Social media
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You know that hilarious but risqué video or photo you took? It was so cool! Until your prospective boss finds it. And darn, you can’t just “remove” it from the Internet, either. So I guess the picture of you in too-small underpants sporting a rainbow wig while holding a bowling ball is going to be around for a while.

That problem is small compared to what happens when businesses use social media poorly. I’ve published the report by social marketing experts at HubSpot that shows the Top 40 most “liked” businesses on Facebook. None of us were happy to see “Home Contractors” just below funeral parlors, in spot No. 37.

Why the rotten performance? It’s not the rainbow wig episode above (or we hope not). It is more likely you are not following the six important rules of social media.


Beware of the trap

According to Gary Spangler, word-of-mouth and social marketing expert, most businesses do social media wrong. Follow these rules to make sure you don’t fall into a social media trap:

1. Be clear.Social media and online marketing must be transparent and honest. Clearly communicate offers, giving conditions and guarantees openly. Testimonials (Federal Trade Commission ruling here) must announce that atypical results are not typical and/or what the average results might be. Every now and then, it is sheer genius to admit a “flaw” in a product of yours. Credibility soars.

2. Have a policy.Let your staff know posts are restricted to certain personnel and must be proofed before posting. Let them know how you’re using social media; get input from them on what they’d find useful on a contractor site and begin posting those ideas. (They’ll be famous!)

3. Watch ‘friends’ posts.If you have friends or partners on your social pages, make sure they agree with and follow policies. If not, the delete key is in order.

4. Be willing to accept a critique.It’s going to happen. Somebody’s going to say their drunken Poodle is a better plumber than you are. Respond to online criticism with a cool head because you can’t take it back once it’s said. If you’ve made a mistake, admit it, mention how it should’ve been handled or that the experience changed company policy and move on.

Again, bonus points for being human, unless, of course, you’re a drunken Poodle.

5. Disclosure.If there’s a financial incentive or partnership among endorsers on your site, you must say it (FTC again). Half the time someone invests with you because you’re excellent, so don’t hide it.

6. Monitor industry news.Learn from others’ mistakes and successes. If you see missteps, take notes and precautions. If you see a good idea, incorporate something similar.


Social media FAQs

Below are some questions we’ve received recently that you might be asking yourself. As usual, I am extremely serious and helpful, in a seriously helpful-type manner.


Q. What is the best informative post that receives the most response?

Adams: We have more than 100 posts supplied to our clients across the nation and generally the best received posts are a combination of humor and useful information.

Our No. 1 post is a photo of a fat gray cat with text that says, “If your equipment looks like a large gray cat, it’s probably time to change it. Here’s how …” And that goes to the main website where we’ve supplied both a “how-to” and a video of the process. As you’d imagine, this has gotten a huge response, with many likes and service calls.

Our No. 2 post is “Top Questions My Technicians Get” and we begin to answer a question on Facebook that is linked again to the site. These, too, result in lots of likes and service calls.


Q. How do you budget your time on social media?

Adams: This is a particularly hot subject. Since we are in the business of marketing directives, here you go:

Spend no less than 20 min. and no more than an hour per weekday on social media. Post no less than eight times and no more than 40 times per month. (Or twice a week up to twice a day.)

Clearly, both of the above assume you have pre-done posts made and set to launch, interspersed with streaming posts that are made at the moment. If you do not have pre-done posts, you are choosing to take way more time and becoming way more random while divesting of the “70/30” content-to-promotion ratio so often recommended.


Q. Do contractors need social media? Why?

Adams: Yes. Because I said so.

Actually, you don’t need social media. You don’t need wrapped vans. You don’t need direct mail. You don’t need shoe covers. (You see where I’m going with this?)

You only need social media as it advances your relevance, taps into a different audience, assists in boosting image and top-of-mind awareness, quietly — but not explosively — generates leads and regularly builds community.

Those may sound subtle and avoidable, but they have become part of the marketing fabric of today’s consumer.