Social media doesn't appear to be a fad. Designed to elicit interaction through Web-based platforms, three of the most popular social-media sites—LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter—have exploded in popularity. For example, LinkedIn now has more than 100 million users; Facebook has more than 600 million users; and Twitter has more than 200 million users. Remodelers across the nation recognize the social-media phenomenon and are actively participating and reaping the benefits for their businesses.
LinkedIn was established in 2003 as a professional networking site. It allows a user to post his résumé online and connect with anyone he knows professionally. The site will make connection suggestions based on people the user knows. LinkedIn also features groups users can join to discuss issues within their industry. NARI has several national and local LinkedIn groups.
Chris Keilty, CR, business manager with Keilty Remodeling, Boise, Idaho, has been active on LinkedIn for more than two years. “As I got more involved and joined groups, I realized how informative it can be,” she says. “I learned different perspectives from remodelers across the country in regard to RRP and insurance issues.”
Although Keilty hasn't garnered any work for her company through LinkedIn, the site's groups have influenced her company's operations. “I posted a request for design software and got tons of information from group members. They offered ideas I hadn't thought of and free websites to check out. It's invaluable to not have to reinvent the wheel if you're trying something new. You can just ask people who are dealing with the same issues you are.”
Facebook, which was established in 2004, allows users to connect and share information on a more personal level. Facebook users also can create business pages, which clients, friends and other interested parties can “Like” to receive the business's updates.
David West, owner of Meadowview Construction, Georgetown, Mass., has been active on Facebook for more than three years. His personal page relates to his business page but he recognizes the difference between them. “I don't make my personal page all about business because I don't want my friends to get tired of hearing about Meadowview Construction,” he says. “However, a lot of my friends became members of my business page so there has been cross-networking.”
In fact, the cross-networking has led to business for his company. “I'm doing a $130,000 job right now that I received from a friend on Facebook,” West notes. “The client found me because I went to high school with a guy who now is a real-estate agent. The client got to know me as a person on Facebook because I share so much about myself. I think it's better to show people who you are because if they are going to work with you they want to know you.”
West posts to his business page several times per day and believes varying the types of posts is essential. For example, he may write about a new product, upload photos from a jobsite with a question that will evoke responses, or offer cutting boards made in his shop as part of a contest. “I mix it up, so it's informative and hopefully fun,” he says. “You really want people to comment on things. If you're not posting on Facebook, you can't expect anyone to engage with you. If you see a post you really like, you should comment. If you're just on there trying to get business and not talking to other people, it won't work for you.”
Twitter was established in 2006 and probably is the least understood of the popular social-media sites. It allows users to “tweet,” or share their thoughts in 140 characters or less. Users can follow tweets of people and organizations that interest them. In addition, Twitter can be connected to Facebook and LinkedIn, so tweets appear on those sites, too.
Kurt Karhoff, president of Holland Remodeling & Building LLC, Rittman, Ohio, has been tweeting for about two years and believes it is a cost-effective avenue to reach potential clients and stay in front of current clients. Although he hasn't pinpointed any new business that has come from his Twitter activity, he tweets a variety of information, including homeowner tips, links to his company's newsletter, trivia and information about events, to keep his followers interested.
Karhoff recommends new users spend some time with Twitter and all social-media sites to understand how they work. “I think people have a fear of the unknown when it comes to social media,” he says. “Like anything else, it requires a time investment to figure out how your business can benefit. It may take six months to figure out how you can use it for your business, but it will come through. It's just a matter of putting some effort into it."