Social media marketing for construction companies

What is social media marketing?

Social media is all the hype at the moment. Everybody wants a piece of the action. Social media has been around for several years but has only just hit the mainstream over the last couple of years. It really has changed the way businesses go about developing their marketing strategies.

Rewind ten years ago when we grew up with TV ads, radio ads and junk mail – I mean direct mail. We were bombarded with various TV advertisements promoting the latest products from the big brands, radio ads which spoke of special offers and where you could get them, newspapers and magazines filled with print advertisements and nice glossy expensive direct mail pieces landing on your desk. All this is defined as ‘outbound marketing’.

Megaphone

Source: Flickr user – zaf

Many businesses used outbound marketing channels because they could, because they had the big budgets and could afford prime time ads on TV or full size advertisements within newspapers and magazines. On the flip side, over the years, people have got much better at blocking out these messages. We now have iPods so we don’t need to listen to radio ads, we have recorders where we can skip commercials, we have spam folders to block email, we throw away junk mail instantly and we have RSS feeds to deliver in real time just the latest news.

Fast forward to marketing today. Now we have low cost ‘inbound marketing’ channels like Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Digg and Stumble Upon. These are all web-based channels which pull people into their sites because they are interactive and therefore contain great content which can be shared around the world.

Social Media Landscape

Source: Flickr user – fredcavazza

Social media marketing is about developing great content in the form of blogs, articles, videos and images on the internet that can be shared with others using web based sites. It works on a personal level as well as within your industry and provides a way of engaging with others for the purpose of generating exposure and sales. Social media marketing is a way of leveraging online tools to achieve set objectives and goals, such as raising brand awareness and increasing lead generation.

“Businesses need to embrace the web. It’s such a fundamental part of our lives now that it cannot be ignored. More and more people are turning to the web to source information, to read reviews on products before making a decision and to find the right business to work with.”

Nick Pauley – Managing Director

Inbound marketing – the funnel

At the core of inbound marketing is your website. Ultimately this website needs to be found by people searching on the web for your products or services within the major search engines. We wrote about search engine optimisation in a previous issue.

Inbound marketing starts off with website visitors who are brought to your site by what you publish, promote and share in blogs, articles, online press releases, videos and images. It is this content which will attract the visitors to your website using the leverage of social media platforms. Many B2B businesses develop social media marketing strategies just to increase brand awareness and increase traffic to the main website. But there are other uses of social media platforms such as improving customer service, conducting surveys and research, crowd-sourcing for product development and – in the most recent of innovations – responding positively to negative comment and thereby protecting reputation.

There are a range of tools and platforms you can utilise to bring people to your site:

  • Search engines – using SEO to get found on the internet
  • Blogs – write articles about your products, services or industry news
  • Twitter – share and point people to your content, engage on common interests
  • LinkedIn – engage and discuss topics relevant to your group or community
  • Forums – post answers to common problems on relevant forum sites
  • Online publications – share optimised news stories related to your brand, product or services
  • YouTube – post videos related to your products or services
  • Slideshare – share presentations on your products or industry topics
  • Flickr – share images of your latest work

Creating content which can be shared using social media channels increases the reach of your messages and most importantly increases your exposure. For example, if you write a blog post and someone shares the article through Twitter with their 4000 followers, your content has then been exposed to 4000 people. But if just one of those 4000 people passes it onto their followers your reach has increased enormously. By sharing your content and optimising it and sharing other people’s content, you build and develop relationships with other publishers across the web thereby driving more and more visitors to your site.

Hubspot illustrates the inbound marketing funnel like this:

Inbound Marketing Funnel

Source: HubSpot

Publishing and sharing content brings people in to your website but this is only part of it. Hubspot quotes: “Visitors to your site cost you money, they don’t make you money”. This is true. In order to make money you have to convert those visitors into leads or customers. That comes down to how well your website is created to convert visitors into leads, something that is called conversion rate optimisation. Conversion rate optimisation means having an effective website with calls to action. These persuade the visitor to want to know more about your products or services or encourages them to contact you for more information.

