Social media services including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are powerful tools to connect with key audiences for your solar company – potential customers, ambassadors, current customers, employees, the news media, and others.
The good news is that more and more solar companies have started social media accounts. The bad news is that most solar companies aren’t using social media effectively. As a result, for many companies, social media delivers little value. Some companies may be tempted to drop social media and internet marketing altogether and go back to outdated outreach strategies like knocking on doors.
But a lack of results may not be the fault of social media. It could just be the fault of a bad social media strategy. Read on to see how a solar installer can make social media work to build audiences today and leads tomorrow.
Ads vs Organic
Buying ads on Facebook, Twitter, and other services is the most common way that solar companies interact with social media audiences. Unfortunately, solar companies can waste a lot of money buying social media ads. That’s because most social media users today ignore ads.
By contrast, organic (free postings) can get more engagement — more friends, more likes, more shares and more comments. But free postings only work you if do them right, following the etiquette of social media.
Etiquette of Organic Social Media
Effective use of organic use of social media is different than buying ads on social media.
- Advertising: Social media audiences expect ads to be promotional, to ask them to buy or get a free quote or attend an event. That’s why most social media users ignore ads.
- Organic Postings: Social media users have the opposite attitude about organic posts. In free posts, users have little tolerance for company self-promotion. Instead, they expect companies to interact with them as friends: to be helpful and entertaining without asking for the sale.
In its organic social media work, the Curren Group follows the advice of the top authorities on social media marketing and inbound marketing, including HubSpot, Copyblogger and Hootsuite. Basically, in organic postings, you can be a little promotional, but not too promotional. Instead, you should be helpful and engaging.
As Kissmetrics puts it, when you decide what to post on social media you should:
Think about the kinds of content your customers are likely interested in. Then post about those topics, with useful links to things not directly related to you or your company. This kind of content adds value to your followers, and may result in getting followers that aren’t necessarily customers or fans of your company. Then, when you do sometimes post your own promotional items, they’re better received and more likely to get a response.
Build Your Audience for Future Leads
Following this strategy, with organic social media, a solar company can build an audience and increase its engagement with the company. Organic social media is not to generate immediate sales leads – you can try to use advertising for that (and good luck if you do!). Organic social media is to build interest and goodwill that will generate leads in the medium and longer term.
Sample Strategy for a Solar Installer
Given all the consumer distrust created by news stories of solar scams in hot solar markets from New York to Utah to Southern California, it’s more important than ever for a solar installer to show that it’s trustworthy.
To stand out from the crowd, a solar company should use organic social media to establish itself as a “likable authority.”
Likable = Approachable
Authority = Trustworthy
If social media audiences learn to trust your company and find you easy to relate to, then they are more likely to engage with the company online.
1. Frequency of Posting
Regular posting is important to get and maintain visibility in social media services. We recommend you post once daily M-F to all services except Twitter, whose newsfeed format makes users more open to multiple daily posts.
2. Choice of Services
We recommend that a solar company select only two social accounts to maintain. If you try to maintain more than two accounts, you may be spread too thin and probably won’t engage frequently enough with your audiences.
- Your first service should always be Facebook. With a user base larger than the population of the US, it’s got the broadst reach of any social media service.
- The second service can either be 1) Twitter (if you’re ready to be active multiple times per day) 2) LinkedIn (to reach a more professional audience) or 3) a photo-sharing service such as Instagram (if you have a lot of good shots of your own installations; don’t use stock photos).
3. What to Post
You can do limited promotion on organic social media but most of your postings should be to establish likability and authority. This is the ideal mix:
20% promotional/related to your company
Organic social media is not about you – it’s about your audience. If your friends and followers feel that you’re trying to sell them something, they’ll lose interest and disengage from your account.
4. Weekly Schedule
Here’s a sample weekly schedule based on one post per day with an 80/20 mix of non-company/company posts:
- 1 blog post by the company (here’s your 20% of self-promotion)
- 1 inspirational meme graphic (can have your logo but otherwise should not be about your company but instead about something interesting in solar power in general)
- 2-3 posts about the industry (educational: build authority about solar, especially in your service area)
- 1-2 posts just for fun (entertaining: build likability through cat and baby videos, cool new technology outside of solar, human interest stories)
Dump the Ads and Go Organic
When you’ve had it with pouring hundreds or thousands of dollars down the drain on Facebook ads, why not consider using Facebook and other services organically to build audience over the long term?
After all, any idiot with cash can throw money at ads, blabbering on about their own amazing new products, huge sales (question: has anyone on Earth ever installed solar on their home just because they got 10% off?), and 90-days-same-as-cash financing, hoping for a quick return. But it takes smarts and persistence to engage with your audiences in a way that matters to them and that feels real.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group