Why contractors should be on social media

8 min read

There's no way around it: People spend a lot of time online. Whether you're a small contractor or work for a larger agency, if you're not online, you're missing out.

You need to be where your potential customers are and, in many cases, that means dipping your toes in the social media waters. We've all seen posts from friends or family who are asking for advice finding a good car, TV, restaurant or whatever else they happen to be shopping for. How great would it be if someone recommended your services when that happens? And to be honest, if you're not on social media, you just might not be found by folks who are looking for a good handyman, electrician, designer or contractor.

It can seem like a daunting task -- and it can be -- to do social media right. The biggest takeaway we can give you is to just be yourself.

If you're already on networks like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest on a personal level, think about how you use the networks as a user and what you expect and want to see from people you follow.

Here's three tips for success to get you started:

1. Be genuine

Chances are you, like many other people, get a little irked when you see overly promotional posts on social media that are obviously just after sales. So don't be the person who turns around and posts overly promotional posts with your business profile. That would be like the equivalent of someone posting this on his or her personal profile:

Don't worry folks... you're not actually taking advice from someone who would post this on his timeline.

And let's avoid the obvious problem that posting this on Facebook would only show it to people who are already following you, which makes this as useless as it is tasteless.

People sign up for Facebook because they want to keep in touch with people they know and see what they are up to in their daily lives. Show don't tell. Share some insight into who you are or a photo of what you did over the weekend. The same holds true for you if you're operating as a business.

Of course you're investing time, energy and potentially money on social networks, but you shouldn't be solely focused on sales. Think of it as promoting your brand.

Sure, people who see this probably won't immediately pick up the phone to get a quote, but it gets your brand in front of the folks who follow you. Plus, if you post something compelling enough for someone to Like, Comment or Share, that can put you in front of his or her friends, even if they aren't already following you.

Sharing the winner of the clean van competition also shows that Prairie cares about how it is represented by employees and their vehicles and that the company has a bit of fun too. And to be fair, I've seen a lot of folks share photos of cleanly washed cars or finely crafted meals on social networks. They might not get the most engagement professionally or personally, but it fits into the standards.

2. Offer help

Another great way to get yourself out there is to provide helpful information to people who could potentially be your customers. Not only does this show that you know your stuff, but it starts to establish you as a thought leader in your area of expertise.

In fact, that is the very premise of a New York Times Best-Selling book "Youtility" by Jay Baer. If you haven't heard of it yet, you definitely should check it out and consider investing in a copy. The gist of the book (and the tagline on the website) says it all: "Why smart marketing is about help not hype."

When talking about social that could mean answering questions you frequently receive from customers, general tips or thoughts on industry trends. Just remember, your potential clients probably aren't up on technical jargon or slang that you use. Try to write in a way that would make sense to everyone, without belittling them.

Think about the kinds of sales people you like to work with in real life, chances are they are knowledgeable and more interested in helping you find the right solution than shoving their product or service down your throat.

And when it comes to writing, don't worry about having a five-paragraph essay. Short is good. Writing in a conversational tone is great. And try to stay positive because bad mouthing a client or experience can backfire on you.

3. Think visual

Not the best writer? That's perfectly OK. If you haven't noticed, social networks are starting to lean more and more on visual content like photos and videos.

Sharing photos of job sites, or completed projects on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram can be a great way to show the kind of work you do. Just make sure you have permission from your clients before you start posting photos inside their property.

And of course there are so many more things to cover like proper use of #hashtags on Twitter, how to spend money, how to maintain multiple networks at the same time. If you're looking for more help, there are many great places to go online. (Social Media Today, Content Marketing Institute, and Social Media Examiner are a few of my personal favorites.)

Sure, getting on social media can and should seem like a big undertaking but it can also be a great, cost-effective way to get your company in front of potential customers. We've found that there certainly are best practice guidelines but there aren't necessarily any rules. It just comes down to what works for you as a business.