By Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter
Social media has been an essential cog in every consumer brand’s marketing machine for more than a decade, but manufacturers in the trade industries have been slow to embrace the many marketing advantages that come with social media. I believe this comes from the perception that social media had originally only targeted the younger generations, and with the average age of the professional tradesmen skewing higher and higher, these manufacturers felt more comfortable using more traditional methods with their marketing dollars.
However, with Facebook and Twitter both grossing hundreds of millions of users, it quickly became clear that almost any brand had customers and prospective customers on these platforms. While many companies in the trades have adapted and are actively using Facebook and Twitter to connect and engage with its audience, there are plenty of other digital and social platforms whose features can be useful to companies in these industries. And with only so much time, effort and money available, brands should examine all of these platforms and their potential and effectiveness in reaching the professional tradesman.
Here is a rundown of some of the most popular social and digital tools out there, how they help reach the professional tradesman and how well they do it.
Despite its well-documented PR hiccups, Facebook still casts a wider net than any other social media network…for now. Facebook has more than two billion users, and there are more than 65 million businesses using Facebook Pages. Because of the sheer volume of users, every company should be on Facebook to regularly promote new products, announce trade show appearances, share positive media coverage and company news, etc.
The main issue for brands trying to grow on Facebook is the site’s ever-changing algorithms, which dictates how content will appear on your feed. These algorithms tend to prioritize content that yields a high level of interaction and conversation, especially among your friends and family on the site. Therefore, the easiest way to reach your audience without spending hours trying to make content that pleases these tedious algorithms is to promote your page and content using Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads allow you to create and run campaigns in which you can target practically any demographic you want. Depending on your budget, you can use that targeting to serve a number of different goals, including building brand awareness, driving traffic to your blog or website, lead generation or simply getting the most eyeballs on your page as possible.
Facebook Ads come with comprehensive metrics and analytics that are easy to understand and can help you use your resources more wisely by showing you which type of promoted posts and ads performed the best. Like any other marketing campaign, you get out what you put in, so if you’re willing to invest the time and money into one of these promoted campaigns, you can significantly expand your Facebook audience, increase engagement and ensure that your content is seen by your audience.
For the first few years of its existence, Instagram was mostly just an app used for making your vacation pictures look like old Polaroids. Now, the app has become one of the most multi-dimensional social media platforms out there. By adding video, making posts easier to share among friends and incorporating a “stories” feature that allows you to post photos and short video clips that last 24 hours, Instagram has become hugely popular for brands that market to the trades. If still photography isn’t the best way to show off your product’s capabilities, now you can share product demos and how-to videos with your audience. Create Instagram stories to announce things like trade show appearances, new product announcements, sharing fan photos and more.
Another way manufacturers use Instagram to reach tradesmen is through what is called “influencer marketing.” Influencer marketing is when brands collaborate with opinion leaders in an online community, known as “influencers,” to create content that endorses a product. This collaboration is typically done for a monetary fee, free products or a combination of both. By finding the right influencers in your target audience, brands can build credibility by using a trusted source in the community and, thus, increase sales.
Few people realize it, but YouTube is actually the second most popular search engine in the world! And as consumers continue to prefer video content, it is imperative for any brand to create a YouTube channel for sharing videos on new products, interviews with company leaders, testimonials from customers, instructional videos and more.
Blogs are still a way to build credibility in a market, especially when you’re not one of the bigger fish in the pond. Blogs can show potential contractors and tradesmen that you are attuned to the market and its issues. It can also give you a forum for your company to state your position on certain trends within the industry. To learn more about using blogs to reach professional tradesmen, check out this post in our blog, “Blogs and Forums for the Professional Tradesman.”
If you’re willing to join or start groups that serve the trades, LinkedIn can still be very useful to your company’s social media strategy. For example, the group “LinkedIn Construction” group has more than 160,000 active members. And that’s just construction! There’s also distributor buying groups like “NetPlus Alliance” where you can easily stay in touch with distributor partners.
Between daily rush hour drives and bouncing around from job site to job site, it is well known that contractors spend a lot of time in their vehicles. For the commuter looking to increase their knowledge on their interests of choice, podcasts have exploded in popularity in recent years, thanks to smartphones. And these days, no topic is too specific if the content is helpful and relevant. As a brand trying to reach contractors, consider starting your own podcast that provides insights to your customers. For an example, you can create a series on best practices for attracting new customers or ways to boost morale among your coworkers.
One of the key advantages of social media is that most of these platforms offer free or easily attainable tracking metrics. As you experiment with these platforms, closely follow the performance levels of these analytics and figure out which ones are best for reaching your customers.
If you like this post, you might also like: Getting the Most Out of Your Company’s Instagram Account.