“Inbound marketing can be used by companies big and small. It’s no longer about the big budgets, it’s about brains. Those who use the web effectively – to increase sales revenue, lower costs and increase customer satisfaction- will emerge as the big players of tomorrow”

Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager

Where are your prospects and customers and where are you being mentioned?

The first step in creating a social media marketing plan is to listen actively to online conversations currently taking place on social media platforms and define where your prospects, customers and industry advocates are having conversations. Once you have identified where they are, then you may want to find out who the ‘influencers’ are within those communities and connect with them. The influencers are the ones who are most likely to talk about you and what you do with others, almost like a recommendation. Let them help you to increase your visibility and reach and connect with other like-minded people and businesses. More and more people are using social networks as a place to have conversations with others about various common industry interests. These conversations or discussions are public and therefore your brand or your product could also be being discussed at anytime. Using tools such as Google Blog Search, Twitter Search, Social Mention and more complex tools such as Radian 6, you can monitor your brand mentions across the social web.

Good places to start are Twitter, LinkedIn, Building Forum, Property Network, The Construction Network, Facebook and Google Blog Search.

LinkedIn currently has over 655,000 Architects and over 1700 construction companies on the social networking site, all with groups for you to join and connect with others.

A quick and free tool that every marketer can use to monitor their brand, products and people is Google Alerts. Google Alerts sends you email updates of articles published on the internet which contain any form of keyword you choose such as your company name, product names or relevant industry terms.

It is important to do the listening first so that you don’t spend valuable time building up the resources and content and go live only to find out that there is nobody there to promote your content to or anyone who actually cares what you have to say. There’s some guidance here on ways to find your customers in social media:

“People are having conversation everywhere. What is important for any business is that they are proactive and are listening to conversations online and engaging in those conversations. Negative comments or emotions left by people are there for the world to see and years of brand building could easily be crumbled in a matter of minutes by anyone.”

Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant

Getting involved in conversations

Identifying where your prospects or peers are having online discussions will allow you to understand where to put your efforts and how to get the balance right between content distribution and the conversation. That’s what helps to construct the network you are building. Is your network sharing your content on Twitter? Are they talking about your videos on LinkedIn? Small communities on Twitter share information with each other about relevant interests and then engage in discussions around a topic or issue. Anyone talking about an issue or problem which you can solve means you can then participate in the conversation. More and more people are asking for recommendations on Twitter for advice on products or people, or recommendations for which company will provide them with the best service. These types of conversations all influence a person’s decision making process. Look to leverage ‘testimonials’ by sharing them on your LinkedIn profile page and also on your website or Twitter homepage.

LinkedIn is for the professional networks. Once a LinkedIn company profile has been set up, sub-groups can be created and people with a similar interest may be invited to join. When a few members have joined, discussions can start. These are usually moderated by the group administrator. Group members post answers to topics and issues and an online conversation is born. By sharing content and ideas from your website with group members they will come to your site or blog on a more regular basis. Your LinkedIn profile page will contain your company’s résumé so make sure it is kept up-to-date and that it links to your content.

Blogging is also a form of online conversation. Blogs are informal ways of communicating latest industry developments or company developments which come from the business itself. Your opinions or concerns can be voiced via a blog article and then shared using Twitter or LinkedIn so that others can comment or share. When a reader leaves a comment, a conversation is born. You then reply and build a connection with the person who left the comment. Blogging is also a great way to drive traffic to your website because links to your company website can be created within blog posts.

Hubspot conducted a survey to find out exactly how much traffic would be generated for companies that don’t blog against those that do and the resultswere an increase of 55% more traffic for those who have a blog.

