The answer is both. Contractors are busy folks and they get their info from various sources and sometimes it’s on the fly. I’ve done several interviews of contractors from HVAC/R, electrical, plumbing to general contractors that have said that they get info about how to run their business from both the traditional trade publications as well as various sources on the Internet.
They use the trade publications to catch up on what’s happening in the industry, who bought who, and to read articles to help them run their business. They use the Internet to do research on various things from troubleshooting to new product demos and online training. Some participate in online forums with their peer groups to talk about issues/problems they are having in their day-to-day operations. Most of the Internet activities are done either before or after the normal business day. One example is Contracting Business magazine who sponsors a forum – HVAC-Talk – that’s the leading forum for HVAC professionals to talk to each other. They average over 50,000 page views a month.
Contractors as a whole are lagging behind when it comes to social media. The reasons given range from, “I don’t have the time” to “I don’t understand it,” and with the economy the way it is, my first priority is to stay in business. The ones that get it and are using it have found that it’s another marketing tool to generate new business and stay connected with their customers. Most trade associations haven’t done a good job explaining to their members the possible usages and benefits for social.
Manufacturers shouldn’t be discouraged. Those that have embraced social are reaping the benefits. It’s just another way you can get customers to interact with you. Here’s a great example of a hand tool company, Snap-on Tools, that on Facebook has over 25,000 fans. Every time Snap-on updates their events section or uploads new video or photos, all their fans are automatically updated.