By Laura Schlereth
Social media has changed a lot about online marketing. Though Twitter and Facebook are at the forefront of businesses’ marketing campaigns, they’re not the end-all, be-all for social media marketing and your business. Blogging and contractor directory and review sites, such as Angie’s List and HandyCanadian.com, are all very effective in social marketing and have their own unique contribution to lead generation.
"The digital marketing arena is a very complex field," says Peter Jasniewski, digital marketing professional with WSI Digital Marketing, an internet marketing solutions company based in Markham, Ont. "There’s not just one means of advertising."
Kevin de Kok, a 13-year communications and marketing veteran from Hamilton, Ont., agrees and says that because digital marketing offers a means to dialogue with and engage clients in real and immediate ways that were not possible in traditional media, it’s important to know your audience to determine the best approach by which to engage and dialogue with them. Most important to remember, he says, is that every medium you use should consistently tie into your overall marketing plan.
"Everything has to work in concert to support the brand image, and the overall organizational mission and objectives," he says. "It’s creating a brand and developing a consistent relationship with your customers."
Here’s what you need to know about blogging and sites like Angie’s List and HandyCanadian.com to encourage lead generation and develop strong relationships with customers:
How It’s Useful
"Blogging is a fantastic way to spark conversation and to demonstrate knowledge of a certain topic or event," de Kok says. An effective blog can increase lead generation because it allows you to talk to your audience with a more dynamic and personal tone than a static website would, he says. Blogging about changes in construction legislation or a recent industry event, for example, will demonstrate your areas of expertise, establishing more credibility. "Blogging gives companies an opportunity to position themselves as subject matter experts by posting qualified comments, tips, ideas, etcetera," Jasniewski says. Additionally, a blog can increase your search engine rankings. Jasniewski has seen construction companies he’s worked with experience a significant boost in rankings due to their blogging efforts.
Creating a blog can be quick and easy. All you need to do is set up a free account through websites such as Wordpress and Blogger. When it comes to using your posts to boost your search engine rankings, you’ll need to do a little more research on popular keywords in your industry. Effective search engine optimization is partly measured by keyword coverage, Jasniewski says. So it’s important to include relevant, industry keywords throughout your posts. "Good marketers will seek niche keywords and phrases, as those approaches lead to higher quality traffic of visitors who are more advanced in their decision process," he says. De Kok says blogging works well with other social media outlets because you can lift sections from your blog and Tweet about it or post it on your Facebook page and then direct people to your blog to participate in the discussion.
How They’re Useful
Mike Himelfarb, owner of M2R Enterprises, a home renovation company based in Newmarket, Ont., has a profile on HandyCanadian.com, a website for consumers to find and rate contractors. Himelfarb values his participation on this website because it offers him an already focused audience looking for contractors, and he feels the leads are much more qualified. And so far, HandyCanadian has been very effective—resulting in at least 50 percent of his leads. Himelfarb says the construction and building industry doesn’t have a strong online presence, so the site provides an opportunity for interaction between customers and contractors. He says having a profile on HandyCanadian.com is also beneficial for construction business owners who are just beginning to venture on to the Internet and might not have the resources to have a fully optimized website. Angie’s List, (already widely used in the United States but recently launched in Vancouver and Toronto) offers a similar service allowing consumers to rate contractors. Cheryl Reed, director of communications for Angie’s List in Indianapolis, Ind., says contractors are allowed to register for free and then interact with their reviewers by posting comments next to reviews, thanking them for the positive feedback or responding to an issue that was raised. She’s seen companies with positive records grow their business three times as much.
HandyCanadian.com offers a free membership or a premium membership ($245 for 6 months; $395 for one year). Himelfarb strongly recommends signing up for the premium membership because it offers key features such as being able to put your website’s direct link on your profile page and the ability to communicate directly with project owners—allowing you to bid on an unlimited number of posted jobs, provide estimates, arrange meetings and request more information. If you have an Angie’s List account, Reed recommends checking new reviews as they come in—you’ll be notified when a new one is created—and encouraging your customers to post reviews. "This will allow your reputation to grow and grow," she says. If you receive a negative review, Reed warns against responding too quickly and displaying negative emotions. Investigate the issue, see where the errors were made and then apologize to the reviewer explaining how you will fix the problem. "This could earn you a customer for life," Reed says. "You can learn a lot about a business by how they address a problem."
The possibilities of online marketing through social media websites are endless. Take the time and effort to evaluate how you can use those opportunities to increase lead generation and develop strong relationships with your customers.