Social Media for Commercial Flooring Contractors
According to the latest data from Pew Research Center, 69% of U.S. adults are now social media users, and that number jumps to an astonishing 86% for the 18- to 29-year-old age group. As such, savvy business owners in all sectors are using the power of social media to extend their marketing reach, and the flooring industry is no exception. Flooring manufacturers realized early on that social media is a great platform for such a highly visual industry, and now many flooring contractors are also getting great results from social media.
We sat down with Reva Revis, who manages the Fuse Alliance social media program, and five Fuse members whose companies are at different points in their social media journeys, to better understand how they’re using social media, what platforms and tools they recommend, and what advice they have for other flooring contractors considering using social media as a marketing tool.
The panel included Patrick Sandomenico, general manager, Flooring Solutions, Inc., San Francisco Bay Area; Danielle Noss, director of business development, Commercial Interior Resources (CIR), Orange County, Calif.; Rachel Iannarino, vice president of marketing, Continental Office, Columbus, Ohio; Jerry Kenney, vice president of operations, One Source Commercial Flooring, Dallas; and Jill Hoffman, accounting/human resources, River City Flooring in western Michigan.
FT: When did you or your organization start using social media and why?
Sandomenico: We started using social media in 2015 as a way to communicate to and educate customers about the commercial flooring business. Most of our team is active on social media personally and was supportive of our decision to start using it for our business.
Noss: CIR originally started using Facebook and Instagram occasionally in 2015, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that CIR started having the robust social media presence that you see today. Everyone was definitely in favor of it, but there was not a designated person to handle it until I was hired in March to spearhead it.
Iannarino: When I joined Continental four years ago, we had very small followings and sporadic activity on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We refocused our efforts and were able to grow those communities and add Instagram and YouTube. We grew our Facebook community by 138% and increased our reach by 588%. Our twitter impressions increased by 1302%, our profile visits were up 593%, and our mentions were up 525%. It’s consistently grown over the years.
Kenney: We were inspired to start our program after attending a Fuse social media workshop in 2013. Everyone at One Source thought it was a good idea and we still do!
Hoffman: River City has used social media very sporadically over the past couple years, but just recently we hired an external resource to do weekly posting for us. However, she relies upon our salespeople and project managers for content.
Revis: Fuse has had social media accounts for several years, but we recently rebooted our social media program.
FT: What platforms are you using? If you use more than one platform, does one work better than another?
Sandomenico: We currently use Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. We prefer Instagram because it’s a visual platform. We also like to stay active on LinkedIn because it’s a business platform.
Noss: We have accounts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest, but we focus our efforts on Instagram, which is synced to our Facebook business page, so essentially everything posted on Instagram posts simultaneously on Facebook. Our LinkedIn company page is live and updated, but we don’t post content on the platform currently. Our Pinterest account was very active in 2015, but I have not yet resumed our efforts there. I plan to reboot it when I think we’re getting good traction with Facebook and Instagram.
Iannarino: We use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. Facebook drives the most visits to our website and the most leads. Instagram gets the most engagement. Our largest community is LinkedIn. We don’t really use Pinterest too much. YouTube is great for us. In the past 3.5 years we’ve had 42.3K views and have put about 40 videos up. Sixty-two percent of our traffic on YouTube is because of YouTube suggested videos. We’ve also made 111K impressions alone this year to date.
Kenney: We regularly use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We occasionally use Pinterest. I think our best response has been Instagram first, then Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in that order.
Hoffman: We use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We’re not really sure yet if one is better than the other for us.
Revis: We use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Our engagement is about the same for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. We’d like to improve our LinkedIn engagement.
FT: Do you have a process for planning content, or are most of your posts spontaneous?
Sandomenico: We plan our content. We do very few spontaneous posts.
Noss: I plan the week’s posts every Monday. We also frame our content around daily themes and #hashtags. For example, on Thursday, I usually post a #TBT (Throwback Thursday) featuring a past installation of ours, while Tuesday’s post oftentimes contains a #tuesdaytip around answering flooring questions.
