Vital and Viral: Why Social Media Matters to HVAC Contractors
Ever since the advent of air conditioners and heating systems, the relevance of great word of mouth has seldom been lost on HVAC business owners. But with the dawn of the digital age, the flow of information via social media and the web spreads faster than you can holler “Yelp!” … which is where our tale of the times begins.
Chicago’s All Temp Heating & Air Conditioning has a page on Yelp, a website where customers share their experiences. The company has a solid 4 out of 5 star rating, with most of the 218 reviewers giving All Temp a solid 5 stars. And while this may not matter to solid repeat customers, Yelp skews young—just as Instagram and other social media sites do—and so represents a valuable way to cultivate new customers.
How much does social media matter in the HVAC world, then? Experts say that it’s not an urgent “have to” just yet. But conscientious business owners should gear up as social media accelerates, especially if they want to cultivate their customer base via high visibility.
“The ability to have a sustainable competitive advantage in HVAC is difficult,” says Michael Barbera, CEO and Strategy Consultant with Barbera Solutions, which helps business owners with digital strategy. “As the millennial generation matures and more become homeowners, it’s key for HVAC companies to reach the consumer where they spend a lot of their time: social media.”
Barbera has a point. There’s little question that Instagram, for example, holds the key to reaching future customers in the younger demographic. According to statistics compiled by Business insider, more than 8 in 10 teens from wealthy households use Instagram—roughly double the penetration of Facebook.
Speaking of Facebook, it’s debatable whether promotion and presence there bolster regional contractors. All Temp services a wide swath of the Chicago area, which has a population of nearly 10 million. Yet its Facebook page has minuscule viewership. Customer comments are limited to just four—fewer than All Temp’s phone contact numbers for the entire region (six).
Some contrarians would extend that dismal showing to all social networks. “Right now, social media has been largely ineffective for HVAC contractors as a marketing medium,” says Todd Bairstow, co-founder of Keyword Connects, a sales lead generation service for home improvement businesses. “Google, Yahoo!, and Bing are much more valuable when it comes to generating calls and new business.”
Yet Barbera counters that a lack of “likes” and comments on Facebook doesn’t necessarily reflect its muscle. “Having a Facebook account is common and a necessity,” he says. “Many consumers will not contact a company if they don’t have a Facebook page.”
Statistics show that social media has reached a tipping point of consumer influence. Christine Merritt, who oversees small and medium business partnerships for Google in North America, notes that roughly four in five people say that friends’ social media posts have influenced a purchase decision. Consider the auto world, where more than one in five people now use social media in making a purchase decision. That’s more than any other industry.
Yet with Instagram, the question for HVAC contractors often boils down to comfort level with trying something new. Especially as it’s a favorite haunt for the young, some may find entry intimidating. But downloading the app to a smartphone takes seconds, and allows for contractors to effectively enter the world of promotion via mobile technology.
For the beginner, it’s as simple as going to business.instagram.com. The website walks business owners through using the application to post pictures that provide “rich visual storytelling” to potential customers.
As for the rest? Be direct and distinct.
Here’s how Barbera sums it up: “By posting photos of day-to-day operations at the office, or an installation at an off-site location, the photos on Instagram create a humanizing effect,” he says. “It shows the consumer that the company is down-to-earth—that they have fun. And it’s a method for the HVAC company to show off the quality of their work.”
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