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Social media is a useful tool for any contractor, but it can be hard to know where to start. This guide gives you a crash course on everything you need to know.
The digital revolution has transformed almost every aspect of how we do business. From conversing via email to online banking—digital is the way we work today. One area of the connected space that still perplexes many contractors is social media. While most people know how to use it when posting holiday photos and birthday celebrations, things can get a little more daunting when it comes to using it for business purposes.
But the social media space can be useful for a contractor looking to build business, network with other professionals, or to generate leads. We’ve put together this overview, looking at the most popular channels and how social media for contractors doesn’t need to be a scary proposition.
If you use social networking as a business tool, you must interact with your audience in a way that suits them. If you’re looking to make more people aware of your services or products, you can’t wait for them to find you, you need to find them. If your clients are on social networking sites, then that’s where you need to be.
Many business owners avoid social media because their understanding isn’t sufficient to run it successfully. On the other end of the scale, some sign up thinking it will add credibility to their business without knowing how to run it effectively.
If your nearest competitor is regularly interacting with their customers via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to gain feedback and promote their offering, then why aren’t you?
While there is a huge range of social media platforms available, in this guide, we’ll concentrate on the big four: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We’ll start with the main business-focused social media platform, LinkedIn. Its popularity and user-friendly design make it popular across the world and there’s a good chance you already have a profile set up. Make the most of it by keeping your details up to date, getting involved in conversations, and posting regularly about news in your industry. For a full run-down on making the most of LinkedIn, check out our full guide to LinkedIn.
Top tip: your profile photo on LinkedIn could influence whether someone decides to do business with you, so it’s worth finding a friend with a good camera to take a professional photo of you.
Despite being nowhere near as big as Facebook, Twitter is still seriously influential as a social platform. It’s less of a space for overtly selling products or services, but Twitter is great for networking with potential clients and for knowledge sharing among specialists in your chosen industry. Read our in-depth guide to Twitter.
Top tip: Twitter relies much more on conversations than other channels. As such, you’ll be well rewarded in terms of engagement by jumping in and interacting with other users. Find relevant hashtags for your industry to easily find conversations that you can get involved in.
The chances are that you’re already familiar with Facebook. It is, after all, the most popular social media platform in the world. But to make the most of it for your business, you’ll need a business page set up. Don’t worry, it’s not that difficult to do, and, with the huge amount of people active on Facebook, it’s a great place for exposure.
Facebook is the most famous and popular social network in the world, with more than a billion people believed to be active users of the site. Those users are thought to include more than half of the population of the UK, which means it can be a potentially lucrative marketing tool for businesses of all types, including self-employed freelancers.
What started off as a personal networking site for university students is now a multi-billion dollar industry and companies, brands and sole traders have been quick to realise its impact. Facebook plays a huge part in the marketing efforts of businesses in virtually every industry you can think of and with such a large potential customer base using the site every day, it is certainly something you should consider for promoting your own services.
More than 20 million people hit the ‘like’ button on the pages of different companies and local businesses everyday, making it an important platform for attracting attention, interacting with customers and potential customers and building a community that will hopefully lead to an increase in sales.
How to set up a Facebook page for your business
There is a strong chance that you already have a personal Facebook page, but if you want to use the social network to promote yourself professionally then you need a separate page for your business services. Pages are different to personal profiles and have different purposes and functions. It is these pages that your customers or fans can ‘like’ and share on their own profiles, further helping to market your business for you.
Facebook is another platform for you to give a positive impression about your business. You can use your page to keep potential clients informed about your services, share useful content that people will benefit from, give tips and advice and build your online reputation.
Setting up a page for your business is a simple process:
Spreading the word about your Facebook page
A Facebook page is only useful if you have people who follow it or ‘like’ it, otherwise nobody will really see what you post on there or see any of your updates. That means it is crucial to try and attract people to your page.
Promoting it to your personal friends through your personal profile is a good way to start, even if your own friends aren’t your target customers, they may be friends with other people who are interested in your services.
Facebook pages also show up highly on Google searches, so it is important to set your page up with the correct name and to include some relevant keywords in the description of your page, that way people may come across it when searching for services on Google.
You can encourage people to interact with you by searching out target customers on Facebook and requesting they like your page. Many businesses also offer promotions or run competitions to encourage people to like their page in exchange for money off their services or some other sort of reward.
