Kelly Anderson, General Manager
Ironwood Custom Builders, Salt Lake City, Utah
Ironwood was started four years ago as a remodeling firm and custom builder, but owners Anderson and Steve Wille have more than 50 years experience in the construction industry.
Lindsay Krupa, Marketing & Social Media Consultant
Parrish Construction, Boulder, Colo.
Parrish Construction has been in business for more than 40 years as a full-service remodeler, general contractor and custom cabinetmaker. Krupa works for the company as an outside consultant.
Jonathan Sweet: How long have you been using social media in the business?
Kelly Anderson: We opened up our first Facebook account in 2009, so it’s been about three years.
Lindsay Krupa: They’ve been active on social media for the past three years, since 2009. I came on board in 2009, originally to do a revamp of their website and that segued into social media.
Sweet: What networks are you using to try to reach out to clients and potential clients?
Krupa: Parrish Construction is active on at least five different social networks; they have a fan page on Facebook, both for Parrish Construction and their cabinets division. In addition, Parrish Construction has a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Last year, I worked with a production company to coordinate the launch of a home improvement how-to series on YouTube, called “Larry on the Level.” The most popular episode has more than 5,500 views. This year, most recently, fans can follow design inspiration boards on Pinterest. They can gain ideas for their remodeling projects from the various pins and re-pins that we have.
Anderson: We’re using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz, Flickr and LinkedIn. Everything except for Flickr we have linked. For instance, if we post a video on YouTube, it automatically links to everything else. Most of my efforts are probably on Facebook. Just in the last couple of months we’ve gotten more involved with Houzz and Pinterest, so we’re posting a lot of photos on there and so far getting a lot of positive feedback from those two.
Sweet: So what has been most successful?
Anderson: What works for us is content is king — providing content that interests people: Before and after pictures, DIY tips, customer reviews. What we have found is that you want to keep your “selling” to a minimum, especially on Facebook. If you’re constantly trying to sell stuff, it seems to kind of turn people off.
Sweet: Lindsay, any thoughts on that? Have you had a similar experience?
Krupa: I think it’s important to provide photos — before and afters are great. Sharing photos through albums on Facebook is a great way to get people engaged. We especially love Pinterest for that reason, because we’re able to create multiple inspiration boards, customized for different rooms of the home or different topics related to home improvement, like “Space-Saving Tips.” It’s really about you get out what you put in. You can’t expect people to be engaged unless you’re really engaged.
Sweet: Something I really wanted to explore here was the different approaches the two companies are taking with social media. Kelly, I’ll start with you. Have you ever considered hiring an outside consultant, and why have you decided to manage this in-house?
Anderson: We actually haven’t considered it, just simply because we’re so small. We’re typically doing between five and 10 projects a year, so for us it just makes sense to do a lot of things like this in-house.
Sweet: Lindsay, what are some of the advantages that you bring to Parrish as an outside consultant?
Krupa: I think it’s mostly just the time commitment. I’m able to maintain the five different platforms that they have and they’re able to focus on running the business. While they are involved to some extent, it can take a lot of time. When I’m devoting an hour to social media, they can be doing other things.
Sweet: One of the comments we often hear is “I don’t want to hire an outside person because they won’t know our industry,” or “They won’t present the right image.” So how do you manage that so you make sure you’re on the same page?
Krupa: When you work remotely like me, there are many challenges. It is a social media manager’s job to take a proactive role in collecting or disseminating information. That said, my client is very involved and its because of their cooperation with these social campaigns that their social media has been as successful as it has been.
Sweet: How much time are you putting into doing social media?
Krupa: One of the biggest pitfalls companies face is the time commitment. Social media can take up all of your time if you let it. Taking advantage of the best time to post helps me to stay on track. It’s different for each company, but it’s generally regarded as the middle of the week, sometime from midday to afternoon, when you know you can get the most from your post. Saturdays can also be a good time to post.
To answer your question, we recommend at least an hour a day, but Parrish Construction budgets 20 hours a week.
Anderson: We’re not actually anywhere near that. Doing it all myself, I’m squeezing it in with all my other responsibilities. I’m probably not spending more than two or three hours a week.
A lot of the experts recommend that you post no fewer than two or three times a week. Every day of the week, for us, is too much of a time commitment. Content is also an issue — how do we come up with enough content to post two or three times a week and keep people interested?
Sweet: What’s the impact of this on your business? Do you have a feel for how much business this is helping drive?
Anderson: To a certain extent, I think it’s probably difficult to quantify. There are direct and indirect benefits. Indirectly, from an SEO standpoint, the backlinks to your website are important. As far as direct benefits, considering the amount of time I put into it on a weekly basis, the results for us have been tremendous. We’ve signed two contracts in the last 13, 14 months with people who were fans of our Facebook page that combined for a total of just under $100,000 in work.
Krupa: For Parrish Construction, it’s very similar to what Kelly is saying. SEO is a big part of the benefits of social media presence. Social media has driven hundreds of extra monthly viewers to the Parrish website. In addition to that, along with an overhaul of their website, the social media campaign has resulted in several contracts for them. That comprises a third of their revenue each year for the past couple of years.
Sweet: Are you the only person in the company working on the social marketing efforts?
Anderson: I am.
Krupa: I am solely responsible for all five of our platforms, updating those on a regular basis. The president and the VP forward content when necessary, and I do the research for the rest of the posts. The president, Larry Parrish, does have an iPhone and occasionally tweets or posts pictures live from events.
Sweet: One thing you both have talked about, and that I think we want to emphasize for the readers, is that you’re not just out there being self-promotional – you’re part of the conversation. Why is that important?
Krupa: The way that we think of it is what we like to call the rule of thirds: a third promotional, touting company awards and things like that; a third is helpful content, like blogs and sharing remodeling topics and ideas; and a third is strictly conversational. We encourage engagement by taking a poll, asking a question or more specifically tagging someone and maybe asking their opinion on an event or something like that. Generally, the idea is balancing social media content so it doesn’t turn people off.
Sweet: Do you do any other marketing?
Anderson: We do ServiceMagic, we do the local spring and fall home and garden shows. We do some newspaper. It’s been a while, but we have done some radio.
Sweet: How would you compare the effectiveness of social marketing to those other methods?
Krupa: If you were to look at it from a cost/benefit analysis, of course we haven’t gotten a lot of work off of our social network marketing, but the time we put into it is for the most part minimal and compare that to the actual money we’ve put into it … social network marketing, there’s not even a comparison.
Sweet: Does Parrish do other marketing and how does this compare in effectiveness to those other methods?
Krupa: Parrish Construction’s other marketing methods are a newsletter, the shows they participate in. Those really go hand-in-hand with social media. We use social media to promote those events and seminars and that’s been very effective. PR