliked, ignored or defriended. Not good.

    I’ll assume you’ve set up your pages and filled out your profiles. Then follow these eight methods.

    1.The 70/30 rule.Your social input should be about 70 percent advice, help or answering questions. About 30 percent can be soft selling or pointing to your website for a seasonal service, closeout or other deal.

    2.Create conversation.We chose the “contrarian” path for our service clients. We picked topics that are unexpected from a service company (since we don’t want to be 29th out of 32!). These started as topics people wanted, then grew into…

    3.Article marketing.We wrote articles and created videos about these topics. The conversation starters either “point” to these articles/videos or use pieces from them.

    We wrote 19 of these, with 12 having an advisory slant and five being sales-oriented, maintaining the 70/30 rule. The one titled, “How to Avoid a Service Call,” is in our top three retweets and “likes” of all time. Why? It’s unexpected and appreciated. And by the way, it generates service calls. Kind of the point.

    4.Create more “likes.”Youwillget “likes” for good advisory articles and links. You also can ask for “likes” if the viewer/reader approves of the content. It’d be hard for them to give a negative on free advice.

    SEO builder tip: Your articles and/or videos are posted on your website, creating more traffic and adding to your search engine optimization. Why focus on self-contained social sites unless your website benefits?

    5.Email to build community.Send emails with your advisory articles to your entire customer base inviting them to read and sign up on your Facebook or Twitter pages.

    Email list size tip: You should have about 1,000 email addresses per $1 million in top-line residential revenue.

    6.Listening is the new marketing.Let people respond and listen to them. Don’t “pile on” to every comment or you kill the conversation. Let them talk about what they like and don’t like. This is your recipe for future posts.

    7.Mechanize to monetize.Prewrite these articles to drop in during the year, at least monthly, but respond to posters as they build. This is your 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon social media time.

    8.Blogging saves and makes money.Save even more time by setting up your articles as a blog, then let the blog “republish” to your social pages. This was a dream come true for our clients, making one blog turn into three different posts, automatically.

    Blogs also greatly enhance your social presence as seen in Chart 2.

    So, forget everyone telling you you’ve got to be on some type of social media. Decide for your own reasons, butstrategize your presenceby following these tips. You want to extract full measure of time and investment.

    If you do this, you’ll build your community and your reason for being there. As followers and friends value your input, they’ll reward you with service calls and customer loyalty.

    Maybe this isn’t the fall of mankind after all.

    Tell Us About Your Social Media Experience And Win Prizes!

    Our resident marketing expert is invitingPMreaders to take a quick poll. Hudson, Ink will tally answers for the next issue (in print and online). Please answer all three questions. Every entrant will win a 12-month contractor marketing calendar and marketing budget calculator.

    1. What social media platform has worked best for you?

    2. How often do you update or post to your social site/page?

    3. What has been your best response, story, sale or result? (Any “This happened to me…” story is acceptable. Keep to 200 words or less.)

    The best answer for No. 3 will winAdams’book, “Contractor Marketing Secrets Your Competition Doesn’t Want You to Know,” plus 30 marketing consults by phone, and a one-hour CD interview with three top contractors on how they generate seven-figure sales every year. Combined value $280.

    Send your answers toContest@hudsonink.comor fax to 334/262-1115.