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Social Media…You’re Doing It Wrong!

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Let’s face it,  social media has forever changed the marketing and advertising landscape. Gone are the days when small businesses lacked the ability to make their presence felt because they could not afford an advertising budget.

These days, platforms like Facebook enable small business owners to have a presence at virtually no cost, and with one billion users, HVAC companies seeking to grow and retain their customer base should take the world’s second most popular website seriously.

But while setting up your Facebook page is literally as easy as one, two, three; here are a few vital things to consider to ensure your social media presence works for, rather than against you.

1. Strategy Must Lead Execution
Before deciding on setting up any social media account, you should know what you want to achieve from it. A good starting point is: who are you trying to attract and where are they engaging online?

“This is very important,” says Ignite Social Media’s Strategy Director Kailee VanDamia. “We consistently tell our clients that it is not about the platform, or the technology. It’s about what they want to get out of it, and they must be strategic about that.”

In the case of HVAC contractors, where content published is unlikely to attract large numbers via traditional social media sites like Facebook, and Twitter, VanDamia suggests a platform like Porch, a free network that connects homeowners and renters with the right home service professionals.

But this doesn’t mean ruling out traditional platforms. While your Facebook ‘likes’ probably won’t skyrocket to the tens of thousands, chances are, your customers are using Facebook and their friends are also. Capitalize on this by following up with customers when you wrap on a job. Ask questions like: “How did you find out about us?” and “Would you mind following our social media page and reviewing your experience?”

Their engagement will likely show up in their friends’ news feeds, which could lead to new customers for you.

If you’re trying to figure out how best to reward your customers for a great review, consider point number two.

2. Let Ethics Be Your Guide
It’s a growing trend for marketers to send free products to channel “influencers” – like YouTubers who have a large following – in exchange for a review. But as the trend increases, and companies tie down specific online stars as brand ambassadors, viewers are questioning whether kickbacks get in the way of hosts giving fair and unbiased reviews. While it is legal to pay for a review (as long is the payment is disclosed), it will likely cause consumers to question its validity.

“Your potential new customers are smarter than you think,” Customer Magnetism’s Social Media Manager Rio Ziegler said. “Nine times out of ten, [they] can read right through incentivized reviews. A genuine review from a happy customer can never replace a biased review.”

Dale Wells, Service Manager with Rainaldi Home Services agrees. “We do not compensate our customers in any way for our reviews,” he said. That is the only way you are going to get true and honest reviews in my opinion, and ethics is very important to us.”

The Florida-based company has a Facebook presence and encourages technicians to ask customers to visit the page and review their service.

“We have meetings with our technicians almost like clockwork on weekly basis to discuss this,” Well said. “We encourage them to say something along the lines of, if you were happy with my service today, would you be willing to leave me a review? And the customers will often go in and leave good reviews for us,” he said.

If you find it challenging for your company to obtain a review without offering an incentive, Ziegler recommends reevaluating your customer service strategy before diving into the world of social media.

And if you do choose to incentivize your reviews, the key is to strike that balance between offering an incentive that makes the review worth their while, but will unlikely compromise honesty.

The FTC has also begun to regulate content related to product reviews. While larger companies are clued into these regulations, smaller businesses are generally not as familiar. If you have a social media presence, and are soliciting reviews on your products and/or service, it’s wise to be aware of these regulations and be consistent with them.

3. Be Present! Be Current!
With a small budget and staff, social media could be the ideal marketing tool. But such constraints could also cause it to work against you. Small businesses rarely have a dedicated social media account manager. Instead staff members likely double up on their duties, taking a moment (when they find time, or remember) to post updates and respond to customers’ comments and questions.

“If a customer admires your business enough to follow you on social media, you’ve already peaked their interest,” Ziegler said. “However, once you’ve invited that customer to engage with your brand, you’ve accepted the responsibility of maintaining a relationship. Don’t let them down,” she said. “Keep them coming back for more.”

On your social media page, unanswered questions and outdated or old posts are equivalent to unanswered calls or no front office presence when customers walk through the door. On the phone, they’d likely hang up and try another service provider. On social media, they’re likely to leave a bad review before moving on.

Post regularly (but not annoyingly often), so that you stay relevant. Ensure your posts add value to those reading them. And engage with customers who comment by answering their questions in a timely manner, or by offering a simple thank you when a compliment is posted.

4. Handle Your Bad Reviews!
If your product or service is not good, be prepared to run into issues on social media. And even if it is excellent, you’re bound to come across a disgruntled customer or two at some point. Don’t be too quick to dismiss them. Engaging them and addressing their concerns in the right way could demonstrate your company’s willingness to cater to clients’ needs, and a dedication to providing the best customer service experience.

“We strive to have all good reviews, but when a bad review comes in, we actually do appreciate those, and respond to the customer in a caring, compassionate, and thankful way,” Wells said. “We make every effort to resolve the problem to the customer’s satisfaction, and we use it as a learning tool for our technicians.”

Even if you don’t have a social media presence customers are talking about you anyway. So VanDamia suggests conducting searches for your brand across various social media platforms to see what is being said.

“You have to be open to that criticism and feedback, and willing to integrate it into your business,” she said. “I think the businesses that do are going to succeed in the long run.”

More than half of HVAC business usually comes from referrals, and in the world of social media, word-of-mouth is king! But be cognizant of the fact that while platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can effectively assist with making your business known, what they find out about it is crucial. So, ensure your service is excellent and your customer base is happy, because each review they share with friends, and ‘friends of friends’ could mean the difference between a new customer gained, and potential customers lost.

Marsha Branch

Posted In: Customer Service, Technology

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