Iannarino: We have a content calendar that we use as a guide for topics to make sure we’re covering our priorities and messaging. However, sometimes we’ll get spontaneous too.
Kenney: Our content is mostly spontaneous as news or images happen. We try to post the same image and same copy across all platforms. We call out or tag our vendor partners but usually do not identify buildings, owners, or GC’s, architects, and designers.
Hoffman: All of our posts are spontaneous.
Revis: We have both planned and spontaneous content. I think it’s important for your social media program to be flexible. Engagement is also important. Beyond posting your content, it’s important to like, repost, or comment on your followers’ posts. We have themes, too: #mosaicmonday #tiletuesday #wovenwednesday #flooringfriday.
FT: Do you use any content management systems?
Sandomenico: We use Buffer as our online social media scheduler for all three platforms that we use.
Noss: Currently, I post directly in Instagram which is linked to our Facebook.
Iannarino: We use Hubspot to manage our social posts. Hubspot also has a lot of other functions for us too.
Kenney: We post in the original apps.
Hoffman: We also post in the original apps.
Revis: We use Tweetdeck for Twitter, and I post directly in Instagram which is synced to our Facebook. I also post directly in LinkedIn.
FT: Has social media helped your business? If so, how?
Sandomenico: Social media has helped us stay current in the marketplace. It has helped drive additional traffic to our website and has led to leads from new customers.
Noss: Yes, although it’s very difficult to measure and quantify the direct impact. What I have noticed is that since I’ve been managing it and actively posting, our Instagram followers have doubled and our interaction from our followers has also steadily risen.
Iannarino: Yes, it drives traffic to our site and sales leads. It also helps with brand awareness and perception.
Kenney: We believe that social media has given us a ‘big company’ presence. It also provides another way for us to engage with our important vendor partners. We’ve also connected with some non-competing flooring companies which led to informal benchmarking.
Hoffman: It’s too soon to tell for us.
FT: Does social media help you engage with your audiences?
Sandomenico: Yes. It’s important to tag all parties involved when posting. It allows us to highlight projects with certain manufacturers and recognize places we worked within the community
Noss: Yes, it helps with engagement with vendors, general contractors, architects & designers, and other industry folks. I’d say it keeps us top of mind for them, but it’s not a hard sell where we’re expecting them to contact us through social media. Instead, the goal is to educate them and provide them with relevant industry and business information so that they see us as an expert in the field and a credible source. Ideally, CIR will come to mind when they do need our services.
Iannarino: They don’t engage directly with our posts as much as I would like, but I can see them coming to our website from it, which then sometimes turns into a “contact us” form submission.
Revis: We’re benefitting by engaging with our members and supplier partners. We’re also engaging with designers/specifiers and design media which also benefits our members and supplier partners.
FT: What advice do you have for other contractors?
Sandomenico: Buffer was the best investment we made for managing social media. For approximately $10 a month, you are able to schedule posts for an entire week or longer.
Noss: Think about who your audience is and who you want to attract and come up with content that appeals to them. Think about what brands and companies you admire and what content you find interesting and replicate that style with your own spin. Don’t expect results immediately but know that it’s a gradual process that will gain traction as long as you stick with it and make it part of your business routine.
Iannarino: Honestly, just pick one to start with. Don’t think that you have to be on all channels when you start out. Don’t be afraid to vary content – serious, funny, insightful, videos, photos, etc. to see what works best for you.
Kenney: Don’t be intimidated. It is easy, and fun. Look at what similar companies are doing and adapt the parts that appeal to you for organization. You’ll eventually settle into the voice and pace that’s appropriate for you.
Hoffman: It takes a lot of pushing to get content from salespeople and project managers. If you have a person with any interest in social media and they have time to visit projects and get pictures, I could see it being very beneficial!
Revis: Establish your social media goals and objectives but don’t overthink it. Start small with one or two platforms, and sync your accounts for efficiency. Look at the users other flooring companies are following, and who is following them. Start following those accounts and engage, engage, engage! Remember, this is a visual industry and great images matter. Also, #hashtagsmatter.