55% More Website Visitors for Companies that Blog

Blog Statistics

Source: HubSpot

Joining conversations with industry peers is about networking, sharing content, ideas, solving problems and raising the profile of the brand you represent to gain maximum exposure. Behind every online brand on a social networking site is a person. This means that on the internet marketing becomes much more personal and relevant once you are connected. You are no longer just dealing with a brand, you are dealing with a person who is representing that brand. Many business relationships are created online. After fostering dialogue and engaging with communities over a period of time you can take those strong relationship offline and nurture the contact to become eventually a lead and then a customer. This requires assistance from other areas of the business so it is vitally important that your social media strategy involves as many departments as possible. Compared to other forms of marketing, social media marketing allows you to have one-on-one discussions, group discussions and as a result engage with others who actually want to hear what you have to say.

A presentation compiled by Paul Wilkinson about why social media matters for today’s architectspoints out that the web is not just about companies, it’s about communities; it’s not one way, it’s a two way dialogue; it’s not about lecture, it’s about conversation; it’s not about owning information, it’s about sharing. This moves the agenda right away from the traditional outbound marketing techniques we are all so familiar with.

“The construction industry is about the supply chain. Providing your supply chain partners with online information of value will strengthen your brand and enhance confidence levels which in turn will convince readers that they are doing business with a reputable company”

Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant

Content Strategy – the thought leaders

It is clear that social media marketing is about creating relevant and compelling content about your products, company, people and your brand for other members of your industry to share with their peers. What good does this do? Well, we have already talked about the fact that it brings visitors to your website from other social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and You Tube. Creating great content like industry data and blogs about legislation and regulations also enhances your reputation as ‘thought leaders’ within the industry.

Creating a content strategy is a must for any business wanting to use social media channels to promote and share content on the web. A content strategy consists of blog posts, podcasts, graphics, video and anything which makes up a page on your website. A good content strategy requires ongoing evolving processes of planning, creating, publishing and moderation on any of the content sharing platforms described earlier. Writing and developing content does not necessarily mean just writing about you and your products and your services; it is also about sparking discussions, posing questions and generating comment from others.

The saying ‘content is king’ is very much true in the sense that it is useful, usable content which gets shared and drives visitors to your site. Some of the issues around developing a robust content strategy are that marketers tend to think existing content will work. They often assume they know what they want to say and put off the building and structuring of content until a later date. But marketers must start to think more like publishers than ever before.

  • What do your buyers and influencers want to hear from you?
  • What are their problems?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What would they like to discuss?
  • How can you best educate them?
  • How can you remove the barriers to non-existence?

In essence, you go to the web because you have a task or there is something you need to do or you have a problem to solve. So how can you leverage social media marketing to answer these questions and problems which your buyers and influencers have?

Developing a content strategy with the set objective of becoming and establishing yourself as ‘thought-leaders’ within the industry means you can now plan and produce a content plan based on how you can achieve thought leadership status.

  • What topics will you cover?
  • What are your key messages?
  • What platform are you going to use?
  • Why does anyone care?
  • How should you say it? (tone, authoritative)
  • Where will you get the content?
  • When will it be published?
  • When will it be updated?
  • Who is responsible for it and maintaining it?

Answering the above questions when developing your content strategy will help you set a framework. You can then plan, create, publish and optimise the process. For instance, construction companies can write about legislation or building regulations which impact your prospects or customers. You might educate your target audience on complex specification processes. You could act as a resource for developing online calculation tools for web visitors to carry out normal complex calculations. Product manufacturers might produce low-cost videos on installation and how easy it is to fit their products on site.

Remember, content can be range from articles, audio, podcasts, blog posts, presentations and videos through to just images or graphics – in fact any content from which you can create a webpage on your website.

“Understanding the needs of your prospects and customers is what content production is all about. Producing content that is not of value or relevance to your audience is wasting valuable time, effort and money. Marketers need to start thinking like publishers and market to people, not businesses. When you implement a campaign you don’t market to an entire organisation, you are marketing to someone at a desk with a job and a need. If the information is not of relevance to them personally then it is easily ignored”

Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager

Measuring social media marketing

There are many social media monitoring tools out there, some free some paid for, and if you are not careful they will overwhelm with you tonnes of data. It is important to measure what you need to measure in order to achieve your objectives. If your objective is to increase site traffic then your one metric to measure is ‘unique visits over time’. If your objective is to increase traffic and increase engagement levels on your site then you will need to monitor ‘unique visitors’, ‘time spent on site’ and ‘depth of visit’. Obviously, you will need to benchmark where you are today before starting on your social media adventure.

