By using social media, remodelers can boost their company’s profile and collect leads that will ultimately bring them new clients.

Increasingly, Americans are using social media to obtain their news and information on everything from where to eat to what products and services to buy. A survey by Experian Hitwise reveals that Americans spend 27% of their time online using social media.

Virtual Conversations
What makes social media “social” is its interactive component. Having a website is one thing, but social media-—Facebook, Houzz, Pinterest, Google My Business (formerly Google Plus), as well as localized sites like Kudzu in the South—is a virtual space where people are engaged in dialogue. Like any good conversation, it’s not one-sided; it’s light on self-promotion with an emphasis on anecdotes and informative pieces for listeners or viewers.

Remodeler Bob Gockeler says he is “fully engaged on social media all day long.” He or one of his staff posts on Facebook before, during, and after shots of projects; design drawings; selection shopping “adventures”; and installations. Gockeler, winner of the 2015 Fred Case Award for Entrepreneurship in Remodeling and owner of KraftMaster Renovations in Chatham Township, N.J., says his whole team is involved. “Customers get to share projects with family and friends. They ‘like’ it and it gets on their feed, and they comment on it and we get exposure,” he says.

Make It Authentic
“Having a good mix of content is important,” says Geoff Graham, founder of GuildQuality, which does customer satisfaction surveys for the building industry. “People won’t want to engage with your brand if you’re just posting sales pitches on all your social channels all the time.”

The new buzzword is “authenticity.” People want to discover who you are as a company, as a person, in the easiest way possible for them, says Paul Cardis, CEO and founder of Avid Ratings, a customer satisfaction and reputation management company serving builders and contractors.

Being authentic means sharing and encouraging clients and prospects to share, he says. “'We hired this new person today and we’re excited.' 'We just installed new lights outside our office because we’re concerned about safety.’ Communicate the story of what’s happening in your company and give people a snapshot of who you are.”

Steven Freeman

Gockeler (left) spends about five hours a week on social media. He has a part-time employee dedicated to building a following and managing Pinterest, and he uses Houzz to help qualify prospects by inviting them to create a wish book.

Those wish books can help Gockeler know the client is the right fit for his company: “If you’ve described a $75,000 bathroom and your budget is $20,000,” he says, “I know I will never be able to make you happy.”

To streamline the posting process, Gockeler uses Apple’s Pages app to dictate a description of a photo while he’s on the jobsite, then assign each photo to an album. “It’s instant. All that content ends up on my website with a couple of clicks,” he says. Also helpful is HootSuite, a social media management dashboard that allows you to schedule posts and send them to different sites.

Set Goals
Regardless of your chosen virtual venue, develop a strategy. Consider hiring someone to do social media. Post daily or weekly. If you’re using Facebook, boost your posts by paying a fee so more of your followers will see them. (Facebook recently launch a home repair matchmaking service.) Since remodeling is truly a local business, post only in places where you will find your clientele. On Houzz, for example, narrow demographics so geographically ideal clients find you.

Gockeler says he responds to every query on Houzz. To cut down on the questions from viewers overseas, for example, he proactively tags images with keywords and descriptions of photos. “I don’t have to waste time answering what color paint we used or what type of tile is in a backsplash.”

“Your objectives should be goal-oriented and process measurable,” says Dave Alpert, president of Continuum Marketing Group in Great Falls, Va., a company specializing in marketing for remodelers. “The goal is to get leads.” Define for yourself what a lead is because post-to-project is not immediate.

Consumers use social media during their research phase and follow you because they want to learn more, says Welton Hong, president of internet marketing company Ring Ring Marketing. Social media will help you cultivate relationships with those who are interested in you, and it will help you keep those leads warm.

Visitors to Gockeler’s Facebook page see the same guys doing tile work in every project album, he says. “They see how clean our job sites are.” By the time people call, “they’ve already researched us.” He has to qualify fewer prospects and says his close rate is nine out of ten “because they already know me. It’s equivalent to a referral.”

Social media posts will show up on a Google search and can drive traffic to your website, Alpert says. They can also help keep you in a potential customer’s mind. “Tweet an interesting post once a week or once every two weeks to capture people’s attention.” Of course you can’t ignore review sites like Yelp, which are a form of social media, but they need to be treated differently. Monitoring them should be part of a “reputation management” strategy.

“Comment on all your reviews, negative and positive,” Graham says. “Be grateful for the positive reviews and share your gratitude publicly. Share your most interesting and compelling reviews on Twitter and your Facebook page.”

Prepare for a Long Game
Getting leads from social media is a long game. You can’t think in terms of immediate returns.

Ben Landers, president and CEO of Blue Corona, an online marketing management firm, says he encourages his company’s clients to think of social media “… as equal parts community involvement, public relations/company news distribution, entertainment, and, perhaps, most importantly, customer service help desk.

“When you think of your social media as these four parts,” he says, “it expands the metrics you should be monitoring entirely. For example, when viewed through the lens of a way to promote your business, you need to be looking at metrics like visits to your website, phone and web inquiries, and sales, of course. However, when considering social media’s effectiveness from a community involvement and PR perspective, metrics like reach, likes, shares, and positive comments should be the focus—not short-term ROI.”—Stacey Freed