Trades, Facilities Management and Constructions are three industries that often feel social media isn't for them. It’s not like posting photos of coffee and brunch is going to do much for the gas, oil, plumbing, heating or electrical industry, right? But tweeting and Instagramming isn’t just for the more consumer-oriented businesses. There are many benefits of having a social media presence, including building your community and growing a network of potential customers.

Social media is basically a free power tool to promote your business, so make the most of it! It’s also a way to maintain dialogue with existing customers and to provide customer support. We’ve written a basic 5-step overview of what you need to know to get started, from building your brand, to finding the best tools to make it easier for you.

1) Build your brand

Your brand isn’t just your logo. It encompasses everything you stand for as a business and it’s essentially how you are perceived.

It’s best to work with a designer and copywriter to establish some brand guidelines and your key messages. Then you’ll need to create some marketing collateral before you set up your accounts. This will include:

  • Your logo
  • Social media banners
  • Straplines and slogans
  • Types of images you will use - photos, graphics and/or illustrations

Having a consistent brand is key to offering a seamless experience for your customers. You’ll need to make sure the style you choose is recognisable across all your channels. For example, you don’t want to have a photo of a person in the profile picture of your Facebook page, a photo of the product on your Twitter and a photo of your logo on linkedIn. Otherwise, how will your audience know it’s the all part of the same business?

2) Get to know your audience

That brings us onto your audience. The key to using social media successfully is in finding out who your target audience are, where they’re hanging out and what they want to see. This will require you to do a bit of research into the various social media channels that exist to see whether your target audience is active in those places. 

This is about understanding behaviour and where people are having relevant conversations. Search for keywords relating to your industry to find relevant hashtags, groups and accounts. For example, #TradesTalk is a weekly discussion on Twitter for the building trades. But there’s no point focussing your efforts on Twitter if your particular audience prefers to have discussions on specific Facebook groups or other forums for Tradespeople. 

Different social media channels are optimised for different types of content:

LinkedIn

The original professional social network - Best for business news, job vacancies, thought leadership, white papers, case studies and professional development

Instagram

Entirely visual content focussed - Best for photos, videos and microblog carousels

Pinterest 

A virtual pinboard - Best for photos, infographics and videos

Facebook 

The all-rounder social media platform - Best for short videos, Q&As, interviews, case studies, photos, business pages, industry news and community groups

Twitter

Known for short-form content – Best for testimonials, short videos, quick tips, and engaging with journalists

YouTube

The go-to video sharing platform - Best for Videos

Once you’ve found where your audience is, you’re ready to build your strategy and tailor content for your specific target audience.

3) Form a strategy

Start with setting some objectives. What is it you really want to achieve out of using social media? Is it more about getting new clients or is it more about increasing brand awareness?

You need to be able to set KPIs to measure your objectives, so you can keep refining your social media marketing efforts. Most social media platforms have a built in insights dashboards to show the metrics including engagement rate, reach, link clicks, likes, comments, follows etc.

Once you’ve established your objectives and KPIs, you can then decide on some key content pillars, and start to plan ahead with a content calendar.

Keep your strategy social and community focussed, even if your overall objective is to get more sales. People quickly lose interest if all you’re doing is talking about how great you are. A good guide to follow is the 80/20 rule with 80% of your content informing, educating, and entertaining your audience, while 20% should directly promote your business.Key questions to ask yourself:

  • How can you provide value to your customers?
  • How can you build trust?

In terms of post frequency, we suggest you post on a weekly basis as a minimum. It’s good to stick to a particular day so that your audience have something to return to. Remember, consistency is key.

4) Decide your content

A good place to start is with a series covering particular industry related topics. This could include:

  • Educational content where you share your expertise
  • Team features interviewing an employee each week
  • “A day in the life” of the CEO
  • Q&As with different stakeholders
  • Customer stories and case studies

5) Make the most of tools

There are a whole host of tools out there to help automate your social media efforts. Many of them are paid, but will probably save you time and money in the long run. Others offer free plans, so they’re worth investigating. Examples include Buffer, Skedsocial, Later and Planoly for scheduling your content in advance and analysing the performance, and Flick for Instagram hashtag research and analysis.

How Discovery Fire Sprinklers Ltd gained customers through social media

James Bryceland has been using social media to grow the customer base for Discovery Fire Sprinklers Ltd. We had a quick chat with him to see how it’s working for them!

What social media channels do you use?

“We're on Linkedin and Instagram. Surprisingly, people have actually messaged us for jobs on Instagram and we have over 600 followers now. We get messages from individuals and businesses, but normally businesses.  Linkedin has probably got us a lot more work, as it’s more focussed on the professional space, but I can see Instagram being used more and more in the industry.”

How did you form your social media strategy?

“It started off as a bit of fun, but then started getting a bit more serious. There's maybe about 30 local businesses in Dundee that we follow and they follow us. We pass work each other's way as well, now that we know each other a bit just through social media. If I get asked, "Do you know any good joiners or any good plumbers?" Then I just send them their business page details on my Instagram.

I keep promoting our company logo on the posts. I just write captions about what we do, any promotions we’re running and let people know that if they require any information we'll be glad to help answer questions. If I get asked a question, I'll 100% give them the full answer. It's not like we're getting charged for information, but if you're out there engaging and building relationships, people might give you a job as a result.”

Any top tips?

“Branding is so important. The way that we've branded ourselves has meant that people see us as a larger company. I actually had one guy call me from Ireland who thought that Discovery Fire Sprinklers Ltd was a franchise. This was just based on our social media presence! They were asking me where all my depots were because of it, and I was like, "It's just Dundee! We've only got one branch in Dundee," and he was like, "You're kidding me. We actually thought you were a lot bigger than you were!" One day, though!”

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We hope this has inspired you with your social media marketing journey. In a world that is becoming increasingly digital and remote working is becoming the norm, social media is a vital place for the Trades to network and ensure the jobs keep coming in.

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