  • How many unique visitors visit your site a month?
  • How long do they stay?
  • How often do they come back?
  • How much content do they consume?
  • How much of your overall site traffic is ‘search traffic’?
  • How much of your overall site is ‘direct traffic’?
  • How much of your overall site traffic is sent via ‘referring sites’?
  • What is your current conversion rate?

Once you have established where you are today, you have a much clearer idea for measuring the uplifts in each of the areas above from each source such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter etc.

Referring Sites Analytics

As well as measuring people visiting your website, what they do on your site and if they convert into opportunities, you will also need to measure your social media performance and ‘engagement’ levels on platforms like Twitter and YouTube. Monitor how many people mention your brand and reply back thanking them for the mention. If you see a question posted on Twitter, reply back with an answer or a link to a blog post which answers the question. Immediately you are engaging with your audience. Monitor how many views your videos are getting and how many referrals you received to your website from YouTube or your blog. Here are some metrics to measure for your social media performance on Twitter:

  • Retweets – how many times have your messages been shared by others
  • Engagement – how many people mention you and you mention them (conversation)
  • Clout – how many times your brand is being mentioned by others
  • Influence – your relative reach in Twitter
  • Sentiment – tone of voice used (negative, neutral, positive)

For some of the above metrics you may need a tool to help you. I recommend using Twitalyzer which will collate the information and provide you with a score which you can monitor on a weekly basis.

Twitalyzer

The majority of you’re the remarkable content you create will live on your blog. Your blog will be the living soul of your social media content and therefore it is important to monitor and measure how well your blog is performing over time. You can monitor the performance of your blog by measuring the following:

  • Unique visits to the blog (daily, weekly or monthly)
  • Retweets – how many times your articles have been shared by others
  • RSS feed subscribers – how many people have subscribed to your blog for new updates

What is important is that you measure over periods of time, maybe weekly or monthly or quarterly depending on how much buzz you are creating. Remember to define your goals and measure for achieving those goals and objectives as it is easy to get involved in many other metrics and performance indicators.

“Social media return on investment is always going to be a big factor. For any business, start small. Measure what matters and – when you are familiar with what these metrics mean and correspond to – move on to more advanced tools and techniques. Setting your objectives is important and measuring to reach those objectives is all that matters. The rest is less important.”

Nick Pauley – Managing Director

Conclusion

Social media marketing relies on great content and a great plan or strategy. There are many construction companies already using social networking sites to promote their brand and increase exposure. An effective strategy requires three steps:

  • Set objectives (increase traffic to site, increase brand exposure, establish as thought leaders, improve customer service levels)
  • Content strategy (what we say, how we educate our audience)
  • Measurement (the effect social media participation has on our website, enquiries, new leads)

Social media has changed the way any company, small or large, should go about implementing their marketing campaigns and strategies. Since social media has become mainstream, smaller companies now have access to the same channels as larger companies. Ten years ago smaller companies did not have large advertising budgets enabling TV advertising. They could not afford full page adverts in every construction magazine or newspaper or a stand at all the large trade shows. Now using low-cost inbound marketing techniques and social media in particular, smaller companies are establishing themselves with a wider audience and engaging with their prospects and customers more easily and effectively. One thing that is apparent is that social media is here to stay and those that fail to adopt now will feel the consequences later. The generation of smart phones users are your customers of tomorrow. How they behave and go about sourcing information and making decisions is evolving. The internet, websites, search engines and social media channels play a huge part in how construction companies and building product retailers will carry out their marketing in the future.

For further information on our digital marketing services please call us on 01908 671707.

About Pauley Creative

Pauley Creative is the digital marketing agency for the construction industry. We create, build and manage brand awareness and lead generation strategies for building product manufacturers within the construction industry. You can follow us on Twitter here - click here.

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