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Plumbing companies can benefit from a solid social media marketing plan. But the questions often asked are, “How can I get business from social media and how do I measure it?” These are valid questions that could be answered in many different ways. The most common comment seems to be, “Social media is for branding.” I disagree with this. If social media was all about branding, then GM would not have shut down its social media marketing. Social media supports branding initiatives. It cannot make your phone ring.
In fact, if you are spending marketing dollars on social media with the expectation of getting calls immediately, then you are wasting funds and potential. Social media marketing is best used with the three following goals in mind:
- Creating and developing new relationships;
- Keeping your name in front of your customers, as well as their friends and followers; and
- Building a solid foundation for harnessing testimonials in a public forum.
That’s it — no more, no less.
With that said, the next discussion is about which social media sites plumbing contractors should be spending time on — and maybe money, too. You have probably heard of, or are somewhat familiar with, these top five sites in our social media face-off (in ascending order).
We mainly hear about Twitter in the news when a professional athlete decides to tweet a 140-character rant about how the ownership doesn’t appreciate him or about a competitor’s lack of skills, or when a celebrity announces her pregnancy.
A survey of small-business owners recently published in The Wall Street Journal reports that Twitter has had very little to do with impacting prospects and clients. Just a measly 4% of those polled thought the social media platform had good potential to contribute or cause any growth.
However, Twitter has several very powerful uses for plumbing contractors. Most Tweeters refer to very specific topics, such as “Spending today planning new bathroom project,” or “Anyone know a good plumber? Need help!” This opens the door to very specific needs that plumbing contractors can address.
The ability to instantly interact with 200 million active Twitter users and somewhat target them by geography is attractive. The investment of time required to actively make an impact is definitely not as attractive, however.
Many people don’t think of YouTube as a social media network but the site is becoming exactly that. A YouTube channel allows for followers and friends. Videos can be shared, rated and commented on. YouTube is not only a content site and is not just another social media network, either. It is now the second-largest search engine (Google is No. 1), with 800 million unique monthly visitors.
What does that mean to a plumbing business?
With helpful videos on your YouTube channel, a homeowner can search for a topic and region, find your video listed, Like the video, call the phone number on the page, Follow the channel so he does not lose that contact and even Share the link with his neighbor.
The top B2B networking site is LinkedIn. Here you are most likely not targeting or connecting directly with the homeowner, so it is best if used to create and develop business relationships with developers, general contractors, real estate agents, etc.
Professionals create their online resumes and connect with other people they know or want to meet. They join and build groups around specific interests, topics or fields.
In the previously referenced Wall Street Journal survey, LinkedIn is identified as the social network with the most potential for business use, registering 41% of acceptance by business owners.
One of the main reasons LinkedIn rates higher than the other social networks is probably because the channel is most widely used to recruit employees, which has a lot of perceived value for both the employing and employed parties.
Plumbers can potentially find business partners on LinkedIn, but I wouldn’t exactly name the channel a social media winner.
We have seen plumbing businesses achieve very good success with Facebook. It has more than 1 billion active users — an enormous number and still growing. The average Facebook user has 135 Friends and accesses his account three to five times per day.
Like Twitter, this activity is very short-lived. However, Facebook recently began beta-testing Graph Search, a feature that can add longevity to posts and make Facebook even more relevant when considered as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Graph Search is a way for Facebook users to easily search within their Friends’ Likes. For instance, instead of heading to YouTube in the earlier example, Joe Smith could have gone to Facebook and typed into Graph Search the phrase “plumbers my friends like in Houston.” Acme Plumbing’s Facebook business page pops up. The search for local plumbers is over.
When this feature rolls out to all users, Facebook might take over the top spot, but at this time, the winner of the social media face-off for plumbers is …
Google+ and Google+ Local
Google+ is the winner and the most misunderstood social network. There are many positives to this powerful social site. The most important aspect of Google+ is how relevant it is to professional services such as plumbing contractors.
Google+ was released as a major Facebook competitor and in the tech space it was labeled as the Facebook killer. In my opinion, though, it is going to be very hard to take down Facebook anytime soon. Yes, one can argue that Facebook took MySpace down, so anything is possible. The big difference is that your mother and grandmother were not on MySpace, but they may be on Facebook.
In fact, your entire family, from children to grandparents, is likely to own a Facebook account. They are not just going to jump over to Google+ because it’s the hot new thing, but they will slowly adopt and explore, if it carries additional value to them.
Google quickly realized this and repositioned its social network in a different way.
Posting plumbing tips on Google+ can develop Google juice — those tips even show up in Google search, which is the ultimate award and a much desired result companies spend large amounts of time to achieve. In recent months, fewer and fewer Facebook and Twitter posts have shown up on Google Search results. Is that a coincidence? Probably not.
In addition, Google+ offers great collaboration tools, such as the ability to create circles of contacts — friends and family, employees and co-workers, industry news sites such as Plumbing & Mechanical, industry experts, industry networks and associations. This makes it easy to post or read related information from each of those groups.
But the real power of Google+ for plumbing contractors is its seamless integration with Google+ Local. The Google search engine accounts for about 69% of online searches, which makes a Google+ Local presence an absolute must for plumbing businesses. When prospective customers type “plumber” into the Google search bar, Google displays local results. This is a group of typically seven results, each identified by Plumbing Business Name, Website or Google+ Link, Address, Phone Number, Reviews and pinned map placement.
This real estate on the Google search results page is extremely valuable. Showing up high on the Google+ Local results page plays a significant factor in how much new business a plumbing business will be bringing in. This position can be adjusted predominantly through search engine optimization, but not a willingness to pay Google for high placement.
Now, due to the connection between Google+ and Google+ Local, the effort put in on the social media side can pay direct dividends on the local ranking search results. This is a big deal. It is now possible to have one central location for company information, service offers, customer reviews and referral opportunities.
With so little time and so many social networks, it is very important to make sure you are investing your resources in the right places.
About the author: Dean Iodice is co-founder of PlumberSEO, which executes online marketing and SEO functions on behalf of plumbers, HVAC contractors and other contracting businesses throughout the country. For more information, call 866/610-4647 or visit www.PlumberSEO.net.