Promoting your Facebook page outside of the site itself is another way to encourage more interaction. You will notice many big brands now include their Facebook address on advertising campaigns. While self-employed freelancers are unlikely to have an advertising budget, you can still link to your Facebook page through your email signature, from your own website and from other social networks such as Twitter. Once you have reached 25 ‘likes’ for your page, you will also be able to create a custom URL for your Facebook page, so you should change this as soon as possible to match your company or service name, such as www.facebook.com/joebloggsphotography. You can edit your page name from the menu at www.facebook.com/username.
Staying active on your Facebook page is also one of the most effective ways to increase your followers and turn it into an effective marketing tool for your business. Keep the updates relevant to your work and use them to promote work you have done for clients (so long as they are happy for you to discuss projects in public), that way they will most likely spread the word about your page as well.
Using your Facebook page to curate content relevant to your industry will also make you seem like an authority and gives followers something worthwhile to engage with, rather than just using your page to push your own services constantly. Asking questions is another good way to encourage interaction with your potential leads and clients, for example asking for opinions on new designs or project ideas.
Of course, you should include updates about your business as well as providing other useful content and links. This could be new services or products, promotions or special offers, current availability or industry events and networking opportunities that you are attending.
Remember that your Facebook page is a very public refection of your business, so don’t use it to present yourself in a way that you wouldn’t want a client to see. You can use it to reflect your personality and add a personal touch to your business, but think about the image you want to present before you post anything. Think about your goals and objectives with Facebook and how you can monitor whether or not it is effectively promoting your work. Check out how your competitors use it and take on board tips and tricks that work for them.
Top tip: Facebook advertising can be a cost-effective way of increasing your customer base. There are loads of guides on the Facebook Business website to help you get started.
Although Instagram is a relatively new platform, its rise in popularity has been nothing short of incredible. That said, it is an image-sharing channel at its heart; as such, it is more suited to those contractors who work in the design and creative arenas.
Top tip: While it’s best to populate your in-feed photo stream on Instagram with quality images, the Stories area is a great place to offer a more candid view of your business.
In order to keep you focused (and to get some immediate, tangible results), here are three ways you can use the social media platforms we’ve discussed to help your business:
Unlike real life networking events, networking in the social media world is quick and painless. As we’ve mentioned, Twitter and LinkedIn are probably the two to focus on for networking as a contractor.
Here’s a strategy to get you started: put together a list of ten potential clients you’d love to work with. Then, using the search function on your chosen platform, track down the key stakeholders in those businesses. Send them a connection request, then follow up with a short message introducing yourself and what you do. Remember, don’t try to sell anything at this stage, just strike up a conversation.
The very word ‘promotion’ can strike fear into the heart of any business owner. But social media marketing for contractors is a rewarding and, dare we say it, fun process. A proven way to promote yourself via social channels is to build out case studies or digital portfolios and share them regularly. It’ll feel repetitive to you, but a monthly update pointing people to your portfolio won’t annoy anyone and could lead to a new contract.
Updates on just-completed projects or industry recognition will help to show that you’re active, and will keep your timeline looking full. Remember, though: fewer, quality posts will always beat daily posts that waffle.
So, you’re making some useful connections and showing off your skills. How do you actually start to generate leads?
First up, try that trusty search bar. Simply typing in ‘[your sector] contractor’ can throw up some potential leads.
Also, consider posting your availability to your network. Obviously you don’t want to post too regularly on this (people might start thinking you have no work booked!), but an occasional post saying ‘my contract with x is up in three weeks, if you’re looking for a quality [sector] contractor then get in touch’ could get you in front of the people that matter.
So far, we’ve discussed the platforms you should consider and the ways you can use them. But, what about when it comes to social media management for contractors? Well, there are a couple of things that can help to keep things rolling along nicely without too much effort.
Firstly, if you’re worrying about having to spend loads of time on the various social channels rather than doing actual work, never fear. The joys of post scheduling are here to save you. There are numerous third party apps (we love Buffer, for example) that let you write a bunch of posts in one go, and then schedule them at certain times. Simple!
Secondly, make sure you keep things consistent by spending a bit of time perfecting your brand tone of voice. This doesn’t need to be an involved process. Just make a few mental notes of words and phrases to avoid when you’re writing for your brand. For example, if your client base is city investment firms, perhaps reign in the text speak and focus on professional language instead.
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