Unless you’re planning to retire during the next five years, you need to pay attention to this post because each day you ignore the warning I am about to present to you, the further behind your company will fall.

Ask yourself: How many fans do you have on Facebook? How many followers do you have on Twitter? How many people have found your YouTube channel? If the answer is “not many,” you need to get moving, and not for the obvious reason of attracting potential clients or customers.

The real reason: There’s a long-term risk to your business if you don’t.

The Web is packed with tips, tricks, ideas, and suggestions on how to use social media to grow your client base. Your future business life depends on you adopting these platforms right now. That’s right, I said your business life — not just your ability to build an email list or to interact with prospects, but your ability to ensure your company’s long-term survival.

Here’s why: Your interactions, and thereby the number of people who fan you, follow you, like you — or whatever the next new thing calls the act of someone being added to your subscriber base of online relationships — is going to become a confidence factor to potential clients or customers.

Building Confidence

Let me explain …

If you put an ad in the paper or in the Yellow Pages, your ad sits there next to the other ads and the only thing differentiating your ad from the others is its size, color, offer made, or copy. There is nothing that distinguishes you from your competition that can be considered a “confidence factor.” Sure, you could list the obvious:

  • Family owned and operated;
  • Serving the Anytown metro area for 35 years;
  • Proud members of the XYZ Chamber of Commerce; and so on.

But from this information, does a homeowner really know anything about your company? The short answer is, No.

Now fast-forward five years from today. If the pundits have it right (they often do not, so maybe you’ll be in luck) most offline marketing will be dead and people will be spending more time than ever online using their smartphones, laptops, and other Internet-enabled devices. And they will have home improvement decisions to make: which plumber to call, which remodeler to contact, or which painter to email.

Right about now should be when that sick feeling in your stomach starts to kick in.

The homeowner will be deciding between your company — the contractor who thought social media was for teenagers and largely ignored it — and the young gun who has spent the past five years building a solid base of followers, fans, and friends. You have a handful of people who follow you on Twitter or Facebook, but the other guy has thousands.

So let me ask you this: All things being equal, if you were the homeowner, who would you call?

Social Media as a Confidence Factor

If you haven’t caught on yet, what I’m suggesting is that social media and, more to the point, the number of people who follow or friend you, has the potential to become a confidence factor that consumers will use in the future to help them decide who to do business with.

If you think about it, we are already doing this. For example, would I have any credibility to offer advice on social media if I had just 100 followers and 50 Tweets, my last one being from three months ago? Hell no!

And notice that when I asked earlier about who you would call, I didn’t say “hire,” I said “call.” Because you won’t even get a chance to compete for the job if you don’t meet the psychological minimum threshold of followers/friends/fans that means people will feel comfortable calling you.

So you have to start creating that confidence factor now because building a list of people who are into what you do is hard work. It takes a long time to climb that mountain, and you won’t be able to just run an ad next to your competition to compete. If you do, you’re going to be officially classified as obsolete; a relic, if you will, of a time long past.

Don’t Wait

Just as most contractors have realized the value of having a website, there is value to using these social media tools. You just have to start by keeping the end in mind. —Darren Slaughter runs a boutique website design and marketing shop that serves only contractors in the home improvement space. darrenslaughter.com