Recently an installer posed this question to CE Pro: “Do you think it is acceptable to connect with each new client you start working with on social media? Or do you know of an article that talks about social media and new client relationships?”
My response: “Most dealers will add a customer to their email database, which is one-way communication, so why wouldn’t they add them to their business’ social network and engage them?”
But let’s talk more about social media, customer engagement and the always-important client relationship. There are exceptions to every rule so going into this answer I am going to make some basic assumptions.
- You’ve separated your business and your personal social media pages.
- When you use the term “connect” you’re referring to LinkedIn, but you may also want them to “like” or “follow” your Facebook for Business page, Instagram or Twitter profile.
- You’ve maintained a professional aspect to these platforms and it represents you and your customer-facing persona.
Most dealers implement some form of direct marketing to customers and prospects. Traditional methods such as direct mail and Google AdWords often dominate these marketing efforts because change is scary and social media often represents the unknown.
But there’s nothing to fear about social media. Instead, embrace it and learn when, why and how to use social platforms to connect with your customers.
Understand the Platforms
For starters, let’s look at the two biggest social media platforms useful for installers — Facebook and LinkedIn. If you’re going to put effort into a social media marketing program, you may as well start at the beginning.
Facebook is by far the largest social network — not just in terms of their 1.8 billion users — but how active those users are, how many objects (pages, groups, events) they interact with, how much content they share, and how often they actively engage.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, approaching 500 million users. Together these two social platforms represent the core of a CI dealer’s target audience and allow for both B2B and B2C opportunities to connect, engage, generate leads and even sell.
Understand Your Online Community
Take a minute and audit to whom you are connected on your social platforms. If you don’t understand where your customers or targets network, how are you going to connect with them? Start by connecting with your existing communities:
- Build lists to group different audiences (i.e., residential customers, light commercial customers).
- Find your vendor partners and trade groups (i.e., lighting designers, builders, architects).
- Include your local businesses, media and networking groups.
- Don’t forget your friends, family and employees.
- Invite others to connect with you and like your business page(s), but give them a reason. What’s in it for them? Make the invitation personal and let them know it’s where you share news and information that you feel they will find interesting and helpful to them (cite their project, a technology, product, etc. or the hook that’s in their wheelhouse).
Be a Resource
Don’t just connect with customers because you have something to sell. Instead, be a resource and deliver value. One of the best ways to build a relationship even on social media is to provide valuable information through content.
Share an article they may find interesting. Showcase a gorgeous new project. Host a support chat and set a topic ahead of time inviting your community to participate.
Have fun while providing your customers valuable information: “Things you can control with your Amazon Echo,” or “Safety alerts for those cold winter months.”
The beauty of this approach is you’re building trust because you’re not always in sales mode, you’re acting as an expert willing to dispense advice and knowledge. The content is both engaging and shareable, and when implemented well, will help your audience grow organically because your community will share with their community.
Get Customer Feedback
Social networking is also a way customers can say thank you and even brag about how amazing your business is, but often without the prompt or encouragement you may not get this unsolicited.
- Ask customers to review you on your Facebook page after a project. Positive feedback shows your expertise and the personal side of your business while serving as a referral for new customers.
- Reviews are seen in your network and that customer’s network, which means amplification for your business. You can even post a project and tag a customer (with their permission) which feeds that project (photos, description, thank-you note) in their network.
- Of course, this can also become an outlet for customer service and complaints. If you receive a negative review, respond and try to help them or remedy the situation.
Social media isn’t an all-or-nothing game. It’s just one piece of your marketing program. Managing your company’s social media may seem daunting, even uncomfortable at first.
This is why we’ve created Caster Academy. With online courses created specifically for small, service-based businesses in areas such as CI and security, the program, though in its infancy, has been built on years of implementing scaled programs for manufacturers, distributors and dealers in this market and learning first-hand what works and what doesn’t.
Our hope is this program provides integrators the knowledge, best practices, and even some inside tips and tricks to successfully manage social media marketing
Author Kimberly Lancaster is the president and founder of Caster Communications, a PR, social media and digital marketing firm.