Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series focused on helping painting contractors increase their online presence by providing practical social media marketing tips and techniques.
When a contractor (or any business for that matter) decides to get serious about online marketing and social media, they often are left scratching their head asking, “Where do I start?” And rightly so. There are dozens of “mainstream” social media platforms that companies can use to market their business – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Houzz, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr – that you’re left wondering how you choose.
Yet as alluring as those social media platforms are, that is not the place for a contractor to start.
Before you can increase your online presence – and the overall effectiveness of the time you spend marketing online – you need to understand why your audience goes online in the first place. And it isn’t about you; it’s about them.
When it comes to online marketing, by far the number one repeated mistake that businesses make is to talk excessively about themselves and how amazing their products and services are. In fact, this is also why many websites and most business-related blogs fail. The content that is created isn’t focused on their customer; instead, they make it all about them.
The path to becoming successful online is your ability to become a resource for others on a particular subject – in the case of painting contractors, painting and decorating their home. So the place to start is by understanding why people consume, participate and engage with online content (such as articles, videos, audio and photos) in the first place. It is usually to:
- Solve a problem
- Be entertained
- Learn about something they are interested in
- Get a little inspiration
- Pass the time
Once you understand your audience, you can increase your online presence with your potential buyers – because they see you as a resource and not simply another contractor that is saying, “Me, me, me and I, I, I.”
Additionally, you need to recognize that social media isn’t a one-sided conversation.
You can’t only be pushing information out and not interacting with your audience. If you get comments and feedback from consumers, you need to respond. No one likes to be a part of a one-sided conversation, especially online. Your job is to create content that will draw people into the conversation so they can share with you. And when they share with you, they become endeared to you – and the connection they have with you grows stronger.
Now that you understand your audience and recognize that online marketing is about having conversations with people, it is time to begin building your online presence by starting with [insert drumroll] … your website!
I know, I know! You may be thinking, “Tell us something I don’t know, Tess!” But let me explain.
Remember what I said just a few minutes ago? That the #1 mistake businesses make when marketing online is to talk excessively about themselves? This is also why most business websites fail – because they write content focused on their company, instead of answering consumer questions.
So that’s the first step in increasing your online presence. Look at your website with a fresh set of eyes.
Ask these questions about your website:
- Is the information helpful to the consumer? Chances are they are on your website because they are thinking about hiring a painter, so your content needs to be focused on helping them understand more about your craft and answering their questions.
- Is it friendly? Does the content say, “Yes, you are in the right spot! Prop up your feet and stay a while!”
- Is it easy to navigate? Too many options makes a website feel cluttered.
- Does your website have great photos of your work that are captioned? Nothing is worse than going to a contractor website’s photo gallery and not knowing what you are looking at!
- Is your website updated on a regular basis, or does it have old blog posts and event dates that happened months ago?
Your website must be the hub of all of your online marketing efforts. Your social media plan needs to revolve around pulling traffic back to something you own – and this is your website. I see too many contractors investing a ton of time in building up their Facebook page, but you don’t own your Facebook page. What happens when Facebook goes away? Or changes into something that is no longer useful for contractors? Or isn’t where consumers want to “hang out” anymore?
Anyone remember MySpace? MySpace still exists, but it is more of a hub for bands and music now – not what it started out to be. Facebook will continue to evolve as well.
So the hub of your online presence should always be something you can control, and that is your website. It is for this reason that the content on your website needs to be focused on the consumer – the homeowner who is looking for a painting contractor.
To put the website/social media connection into perspective, here’s a little exercise:
- Take out a piece of paper.
- Draw a circle in the middle of the paper and label it “My Website.”
- From there, draw a few lines coming out of that circle – just like spokes of a wheel. At the end of these spokes, label them with your social media plans – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Houzz … you get the idea.
- Now, with those lines, put an arrowhead pointing toward the hub, “My Website.”
When you are done, your diagram may look something like this:
As you can see, your social media efforts should always point back to your starting point – your website.
Here, you can capture their name and email address and continue to build a bond with them.
Bottom line, you want your website to be a place where people go to get their questions answered and hang out for a while. You want them to spend time on your website looking through your projects and learning about the process of beautifying their home – from selecting paint colors to staining their deck to restoring their historic home.
Editors note:Read Part 2 of Contractors and Social Media here.