Social media is part of doing business in today’s digital environment. Managed strategically, social media can transmit new information and reinforce the positive image you’ve worked diligently to build with your customers, suppliers and other audiences. Crystal Window & Door Systems offers four insights the company has learned to make online social media tools effective and valuable.
Depending on the nature of your business, whether you sell directly to consumers, only to other businesses, or a combination of both, your company probably has embraced digital communications across a few or several social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.
Many businesses in the fenestration industry, especially ones that do not sell directly to homeowners, may have been uncertain if using social media would be a worthwhile investment of effort. My company, Crystal Window & Door Systems, for decades has had a robust marketing and sales communications effort established that was working very well. Nevertheless, several years ago we initiated basic Facebook and LinkedIn presences, wanting to see whether the social media trend would take hold before making a bigger commitment. As it became clear that social media and digital communications were here to stay, Crystal steadily developed its online presence to add platforms, followers and content.
Social media allows you to tell your story your way, almost in real time. If managed strategically, social media can be a tremendous way of transmitting new information and reinforcing the positive image you’ve worked diligently to build with your customers, suppliers and other audiences.
During the past year with the global pandemic lockdowns and challenges, we found it hard to reach new customers, and in the beginning, difficult to communicate easily with existing customers. We immediately ramped up our efforts with social media and it paid off greatly to keep our trade customers, design and construction professionals, and suppliers up-to-date with the latest company developments.
Manage social media tools strategically
1. Make a plan for social media management
While social media can appear spontaneous and casual, really effective use of social media starts with a plan, even if it’s informal. If your company launched its social media presence haphazardly in your eagerness to jump on board with this trend, now you can take a step back and assess where you want to take it as part of your overall marketing program.
What are your goals and who are you trying to reach? It is important to establish who your audiences are to create content that is meaningful and engaging. Do you sell directly to homeowners? Do you work through distributors and installers? What about your suppliers? Content should reflect what you want your audiences to know about your company.
What level of resources are you willing to dedicate to social media?
While social media is relatively inexpensive, it’s not free. Having a successful online presence requires people to direct and manage content. If your company treats social media as a catch-as-catch-can endeavor, posting whenever the mood strikes, it likely will not be an effective communication tool.
How will you attract followers to your social media platforms? Consider how you will announce your online presence and ask for contacts to become followers. Incorporate social media links in all your sales literature and marketing materials to boost awareness.
2. Be realistic
Maintaining a great social media presence must be balanced with competing corporate priorities and resources. Your company is in the fenestration business after all, not the digital technology business, so it is important to consider how content for posting will be created and managed.
Who is responsible for developing content? If your social media coordinators ask employees, such as your sales representatives, to contribute material for social media posts, make sure they understand the value of social media and how it can be used proactively to engage with their customers. Also stress the focus of your marketing messages and what’s appropriate for posting. What you think is interesting may not have much relevance for your customers or suppliers, so objectivity is key. A planned schedule of post topics can go a long way in managing content easily without burning out your staff.
How often should new content be posted and followers updated?
Again, it’s important to maintain balance. If posts are infrequent or outdated, social media will not have the impact you are expecting. If posts are too frequent, followers may tune out, since endless notifications of new posts could become annoying.
3. Get feedback and make adjustments
Feedback on your social media efforts is important and can help your digital marketing team allocate its resources efficiently.
Ask your customers, suppliers and other followers for their impressions of your social media content, including its value, timeliness and what topics they’d like to see. For example, in New York, our largest sales operation by volume, Crystal surveyed its customers to find out what installation issues they have and then created step-by-step videos to address those issues by demonstrating proper installation of products and hardware. These are now available on Crystal’s dedicated YouTube channel.
Which social media sites do your followers use? Individuals may prefer one platform over another, so it will rarely be one-size-fits-all. For example, many of Crystal’s sales representatives try to match the platforms they direct their customers to with their preferences to keep it effective.
How often do your followers want to be notified of new posts? They are busy people, and the tidal wave of digital input today can be overwhelming, leading them to disengage if they have to wade through too many posts.
4. Don’t abandon other forms of communication
Especially during these economically stressed times, it might be tempting to focus exclusively on marketing through social media. Its relatively low cost and ability to reach large numbers of contacts quickly are certainly attractive. However, for many the jury is still out on the long-term effectiveness of social media.
When it comes to communicating and doing business, the fenestration industry has one foot in traditional ways and one foot in new ways. In our experience, customers run the gamut of technology preference and use. Some customers handle sales quotes and orders via fax, while others love to use our online self-ordering system. Some prefer phone calls and in-person meetings, while others are comfortable with online meeting tools.
An effective marketing strategy uses many forms of communications—social media, websites, print, broadcast and mail—to reach intended audiences, share information and drive sales. Social media should be just one tool in your vast marketing communications toolbox.
However your company chooses to use social media, a well-planned approach, engagement of your sales team in its use, and integration of social media messages with all your other marketing communications will go a long way to ensure its effectiveness and success.